How to Cook and Bake Without Oil

How to Cook and Bake Without Oil

Today I'm going to share with you all my tips and knowledge for an oil-free diet. I'll share my secrets for how to cook, roast and bake all without oil! It's much easier than you might think!

Image collage of vegan oil-free recipes

I have been cooking, baking and creating oil-free recipes for over 6 years now. I have learned a lot in how to achieve the best results and have gained a lot of knowledge on what does and doesn't work well, particularly in baking.

I am often asked why I cook and bake oil-free and what are the health benefits. With so many new readers adapting a plant-based diet and looking to be healthier in general, I really wanted to share an informative post about why we choose to be oil-free, as much as possible. Every recipe I write is oil-free, with the very rare exception of a special occasion dessert (like a wedding cake!). I do use a small amount of non-stick spray for pancakes or to bake cakes, so I'm not perfect. This post is to give you helpful tips and why the need for oil in the actual recipe is not needed. If you are interested in an oil-free diet, I hope this helps you!

*Disclaimer: This post is not meant to debate whether oil is good or bad, nor judge people who use it. We all make our own choices and have our own beliefs. This is meant to be helpful to those interested in using less oil. I'm not a doctor or a nutritionist, I'm simply sharing why we choose to use as little oil as possible and my own opinions, based on what I've learned and our own experience. I'm sure we can all agree though that reducing oil in our diets would be beneficial.

WHY SHOULD YOU COOK WITHOUT OIL?

While I grew up eating foods cooked in oil, as well into my 20's and 30's, I cook and bake entirely different now. Animal fats are high cholesterol, high in saturated fats and are very acidic to the body, as well as bad for our hearts. Additionally, they are the very thing that caused my husband to have such debilitating gout.

Learning to remove animal products was the first step. I've learned a lot about why it's so healthy to not only adapt a plant-based diet, but also an oil-free one from many plant-based doctors. Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. McDougall teach well on this. While Dr. McDougall is very much an advocate for super low-fat, I do not feel good on a very low-fat diet, so this is why I use nuts and seeds. I do, however, agree on the oil-free and feel better without it. Dr. Greger (love him!) teaches the importance of nuts daily.

WHY YOU SHOULD ELIMINATE OIL FROM YOUR DIET

  • Oil is the most fattening and calorie dense "food". It's 100% pure fat. Just 1 tablespoon of almost all oils are 14 grams of fat. When you consider that so many saute or roast vegetables with several tablespoons, that is a ton of fat! And that is just the oil, not even including the rest of the dish.
  • It is healthier to get fats in their whole food form, that way you get the whole nutritional profile. In other words, instead of just pure fat, like with oil, you will be getting the carbs, protein, fiber, etc.
  • Using whole food fats like nut butters is a healthier choice. 1 tablespoon of nut butter for example is nearly half the fat as 1 tablespoon of oil. It's a large difference that can't be ignored.
  • Many plant-based doctors teach about the harmful effects of oil to our hearts, specifically inflammation, so this is important to consider if you want to be healthier.
  • In my opinion, the food simply tastes better without oil! Instead of tasting grease on my veggies or salads, I taste the actual food! I honestly think it's better.

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF AN OIL-FREE DIET?

Cutting out oil and the excess fat and calories it carries can possibly help you lose weight. If you normally are eating a lot of foods high in oil and saturated fats and then cut those out, that can definitely help you initially lose weight, as long as you don't replace them with a bunch of processed junk food.

Also, Dr. Esselstyn teaches about how oils are harmful to the endothelium, the innermost lining of our hearts. He teaches how oils can lead to vascular disease and removing oils can be a great benefit to your overall health.

Think about salad dressings, they almost always use 1/4 - 1/2 cup of oil, it's insane. If you switch to homemade salad dressings that use whole food ingredients and nuts, it's healthier and in most cases less fattening. I will always prefer to get my fats from whole foods over oil.

Pitcher pouring vegan ranch dressing over a salad

OIL-FREE SALAD DRESSINGS

DOES OIL-FREE MEAN FAT-FREE?

