Hello my friends! Today I want to share with you this post about oil free vegan cooking because having been curious about this way of cooking and eating for ages, I finally decided to check it out in more depth.
So, full disclosure, I’m new to this too!
But even so, I’ve learned a lot in a short space of time and I hope I can help inspire you to try oil free – if that’s what you’re interested in – as I can highly recommend it so far.
First of all, why would you want to cook oil free? Well let’s take a look.
Table of Contents
Oil Free Vegan Cooking: Why Do It?
You probably already know that a whole food vegan diet is low in saturated fats, high in fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients, making it one of the healthiest diet options there is.
What can lesson the health value of the diet is eating processed foods (well, right, they’re not whole foods actually, are they) and one of those processed foods is oil.
It’s not that olive oil is bad for you. Olive oil has plenty of positives, but there is a strong argument against it which I’ll explain . . .
A properly implemented plant based diet is an extremely healthy option which not only regulates wight related issues but has also managed to reverse heart disease and diabetes type 2, as well as help prevent other chronic disease, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s and reduce the effects of ageing and boost longevity.
That’s a lot for one lifestyle change.
But, ok, so that’s achieved by going plant based: then why cut oil?
Well, according to the WFPB (whole food plant based) diet, instead of counting calories, you can use them as a way of measuring & comparing nutrients. So, let’s say you take 100 calories of cauliflower and compare the nutrients to 100 calories of nuts.
In this way, you’ll be able to see how nutrient dense a food is, and in a more reliable way than if you use weight for comparison. Because for example 250g of sweet potato compared to 250g of chia seed isn’t much good to you because you’ll never put 250g of chia seed on your food in one go!
In this way, you can establish the nutrient density of your food, and the more nutrients per calorie the better. And what happens with oil?
1 tablespoon of olive oil is reported to have 120 calories and 1 medium sweet potato comes in around the 100 calorie mark, so for the same amount of calories, you can eat a tablespoon of oil or one medium sweet potato.
The oil won’t fill you up at, and it won’t provide any extra nutrients, while the sweet potato comes with a full range of nutrients including vitamins & fibre to fill you up and boost gut health.
1 tablespoon of oil is about the same amount for comparison (if using the calorie count as a quantity guide) as half an avocado. The avocado provides you with the healthy fats you need along with plenty of nutrients and fibre. Which one is more beneficial then . . . ?
Eating oil is like eating empty calories. Unnecessary.
Oil is a refined food. It isn’t a bad food, it’s just not as nutritious as the whole foods which can provide you with the unsaturated fats that you need without the saturated fats (yes, even olive oil has some saturated fat in it).
And of course, especially if you’re implemented my 5 steps to beat menopause naturally with the goal to lose belly fat, then cutting out oil can be a great option.
But You Need Fat to Live!
It’s true that we need healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in order to be able to metabolise fat soluble vitamins, but giving up oil isn’t the same as giving up fat. In fact healthy fats are essential and you will still eat those in foods like avocado, nuts, hemp and more.
There are many doctors who advocate a low-oil or no-oil diet, based on whole, real, vegan foods and who have a long list of patients who’ve had their health turned round by changing their lifestyle.
I’m not linked to the WFPB diet in any way and I’m not speaking on behalf of any individual or organisation. I’m just a vegan who already eats whole foods (what I call real foods) and who has decided to investigate oil-free cooking, so naturally I refer to the WFPB diet because that is how I first heard of this method of eating.
Ok, so let’s get one thing clear. It’s not that you suddenly hate oil and think it’s terrible. No, it’s not that at all. It’s more the fact that oil adds empty calories to your plate and you can get enough fat in your diet through the whole foods you eat.
Although olive oil is generally considered to be a healthy oil, possibly the most health-promoting diet ever, is the WFPB diet, which is a completely no oil way of eating. WFPB had me curious for a long time but I hadn’t taken action until now.
