Cooking without oil is a popular method among the plant-based community who tend to favor an intake of higher carbs and lower fat. However, even if you don’t share these dietary preferences, there are actual health benefits to opting for no oil cooking.
Benefits of Cooking Without Oil
There’s no denying that unrefined and cold-pressed oils, such as olive and avocado, can provide beneficial properties like polyphenols, lowering inflammation, and good cholesterol.
However, when heated at high temperatures, many of these unrefined oils become unstable, losing nutrients and becoming sources of unnecessary added fat and calories. Oils can even be harmful when heated beyond the smoke point, as they release toxic fumes and carcinogens. This is why these healthier oils are best consumed raw (e.g. as a dressing) or cooked on a low heat.
Now, that’s not to say we don’t advocate for adding healthy fats to your meals. But just be mindful that cooking oil doesn’t contribute the same health benefits as raw cold-pressed oils and whole food sources of fat like avocados, nuts, or seeds.
How to Cook Without Oil
The main reason why oil is used in cooking is for non-stick purposes. However, certain cooking methods and modern cookware have made it possible to achieve the same outcome without sacrificing flavor.
Here are some ways you can cook without oil:
- Sauteing. All you need here is a good nonstick pan (PTFE/PFOA free if possible). When cooking on low-medium high heats, you shouldn’t need to use any cooking oils. However, if you do notice some light sticking, you can always deglaze the pan with a splash of broth or water.
- Steaming or Poaching. This will cook your food using boiling water or the steam from it. This is a quick and easy way to cook veggies, protein, dumplings, desserts, and more! Pro tip: after steaming or poaching, pair your food with sauces or dressings to really enhance the flavor.
- Oven Roasting. By using parchment paper, or reusable silicone baking mats, just season your food as you normally would and place it in the oven. The result will be perfectly roasted dishes, no oil needed.
- Slow cooker. These are great appliances to use if you are too busy to prepare a whole meal. You just throw in all the ingredients (sans oil) and let them do the work. Slow cookers are great for producing quality stews, soups, meats, and curries.
- Instant pots. While slow cookers run over a longer duration at lower temperatures, instant pots are completely sealed and cook at higher temperatures, resulting in shorter cook times. Instant pots can create all the dishes slow cookers can at a faster rate, and even have additional cooking features like cake, yogurt, steam or saute. All without needing additional cooking oil.
- Air Frying. This modern kitchen appliance promises to provide a healthier alternative to deep frying. Instead of submerging foods in vats of oil, air fryers work to circulate hot air around the food, producing crispy and crunchy textures similar to traditional deep fried foods. However, air fryer manufacturers recommend using a small amount of oil or high smoke point cooking spray if your goal is to really mimic deep frying.
Best Oils to Cook With
If you do prefer to cook with a little bit of oil every once in a while, the best oils to cook with are usually ones that can remain stable at higher temperatures.
We recommend avocado, coconut, and grapeseed oil for cooking purposes.
Final Thoughts: Why You Should Try Cooking Without Oil
With all of these cooking methods and modern kitchen appliances, there shouldn’t be a need to use oil as a non-sticking agent. Remember to opt for whole foods or raw unrefined oils for your sources of fat to stay on your journey to better health.
Get more recipes and alternatives for no oil cooking by trying Yes Health for free for 14 days to see what your health coaching team recommends for you.
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