This is perhaps the biggest confusion people think when they hear the words oil-free. I hear it all the time. People think when I say I cook and bake oil-free, then that means I'm fat-free. No, no, no. The 2 are very different. I'm not an advocate for a fat-free diet at all. I think that is pretty obvious with my use of nuts, haha. And, have you seen the desserts on my blog? No, I'm not fat-free, I'm oil-free. I still eat fats, just in whole food sources for the most part. I've tried doing super low-fat before and I was STARVING. I just felt miserable without eating good fats daily.

walnut cinnamon nut butter on toast

HEALTHY PLANT-BASED SOURCES OF FAT

  • Nuts and Seeds (pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, pistachios)
  • Walnuts in particular are one of the better nuts, as they are higher in the essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are better for reducing inflammation. Check out my delicious Cinnamon Vanilla Walnut Butter.
  • Nut and Seed Butters (almond butter, pecan butter, cashew butter, sunbutter, peanut butter are my most used butters)
  • Seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
  • Flaxseeds, Chia Seeds and Hemp Seeds are all great sources of the essential omega-3 fatty acids. I love to sprinkle hemp seeds on my baked potatoes or soups and do have them several times a week. I like ground flaxseed sprinkled on oatmeal or I also will bake with it on occasion.
  • Avocados
  • Olives (better to eat the olive than olive oil)
  • Coconut milk or coconut butter (This is controversial with some people since it is the saturated plant-based fat. There is lots of questions if it is healthy or not. I personally LOVE coconut milk and use it in a ton of recipes, as you  know, so I use it and have no issues. I think it's probably best to not use it too much though if you are trying to reverse existing heart issues or lose weight. Just an opinion though, I'm not a doctor.)

Vegan vanilla chocolate chip cake slice on a plate

HOW TO REPLACE OIL IN BAKING

It's very easy to bake oil-free. I've done it for years and am very confident with it and know very well how each nut or fruit will perform. Instead of oil, I use fruit purees, veggies, dairy-free yogurt, nut butters, almond flour or other nuts, sometimes coconut butter. This gives lot of moisture and the fats still give that texture and richness that oil or butter normally give.

Sometimes applesauce or pumpkin can be used interchangeably. However, it will depend on the recipe and flavor profile. Applesauce is more wet, so the moisture content is a bit greater than pumpkin. Nut butters are interchangeable often too. Keep in mind, depending on the recipe, peanut butter won't work as well in place of almond butter where a strong peanut flavor isn't desired. Cashew butter, for example, is much drier than almond butter (less natural oils) so the two will have different results in baking.

BEST SUBS FOR RECIPES THAT CALL FOR OIL

For recipes that call for oil, I do not find personally that applesauce is a great 1:1 swap as many claim to just sub in place of it. If you want a wonderful texture, applesauce fully swapped for a recipe calling for oil, will change the texture to more rubbery, dense and gummy. This is especially true for cookies. Cookies that rely solely on applesauce will be much more muffin-like than a fudgy, rich cookie texture, not to mention drier.

For cakes and muffins, I also do not like all applesauce (with no fat source added) in place of oil either. Some people don't mind it, but I prefer my baked goods to have a lightness, which is where fats come in. While it will take some experimentation, based on the recipe, swapping oil for nut butter, coconut milk, applesauce, pumpkin, yogurt or a combo of these will produce greater results. Like with these Vegan Baked Chocolate Chip Donuts that use both yogurt and applesauce for a wonderful light and fluffy texture. This works since the yogurt gives some added fat and fluff.

Since nut butters are thicker than oil, they don't make a perfect even swap for oil. You will need maybe a tad more or to add an extra bit of milk (preferably one with a good amount of fat) to reach the same consistency. Trial and error will help to determine what result you like.

Moist interior of vegan chocolate zucchini muffins

DESSERT RECIPES WITHOUT ANY OIL

Nut-free Desserts Using Fruit, Veggies or Yogurt

These recipes rely specifically on the moisture from fruit, zucchini or yogurt. Even though they are low-fat, they are still light and moist because they use a combo of moisture ingredients:

Almond Flour In Place of Oil

Using almond flour in baked goods provides a ton of fat and moisture, so oil is not needed in these recipes. I even created Oil-free Hushpuppies! Those are typically fried in oil!

Nut Butters

I like to use nut butters mainly in cookies since their fat content gives incredible richness and the same fudgy texture that oil or butter gives.

Coconut Butter

Coconut butter performs very differently than nut butters do, like almond or cashew, for example. This is because coconut butter hardens at normal temperatures, whereas nut butters stay a liquid. Because of this, it won't work as a swap in most cases in recipes that call for nut butter. However, due to it's very high fat content, it provides an incredible buttery flavor and moisture to baked goods. It will yield a coconut taste in some desserts, although in many, it won't be detected.