How to Incorporate Oil Free Vegan Cooking in Your Life
If you plan to become 100% whole food vegan, then you won’t be eating oil at all. Full stop. But I think for most of us that will prove difficult to do simply because of the logistics of it.
I mean, processed foods are not something I use much of in my kitchen. But I do have some vegan gluten free wraps on hand, (which I might try and replace with a homemade alternative), but apart from that, I have pre-cooked chickpeas, tomato purée, tofu . . . nothing really that has more than itself as an ingredient.
So I would say that would be the first step. To gradually get used to making foods from whole food ingredients and to wean yourself off buying processed foods (like ready made vegan burgers, sausages, pasta sauces, soups etc).
When you’ve conquered that step (and feeling incredibly invigorated and inspired by your success), then you can make the switch from cooking with olive oil to cooking with water.
It isn’t really mysterious, it’s just a matter of breaking with old habits. I cooked everything in olive oil. Everything. I love(d) olive oil! And olive oil has always represented health in my mind so the decision to go oil free was not one I take lightly.
But a major driving force for me is my change in body shape and increased body fat since starting menopause.
So now you’ve eradicated processed foods from your diet and you’ve embraced cooking in water (or broth, lemon juice etc) instead of oil. But there’s still one major hurdle and that will be whenever you eat out.
How you handle that will depend on where you live, how often you eat out and what your individual circumstances are. In my case, I don’t eat out hardly ever, and there won’t be any oil free options available on the odd occasion that I do. So I am resigned to the fact that when I eat out, finding gluten free vegan options is a challenge already without trying to go oil free.
Obviously though, whenever we order a salad in a restaurant, we can ask for the dressing to be served separately or left off completely. Then you can use a tiny bit of the dressing or just dress the salad in lemon juice or vinegar.
Steps to Take For an Oil Free Vegan Lifestyle: Summary
- Begin by reducing the processed foods you buy. Go slowly and build up your confidence in creating whole food vegan meals, gradually replacing more and more of the processed version, until you’ve eliminated processed meals from your daily life.
- Start by eating salads with oil free dressings. They’re really tasty so I don’t think this step will be a struggle!
- Gradually add more dishes to your oil free vegan repertoire. See below for my first attempts at making some favourite dishes oil free. For the oil version of the recipe, which you can adapt to oil free, you may like to visit bami goreng, tofu scramble, nasi goreng, homemade hummus, avocado dip etc. As you build up your library of delicious oil free foods, you’ll find it easier to stop cooking with olive oil.
- Finally remember to be happy with any step or progress you make! Life is for enjoying and eating is one of the greatest opportunities we have to express that joy! Never beat yourself up over what you think you haven’t done, just look at the positives of what you’ve achieved, and keep on enjoying.
How My Experiment with Oil Free Vegan Cooking Came About
I decided to experiment with oil free eating partly because one day, when I was talking to a friend, I mentioned that I eat a really healthy, whole food, gluten free vegan diet and the whole fat-tummy thing of menopause had me a bit frustrated.
Incidentally, menopause has been one of those amazing unravelling stories that’s actually been going on for years only I didn’t know it. Rather like the discovery of gluten intolerance, but that’s another story!
And as my menopause story unravelled, the more perplexed I became, because the less I identified with the person who I was seeing in the photos, the mirror, the videos etc. Even though I had blindfolded myself for a good 8 years to that reflection, it eventually caught up with me. And I’m like: who is this? Shit girl, is that really you?
Anyway, my friend asked if I use a lot of oil. Innocent question of course and really not a particularly deep conversation at that. But it sowed a seed. ‘No, not really,’ I answered. ‘Not much at all.’
I went home and for some reason I remembered my curiosity for the WFPB (whole food plant based) diet. It popped into my head. And the two things became one. What if I tried cutting out the added oil in my diet? What would it feel like? How would I cook? What would I cook?
