Cooking Without Oil – Tips and Tricks

Hello, lovelies! This is sort of the follow up post to last week’s post all about why I don’t cook with oil. So if you are curious the reasoning behind this way of cooking, go check that out first! Then come right on back.

So, you’ve decided that you want to cut back on oil? Well, now you’re probably wondering how the heck to do that. We are taught to use oil in so many things! I admit that at first it can seem a little daunting. However, once I started cooking without oil my mind was kind of blown at how easy it actually is. Hopefully, with these tips, you’ll feel the same way!

Will my Food Taste Different Without Oil?

Obviously when you first start transitioning away from oil you may notice a slight change in taste of some things. However, I found that I got used to it very quickly. If the change in taste is more obvious to you, you can always just cut back on oil without cutting it out completely! Maybe you cook an oil-free meal once each day, or use a 1/4 cup of oil in a recipe instead of a 1/2 cup. Make it a gradual transition if you want, and cut back to whatever amount makes you happy!

Cooking Without Oil – Tips and Tricks

Let’s break down some of the common oil-uses and what your options are.

Sautéing Vegetables 

I have a dirty little secret for you that has somehow been concealed from most of us for forever. Are you ready? You literally don’t need oil to sauté vegetables. 

I know, it sounds crazy. But it’s true. One of the main purposes of oil when sautéing veggies is to prevent the veggies from sticking to the bottom of the pan, but this can just as easily be done with water. You could also use another liquid depending on what flavors you want – veggie broth, tamari, lime juice, etc. Experiment and find what you like best!

My method: I simply heat up a pan, add a little bit of water, then dump in my veggies. I continue adding small amounts of water as needed to prevent the veggies from sticking, and go until they are sautéed! (Similarly to how I sauté the veggies in my Tex Mex tofu scramble!)

Roasting Vegetables

Similar story to sautéing for this one – you simply don’t need oil. I know it sounds crazy based on everything we are told. There are chefs out there right now that are shaking their fists at me. But seriously. You can just replace the oil with another liquid (even water), or no liquid at all! Roasting without oil sometimes takes a little bit longer, but it’s 100% doable.

I do recommend lining your pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat when roasting without oil. Without oil the veggies may try to stick to the pan a bit more, so this will make sure that you can remove them easily!

When I was first making the transition, I noticed the biggest change in taste when it came to roasting. Now I’m totally used to my no-oil roasted veggies and am quite happy with them! But if the change is too drastic for you, you can gradually use less oil each time you roast rather than cutting it out all at once.

My method: I spread my veggies out on a baking sheet, sprinkle on just a little bit of water and whatever seasonings I want, pop it in the oven, and roast until it reaches my desired yumminess! Delish! (This is basically how I cook my cauliflower for my red lentil curry!)


Alright, to truly “fry” something oil is pretty much required. However, most things that are traditionally fried can instead be oven roasted or air fried. All it takes is the right recipe! There are a million recipes out there for these alternative options. Just do some research to find a recipe you want to try, and go for it! Try something like baked tortilla chips, oven roasted french fries, or my air fried okra.

We’ve already discussed roasting, but let’s take a moment to discuss air frying. You do not have to own an air fryer to eat without oil, but it definitely does open up some possibilities! It’s a fun tool to treat yourself to if you have the money and the space. The basic idea of an air fryer is that the air in the air fryer gets super duper hot to cook your food (kind of like a convection oven!). Cooking your food in this way means that you are relying on the hot air rather than hot oil. Because of this, many air fried recipes don’t use oil at all. Even the ones that do almost always use significantly less than the traditional deep-fried options.

My method: Truly, I would recommend just looking up recipe alternatives for this one! BUT if you want to experiment, a good general rule that I like to start with is to take whatever you would traditionally fry and pop it in the oven at 400 degrees, or the air fryer at 375 degrees. The amount of time needed will completely depend on what it is you are making, so just keep an eye on it and check it every few minutes until it is cooked to your liking!


Alright, I’m going to be honest. This one is probably the trickiest. It’s definitely doablebut it does take a bit more trial and error to figure out the best methods. To be clear, by “baking” in this context I am referring to things such as breads, cookies, brownies, etc.

Some common oil substitutions you may see in baking are applesauce, mashed bananas, nut butters, and pumpkin or butternut purees. Oil typically provides moisture for your baked goods, so that’s basically the property we are looking for when it comes to substitutions!

My method: I recommend looking up recipes for this when you are first starting out. (Try searching online for “oil free snickerdoodles”, or try out my lemon poppy seed baked oatmeal!). Once you gain confidence, you can start experimenting more and making your own substitutions! Although it is not a hard and fast rule, I have learned that if a baking recipe only uses a tablespoon or two of oil, I can typically just leave it out completely and it rarely makes a difference. However, for baking recipes with a more substantial amount of oil, I typically try one of my previously mentioned substitutions based on what flavors I think would work best. Making fall-inspired muffins? Try some applesauce! Making something more savory? Try a butternut puree! The measurements here are going to be what takes the most trial and error. Since many of these substitutions are heavier than oil, they could potentially make your baked good “mushier” than you’d like if you replace with a 1:1 ratio. Therefore, I personally start by using 1/2 cup of substitute per cup of oil and then adjust from there! (ie if a recipe calls for 1 cup of oil I would replace it with 1/2 cup of applesauce to start).

Dressings and Sauces

If you make your own dressings and sauces from scratch, you’ve probably recognized that a lot of these recipes use oil. This one also takes some trial and error (though generally not nearly as much as baking), but there are definitely options out there!

My method: If this feels a little overwhelming, you can also start this one by looking at recipes that are already oil-free (I have 9 oil-free sauces in my ebook for you!). But if you want to experiment you can try leaving out the oil completely, or replacing it with aquafaba, vinegar, plant milk, or even water! If there is only a very small amount of oil in the recipe, you can likely leave it out completely. But if the oil makes up quite a bit of the liquid content, you may need to try one of these replacements in order to blend your sauce and get it the right consistency. Try whichever substitute you think would compliment the other flavors of your sauce best!


Summing up

These were my suggestions on the MAIN ways that we tend to cook with oil. There are of course other oil uses out there that I couldn’t cover in this post! If you have any particular questions about this lifestyle feel free to comment on this post or shoot me a message over on instagram!

Remember that it’s ultimately up to you how much oil you use, you know your situation better than anyone else! But also keep in mind that the transition to a low-oil lifestyle can be as quick or as gradual as you want. The point is to learn more about what works for your body and how to prepare your food in the best way – and I want it to be a fun process for you! If it feels overwhelming, it’s 100% okay to take baby steps. I’m not perfect, and I would never expect you to be either. You do you!

Stay well!


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  1. Pingback: Coconut Bowls Project – Part 2 - Joyful Balance

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