STIR-FRY WITH WATER INSTEAD OF OIL

This is perhaps one of the best and easiest ways to start removing oil from your diet. Instead of cooking  your veggies in oil, simply swap it for water or veggie broth. It works the same and is not loaded with calories or fat. Since water will cook away much faster than oil, then you usually will need double the amount of water than you would oil. You can cook it the same heat and just add more water as needed to keep the veggies cooking.

Pan of veggies stirfry without oil

ROAST VEGGIES ON PARCHMENT PAPER

I used to bake all of my veggies soaked or tossed in oil. Yuck. Now, I simply place my veggies on parchment paper and bake them until done and just browning. While potatoes won't get as crispy as they would with oil, there are other ways to get them crispy with coatings or precooking techniques. It doesn't bother me at all though. I love how juicy and moist the potatoes still get and will often broil for the last couple of minutes to give them crispy edges.

Pan of oil-free potato wedges

I really love the crispy edges of the potatoes for this Low-fat Smoky Broccoli Potato Soup.

Bowl of roasted smoky broccoli potato soup

One of my favorite things is roasted broccoli. I always use frozen broccoli or cauliflower, as I find it keeps them moist on the inside and from drying out or burning. They are fantastic. Like in this Sweet Potato Broccoli Cheese Soup.

Bowl of vegan sweet potato broccoli cheese soup

I hope all of this information helped some of you out some and gives you some inspiration or tips on using less oil in your diet. Just remember, don't stress about perfection. Life is short and worrying about every little thing you put into your mouth I think is more harmful than not being a perfect eater. This is meant to help you do better, not to make you feel like you have to be perfect. I eat desserts, I go out to eat sometimes and I don't 100% avoid oil, as I mentioned, but I do a lot better than I used to.

 