The idea excited me and in a click of the fingers I decided to go oil free. I’ll call it temporary and see how I feel in a couple of weeks. Or maybe a month is a better ball part figure. I suspect it might be here to stay, but I’m not telling anyone that just yet.
It will all depend on how I feel and what changes I experience with this experiment. For now, it’s a learning curve and it’s exciting!
Early Oil-Free Cooking!
#1 The Oil-Free Salad Dressing
The first meal I made was a delicious salad, which normally I would have plastered in olive oil. This time, no oil.
Instead, first I sprinkled some salt over the salad and let it sit for 5 minutes, then came some white wine vinegar and fresh lime juice over the salad. Next, I drizzled a little tahini over the top.
And then I was surprised! It was so delicious it didn’t miss the oil at all! But that was just a salad, right?
There are countless variations for creating oil free salad dressings, using orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar, tahini, pesto, cashew nut cream and more.
For a complete high protein vegan salad you can adapt by changing the dressing, visit this high protein king salad recipe.
#2 An Oil-Free Stir Fry
I had a burning curiosity on how to make a stir fry without oil!
So that’s what I did for my second meal oil-fee. I put a tiny bit of water into the non-stick wok from Ikea and added the veggies in order of hardness, just as I would if there was oil in the pan.
And you want to know what the main difference was? Patience. Time.
Ummm ok, this is taking too long now, let’s add more water. I ended up cooking the veggies in a base of water because to stir fry them seemed to need a lot of patience. And a lot of time. This was all ad-lib, so the next thing I did was add some tomato and coconut milk.
My plan for a stir fry morphed into a coconut tomato juicy veggie topping for rice and it was absolutely tasty. Actually it really was delicious and it only served to make me more excited about cooking without oil.
I felt as though I’d bailed out though. I mean instead of ending up with a stir fry, I’d created a veggies in coconut sauce concoction. I’d have to try it again and see if I could see the stir fry through to the end.
And so ended my second meal, a plate of yummy food that turned out totally different to my original plan.
#3 Take Two! The Ultimate Oil-Free Stir Fry
This time I started out with a different intention; still an experiment but this time with different perimeters.
I don’t know why, but I saw an old orange in the fridge and decided to use it in the stir fry. And completely randomly, I’d grabbed some fresh mint in the supermarket.
And the temptation pulled me. So I set first the garlic, then the veggies, on to stir fry and kept adding a squeeze of orange juice when it looked dry. I chopped up some mint and threw that in the pan and carried on cooking.
It took longer than a normal stir fry, and it stuck to the pan a bit. But it worked! When the veggies begin to stick, it’s ok. You can let them stick a bit before turning them and repeating the process. Then you add a couple of tbs of liquid and stir to get the stuck on bits away from the pan as they add flavour to your food.
Of course the flavour is different when the oil isn’t there. If there weren’t any differences, nobody would use oil in the first place.
I served the stir fry with tahini drizzled over the top and personally I loved it. But I might not be the most reliable judge . . . because I love, love, love veggies and all things veggie.
I’m really easy to please when it comes to whole food vegan cooking, and that’s because as you give up processed foods your taste buds get sharper and everything takes on a new, sweeter taste.
#4 Oil-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan Lasagne
I really really really wanted to try making an oil free lasagne. This concept had me hooked because I realised just how much I’d relied on oil for everything. Its in my nature not to like it if I realise that I’m ‘hooked’ on something. Then I’ll take a break just to prove I’m not hooked!
And so is it with oil. I’m all fired up to see just what I miss if I don’t eat oil. Will I miss it? It’s not even a relevant question because if, in the future I miss it, I can always choose to include it again. But for now, my choice is to find out just how tasty or not, food can be without oil.
I hesitated over what type of lasagne to make: lentil lasagne, mushroom & pepper or eggplant? I decided to go with eggplant. Ohhh don’t you just love eggplant?
So, instead of making a vegan roux I made a cashew nut sauce using cashews, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, water and salt & pepper. I then added quite a lot of soy milk to dilute it.
