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!
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.
OIL-FREE SALAD DRESSINGS
- Best Vegan Ranch Dressing or Easy Vegan Ranch Dressing. Both are great. One has yogurt, the other does not.
- Oil-free Creamy Italian Dressing
- Almond Butter Dressing
- Vegan Caesar Dressing
- Oil-free Tahini Goddess Dressing
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.
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, pecan butter, walnut 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.
- 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.)
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.
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:
- Vegan Cranberry Orange Muffins (uses orange juice and applesauce)
- Vegan Baked Chocolate Chip Donuts
- Vegan Gluten-free Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
- Fudgy Vegan Low-fat Brownies
- Vegan Lemon Cake
- Low-fat Gluten-free Vegan Iced Oatmeal Cookies
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!
- Vegan Gluten-free Funfetti Cake
- Vegan Gluten-free Double Chocolate Muffins
- Vegan Grain-free Chocolate Coconut Cookies
- Gluten-free Vegan Cranberry Bundt Cake
- Vegan Snickerdoodles
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.
- Best Vegan Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Vegan Grain-free Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Vegan Cinnamon Applesauce Quick Bread
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.
- Vegan Gluten-free Vanilla Chocolate Chip Cake
- Vegan Coconut Butter Gingersnaps
- Vegan Cinnamon New York Style Cheesecake
- Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes (Wedding style)
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.
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.
I really love the crispy edges of the potatoes for this Low-fat 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.
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.
OTHER OIL-FREE VEGAN RECIPES ROUNDUPS:
- 15 Vegan Muffin Recipes Without Oil
- 12 Oil-free Vegan Granola Recipes
- 12 Vegan Desserts Using Sweet Potatoes