26 Comments

  1. Eve
    Thanks for this. I need to make some changes to my diet/the way I cook and this really helps. :)
    • brandi.doming@yahoo.com
      I’m so glad it’s helpfyl Eve, thank you for reading!
  2. I love this post!! Thank you for this. I recently started following Dr. McDougall’s plant-based recommendations (mainly this meant cutting out oil, as I already was following a plant-based diet) and I feel so much better without oil in what I eat. I have been following your recipes for a while but now appreciate them even more because they generally are oil-free!
  3. Perfect post. Thank you! As a vegan I wasn’t the healthiest but recently I’ve adopted the FOK meal plan. Oh! I ordered your book and I got it on Monday! Excited to try my if your fab recipes.
  4. Oh, our dear, ADORABLE, wonderful, gorgeous, gifted, GENEROUS, LOVING and ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT Brandi . . . (could've come up with a few other adjectives to describe you, but figured 8 was enough for now....especially since "8" is your magic number anyway....haha!).......Brandi, SWEET HEART, you are truly AN "ANGEL" ON EARTH to post this INCREDIBLY MARVELOUS information!!! I've been 100% plant-based for 10+ years now, and largely oil-free as well for those years, and also follow McDougall's and Esselstyn's advice for using FAR LESS PLANT FATS (from nuts, seeds, avocados, olives & coconuts, primarily) than most vegans (tho' I DO make SURE I incorporate ALL of those foods, in moderation, in my DAILY diet!), and the health benefits for me AND my family have been nothing short of MIRACULOUS. Throughout the DECADES (even prior to becoming 100% plant-based!) of my own recipe-creating and cooking & baking, I have discovered MANY of the same tips & tricks that you've discovered, mostly through trial & error. And sometimes LOTS of my recipes I've had to throw out before I figured it out and "got it right". (I'm sure in your process you've had at least a few of those types of experiences too!) So I know, from my own personal experiences that all these things you've discovered are SO TRUE AND ACCURATE. And even though I learned most of these tricks myself, I ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS learn something NEW & IMPORTANT from your recipes and your tips & tricks, and THIS POST is no exception. And tod have all this BRILLIANT and USEFUL information in one place like this, with links to your recipes which DEMONSTRATE using these alternatives to oil, is just plain wonderful! Brandi, darlin', it is SOOOO GENEROUS and KIND of you to put up this post, not only for people who are vegan or striving in that direction, but also for those of us, like me, who believe that oils and even some other, plant-based fats (in excess) can be deleterious to our health! Your love and concern for other people is SO EVIDENT throughout ALL of your recipes, through your CAREFUL & DETAILED instructions, and THIS POST IN PARTICULAR is a very CONCENTRATED demonstration of that kind of love and concern. So I just wanted to drop you a few (BILLION) words here to THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN (OVERLY PROFUSELY, OF COURSE!) FOR ALL YOU DO. I am NOT a religious/spiritual guy, by any means, and I don't throw around the words "blessed" or "blessing" as so many do these days. HOWEVER, I have to say, ACCURATELY and GENUINELY, that you, our DEAR Brandi, are, TRULY, a "blessing" to ALL OF US who love delicious food but ALSO strive to also be healthier (and strive to help the animals & environment too, in the process!). And however you may have come to possess your ASTOUNDING abilities, you are ONE PERSON I would, honestly and sincerely, say is SOMEHOW "blessed". Thank you again and again for your life and your gifts to all of us!! WE TRULY LOVE YOU and APPRECIATE YOU and all the many things you teach us!!!!.....with much love and warm hugs, your ALWAYS OVERLY WORDY fan and admirer, forever . . . Daryl
    • Brandi, just one more little comment (I promise!): I wholeheartedly agree with what you said about "perfection" with the oil/fats elimination and reduction. I'm not perfect either, and there are certain recipes in which I do use a VERY small amount, for example, in some of my Asian-inspired recipes, I will use a tiny bit of dark, toasted sesame oil (maybe only 1/4 tsp. in a recipe which makes MANY LARGE SERVINGS), because there's no other way to get a bit of that authentic flavor in some recipes. (Even Mary McDougall does that rarely!) But like you said, it's not about perfection, but about striving to IMPROVE our health, and the more we are able to reach that goal, to find alternatives to using LESS healthy ingredients & techniques, the happier (and healthier) we will be, WITHOUT being fanatical about it. So thanks for that tidbit of advice too. It is SOOOO TRUE!!!....love, Daryl PS: How come I can never say everything I wanted to say in JUST ONE (HUUUUUGE) comment??? (Maybe cuz I'm a "scatterbrained artist"?? Yup! I think that COULD be it!!!!)
      • brandi.doming@yahoo.com
        Yes, I totally agree Daryl! I have even mentioned that about sesame oil on this recipe below, sesame oil has the most amazing flavor that simply cannot be replicated the same way and only a very SMALL amount is needed, so no use in stressing over a tiny amount for a flavor-packed dish! This recipe uses it and it is SO GOOD! https://thevegan8.com/2017/09/06/smoky-kale-and-chickpeas-with-miso-peanut-drizzle/
    • brandi.doming@yahoo.com
      You are the best Daryl and so funny, you crack me up! Oh yes, I've had MANY failed recipes. I turned out some really disgusting desserts in the beginning when I was first learning to bake oil-free, not to mention vegan and gluten-free on top of it! Lots of disasters in the kitchen, lol. But years later I am confident, but still can be challenging at times when trying to perfect a certain kind of cake. Thank you so much for your kind words, I really hope this post helps people. People always think I mean no fats when I say oil-free and that is just not the case, so I think this all-in-one post will be a great reference and time-saver for me, haha, to refer to readers instead of answering so many messages in my emails repeating the same thing! Thanks as always to you for reading and being so sweet!
  5. Awesome and very helpful post! Oil is so last year, lol! The only oil I have in the house is sesame and little spray oil and I haven't missed it in years!! We can definitely tell when we go out to eat how much oil they use and it's a good reminder of the YUCK! Really enjoyed this post.
    • brandi.doming@yahoo.com
      Haha, "so last year" lol! Yup, I love sesame oil because the flavor is incredible and a little goes a long way! I use it maybe twice a year, so rare but so worth it for the flavor it adds to a dish! Thank you so much for reading!