For the eggplant sauce I water-stir-fried onion and garlic, then added eggplant, carrot, pepper and cooked for a few minutes. Next, I added lots of tomatoes to the pan and one small tin of tomato puree.
I layered the lasagne like you would any lasagne: cashew sauce, lasagne layer, tomato eggplant layer, lasagne, cashew sauce, tomato eggplant, lasagne etc.
This experiment taught me something: you can never cook a perfect lasagne if you haven’t used that particular make of gluten free lasagne before. Why? Because the different brands and various ingredient variations, vary so exorbitantly that you can never know how much liquid to add to the lasagna recipe.
Conclusion: this lasagne tasted good but needed a LOT of extra juice adding (and re-cooking) before it hit the right balance. After the photo, and tasting the lasagne, I added lots of extra tomato and put it back in the oven to heat through with the extra juice.
I would like to say that I’ll perfect this recipe but I have a feeling that this brand of lasagne isn’t ever going to be my favourite one.
Update! Since posting this, I’ve also made a scrumptious oil free, gluten free, raw-style, no pasta vegan zucchini lasagna!
#5 Oil-Free Hummus
I know from previous experience that you can make a hummus with no oil but it will lack a smoothness and character that you’ve come to love so much from hummus. So instead of olive oil I added 1 avocado to the hummus.
Result? It was delicious of course because what plant food isn’t delicious? lol.
But honestly, it isn’t the final solution. It’s great as an avocado chickpea dip and I would make it again. But let’s face it, hummus is hummus and this experiment wandered into territories of avocado dip rather than hummus.
Read the traditional oil version of homemade hummus.
#6 Oil-Free Roast Vegetables and Roast Chickpeas
What to put on the veggies instead of oil? I only had lemons growing on my tree, so I thought, why not? Let’s try roasting the veggies in lemon juice.
But when I came to get the veggies out from the fridge I saw the last of the two oranges that had been sitting around for ages in the fridge and I grabbed it. Orange juice it will be then! And half a lime squeezed over that.
And into the oven, just the same as if they were in oil. Oh, and I sprinkled them with a little salt too.
They went into the oven for about 30 minutes and then I checked to see how they were doing. The peppers looked done, the eggplant not quite, the whole hassleback potato half raw and the sweet potato almost done. The cauliflower and broccoli looked ready to eat.
I poured a little ketjap manis over the pan, mixedx the veggies in it and returned to the oven for another 10 minutes.
For a delicious roast chickpea recipe which I plan to recreate without the oil, take a look at this roasted chickpea snack recipe
The result? Oh dear. I bet you can guess what the result was in my opinion . . . it was delicious! The potato wasn’t cooked, so I’m not talking about that, but the sweet potato was just as good as if it were cooked in oil, the peppers were cooked and tasty as normal, the aubergine wasn’t as nice as when I used to cook it in oil so I coated it in a roasted garlic clove and it was good. Next time I would make suer it got more salt on it and a bit more ketjap manis or other seasoning.
The eggplant definitely cooked well, it just needs to be cooked with enough salt to bring out its flavour. I also tried doing oyster mushrooms and my verdict is out. I’m not sure. They were edible for sure, but were they yum? I think not.
I roasted a whole carrot and that came out delicious. Just delicious.
This is a learning curve and I’m on it! So I will keep you updated!
Edit: Since writing this post, I’ve roasted vegetables in apple sauce and it works really well.
#7 Oil-Free Tofu Scramble
Tofu scramble is so easy to make with oil so what about without oil? Well, you’ll be glad to hear that its just as easy! And it works out perfectly.
I like to add some plant milk at the end of cooking and for this one I added tomato purée and white beans. Tofu scramble’s one of those fall back on, 5 minute recipes that I wouldn’t want to be without. And adapting the traditional tofu scramble recipe’s really easy and with no real change in the final dish.
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