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Cooking Without Oil: Frying, Baking, Roasting, and Deep-Frying


Though perfectly healthy in small quantities, cooking oil contains a load of calories and fat, which adds up quickly. Cut down on your fat intake without compromising flavour by using these simple methods for cooking and frying food without oil.

We cook with oil to add flavour to our food and as an easy means to keep our food from sticking to the pan or grill. 

While healthy, unsaturated fats help our bodies to perform essential tasks, we only need 20-35% of our daily calories from fat. The average North American diet contains far more than that and an alarmingly high amount of saturated fat from red meat and animal-based sources. 

You can cut down on the amount of oil you eat by a few tablespoons each day using a cooking oil substitute in baking, frying, grilling, and roasting. 

We're sharing more about why you should try oil-less cooking and what to use instead of oil for all of your cooking needs!

Why Should You Cook Without Oil

Oil isn't all bad and perfectly fine consumed in moderation, but there are several reasons we should leave it out of most of our cooking. 

  • Oils are one of the most calorie-dense foods on Earth. One small tablespoon of oil contains even 130 calories and 13 grams of fat. While some fat is necessary for the diet, we're usually already getting a sufficient amount from other sources.
  • Some oils are highly processed. When manufacturers process foods, they remove many of the nutrients and the all-important fiber, which provides satiety, so we don't overeat and aids digestion. The only nutrients left in processed oils are vitamins E and K. Whole foods, on the other hand, are almost always a healthier option than a processed version. While a coconut oil alternative is a healthy alternative to vegetable oil, there are even better oil-free cooking substitutes for both. 
  • Whole foods are healthier. Calories received from whole foods, like avocados, nuts, and seeds - contain healthy fats which will provide far more micronutrients, fiber, protein, and carbs without increasing your dietary caloric intake. 
  • Oil-free food simply tastes better. Enjoy the much richer flavour of healthy, whole foods just by removing oil from salad or roasted veggies. Science proves that taste exposure makes us like it more - you can retrain your taste buds toward healthy foods by limiting the oil and then omitting it all together.

Health Benefits to Oil-Free Cooking

  • Weight loss. Cutting down on oil, an incredibly calorie-dense food, can promote a healthy weight and potentially lead to weight loss if other high-calorie foods do not replace those calories.
  • Heart health. All oils, even the healthy unsaturated kinds, are associated with plaque build-up in our arteries, affecting heart health. Cutting down on oils can aid heart health.
  • Increased energy. Consuming oil causes our red blood cells to clump, limiting oxygen absorption and delivery by 30% for four hours after eating a high-fat meal. 
  • Overall health. Omitting oil can improve our immunity, as oil suppresses the function of the immune system.

How To Cook Without Oil

You can use every standard cooking method without oil or by using a healthy substitute for oil. Whether you're looking for substitutions for oil in cake mix, roasting vegetables without oil, or making a salty tofu stir-fry without oil, there are tried-and-true ways to get the job done, and done well!

Sauteing and Stir-Frying

It's straightforward to implement oil-free cooking when you saute and stir-fry your meals without compromising the taste or result. 

How to Saute Without Oil

Once your pan is hot, add water or chicken, beef, or vegetable broth to saute vegetables without oil. This liquid works, in the same way, to keep your pan and ingredients from burning. Water evaporates much more quickly than cooking oil, so double the typical amount you'd use as a replacement. 

You can also use non-stick cookware that often doesn't need any liquid at all, though the results will likely be a little less crispy and brown. 

Stir-frying is very similar to sauteing with the use of a higher temperature. Stir-frying delicate ingredients like tofu can be a little tricky; use a tofu press beforehand and add even more liquid to the pan as needed because it will evaporate very quickly. Frying chicken without oil works much the same way, but fattier chicken cuts won't require as much liquid. 

Low-Oil Options

To reduce your oil without entirely omitting it, try an oil sprayer filled with the oil of your choice. It disperses oil evenly in the pan so that you can use a fraction of the regular amount of oil. 

Baking

There are many substitutions for oil that you can use in most baking recipes, from cakes and cookies to sweetbreads and muffins. Substituting applesauce for oil in cakes is a commonly-used way to lighten up the decadent dessert. 

Sometimes substituting for oil in baking is even better, as the substitutes can add more depth to the final flavour of the recipe and some extra nutrients.

How to Bake Without Oil

Substitutes for baking come from just about every food source you can imagine. Replace with fruit or vegetable puree, mashed avocado, coconut milk, yogurt or vegan yogurt, a variety of nut butter, dates, almond flour, or even coconut butter. 

Sometimes a straight substitution can alter the texture. Applesauce, which works well for muffins and cakes, will give cookies a very different texture. It requires some trial-and-error, but try using a combination of substitutes, like apple sauce and nut butter, to get a well-rounded mixture of moisture and fat.

Low-Oil Options

If you're not following an oil-free diet, you can keep a portion of the oil that the recipe requires and replace the rest of it with one of the alternatives above.

Roasting

Roasting oil-free veggies without completely drying them out can be challenging, but you'll get even better results by implementing another cooking technique. 

How to Roast Veggies Without Oil

Try steaming or boiling your ingredients beforehand to keep the moisture inside of them as they roast. Toss in the seasonings of your choice and get to roasting. You can roast at a high temperature for a lower time, as the pre-steaming partially cooks your veggies. 

Use parchment paper to line your baking sheet or roasting pan to keep your ingredients from sticking. Bonus: Using parchment paper makes clean-up a breeze. 

Low-Oil Options

An oil sprayer will reduce the amount of oil you use - give vegetables a light spritz using your cooking oil of choice.

Deep-Frying

It might seem strange that we can deep-fry foods without dunking them in the most critical part - a pot of oil. 

How to Make Foods Deep-Fried Without Oil

There is one type of oil-free fryer that will give you incredible results - an air fryer. These handy devices use little to no oil and push extra-hot air around your food to crisp them to perfection. 

While it's an excellent substitute for deep-frying, there isn't a no-oil deep-fryer. Air fryers are not the exact same and don't work for battered foods, like onion rings or mozzarella sticks. You can bake these foods in the oven instead.

Healthy Oil Options

If you prefer using a deep-fryer, choose a healthier oil to deep-fry your favorite treats. Fill your pot or fryer with coconut or avocado oil. 

Final Notes: Cooking Without Oil

There are several ways to cut down oil, fat, and calories in your diet without compromising the taste of the food you cook. 

While you can use these methods to reduce oil, we don't recommend trying to remove all fat from your diet - it's an essential macronutrient that helps keep our bodies functioning optimally. 

Instead, try to eat some forms of healthy, plant-based fats like avocado, nuts, or seeds every single day. 

To recap:

  • Use water or broth to substitute for oil in sauteing and stir-frying;
  • Steam your veggies before roasting on parchment paper without oil;
  • Get a similar result to deep-frying with the help of an air fryer;
  • And combine some of the many oil substitutes you can use in baking, from coconut milk and mashed avocado to applesauce and pumpkin puree.

Enjoy a lightened-up version of all your favourite meals and desserts!

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