  6. Thank you so much for this post! I love your blog. I am trying to cook for my family as oil free as possible and these are great tips.
    • brandi.doming@yahoo.com
      Thank you so much Dawn, so happy it is helpful!
  7. I am so happy to have found a site with so many oil-free recipes! I am working with an immunologist and nutritionist for my GI issues. Both say to cut oil from my diet. According to them, it stiffens and hardens your brain cells & neurotransmitters making them inflexible and preventing them from communicating with each other; thus, causing "Brain Fog". I quit using any oil almost four months ago and can tell a real difference in my thought processes and the "fog" lifting. Thank you for so many recipes I can add to my very limited diet! There are plenty of vegan/gf recipes out there, but it's rare to find oil-free ones. I can prepare recipes from your site, stay within my dietary parameters, AND feel like a regular person! You rock, Brandi!
    • brandi.doming@yahoo.com
      Yay, so glad you are here! Hope you enjoy the recipes! I totally know what you mean too, oily recipes would always leave me feeling blah and sluggish and just yuck! Glad you are seeing such positive results!
  8. RL
    Thank you for sharing this information. It is VERY helpful. I'm printing it up and putting it in the front of my recipe folder to use as an easy/quick reference/guide.
  9. Wow, I truly appreciate you sharing all this wonderful information. Thank you!
  10. Brandi, thank you so much for this post and for all of your amazing oil-free recipes! Most people I know just barely grasp my no-animal-products eating, but if I mention not eating oil, they really can't wrap their heads around it. Might as well tell them I've decided I don't need oxygen. I wish everyone could see how great things taste and how good they feel when they get rid of the oil! But even if not everyone is willing to try it, I wish they would at least educate themselves and stop spreading myths. Olive oil isn't "heart-healthy." There's no need to eat oil to "get enough of the good fats." And on and on. Thank you for sharing sound information, positive personal experiences, and delicious recipes!
    • brandi.doming@yahoo.com
      I literally laughed out loud at the "I don't need oxygen" comment, haha! Because I know what you mean. It's understandable though, so I try to remember where I was many years back and the thought of being vegan sounded like the end of life, hahaha. Thankfully though, we know that isn't the case at all, life is JUST AS delicious, it's all about gaining the knowledge and experience and sharing it with others. That's why I love doing this so much, to help people see that all these yummy recipes are more than just boring lettuce and twigs, lol. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post and my recipes!
      • You're right, we all (except those lucky few whose parents were onto this prior to their birth) started somewhere, and it does help to keep that in mind. I have had some crazy wrong ideas about nutrition in my life!!
  11. Since going oil-free (actually whole food, plant-based no SOS) two years ago, my life has changed dramatically. I no longer have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, which I have been diagnosed with my entire life. No doctor had ever suggested that I could cure myself with diet. I'm living proof that it can be done. I am so appreciative to have found a blog with oil-free recipes! I can leave out the salt and use an alternative sweetener in most any recipe, but finding good recipes that don't require oil is difficult. Thanks so much for sharing!
    • brandi.doming@yahoo.com
      That is so awesome Beth! I agree too, our lives are dramatically different, in the best way possible since going plant-based and oil-free. The best part is that we went vegan right after my daughter was born so she has been raised vegan (she is 7) and that makes me so so happy that she is raised with a conscious focus on her health. She honestly will turn down desserts sometimes and has a great sense of self control of when to stop after a few bites. So glad to have you!
  12. I've been cutting back on oil for the past year or so and I feel so much better! I went through a 'no oil whatsoever" phase at first but am now using it sparingly, in recipes that just aren't as good without it. I don't use oil at all when I roast or sauté veggies but nothing beats an olive oil + lemon juice + garlic salad dressing for me. I've tried countless oil-free dressings but none of them gives me the same pleasure. Some I kind of enjoyed but wouldn't want to eat too often and some I downright disliked and struggled (often in vain) to finish before they spoiled. So it's back to oil-based dressings for me. I estimate that I eat between 1/2 Tbs and 1Tbs worth of oil with each serving of salad. The golden ratio usually being 3 parts oil for 1 part acid, I replace 1 part of the oil with water (or aquafaba if I have it on hand). It gives the same results as 100% oil. To cut back on oil further but still eat my salad greens, I've taken to making lettuce boats or lettuce wraps with some goodies inside. I'd never been attracted to such recipes in the past but they're very delicious. I also use oil or margarine for some of my favorite dessert recipes which are perfect as written. I don't bake that often and rarely have dessert as a rule so I figured I might as well keep my tried and true recipes the way they were written and enjoy them as an occasional treat. I also sometimes use a very thin coating of oil to cook some tempeh or tofu in a frying pan. I mostly bake and broil them but when I do use a frying pan, the results are much better with a very little oil. All in all, I think I eat 70 to 80% less oil today than I did a year ago. I'll be trying your walnut butter recipe for sure (sounds so delicious!) and the recipes where you use almond flour instead of oil. I love cakes that have almond meal in them! It does great things to the texture (and taste) indeed.
    • brandi.doming@yahoo.com
      You really should try my Best Vegan Ranch and Creamy Italian dressings! They taste identical to the oily versions and are fantastic! You can check out the reviews on them too. Many readers have told me they like them better than the originals. That’s great you’ve made improvements!
  13. This is an awesome post, i desperately needed this information. Please make a post on the type of cookware and bakeware that is best to use when going plant base
    • brandi.doming@yahoo.com
      I'm so glad it's helpful Judy!
  14. Wonderful post! I always put olive oil on my veggies before roasting so I will take your suggestion immediately! I also love your point about not striving for perfection. I think that even small changes are a great way to start being healthier. Thank you for the inspiration!

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