The Daily Beet

09 Apr A week of FAQ: Day 1: How do I cook without oil?

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We decided to take a week and answer some of the most common questions we get each day.

Day 1 FAQ: “How do I cook without oil?”

A. Cooking without oil or even spray oil seems impossible for some people who have become accustomed to using it for all of their cooking. However, with some practice you can become a no-oil pro!

We’ll start out with this helpful video by Chad Sarno, Healthy Eating Chef for Whole Foods:

YouTube Preview Image

We have found that is possible to use this method with any kind of cookware. Lately we have been enjoying these ceramic pans by Ozeri.

Why skip the oil and spray-oil? Oil has about 4000 calories per pound, it is completely unnecessary to  add to your otherwise healthy dishes. In addition to that, it does damage to the endothelial lining, as well as contributing to heart disease and other preventable disease.

For anyone wanting more information on the full scope of how oil impacts health we would recommend the book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” as well as watching this entire lecture by Dr.Esselstyn:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYTf0z_zVs0

“What about fat-free spray oil?” Because of some labeling loop holes, “fat-free” spray oil is actually 100% fat! Check out the label, and see how they get away with it: (hint, look at the serving size and the servings per container)

For more on label reading, check out Jeff Novick’s video: “Should I Eat That


For most recipes, applesauce is a great substitute for oil. Here is a great guide by Fat Free Vegan on how to substitute oil/margarine in baking (and more).

For baking in the oven, we like to use silicone bakeware and or parchment paper. You can even make it fun. We like to make mighty muffins in these fun muffin baking cups . For baking on a cookie sheet, we like this silpat baking sheet, or you can just use parchment paper which works great as well.

Tell us about how you transitioned into the world of no-oil cooking in the comments!

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Engine 2 Team
Engine 2 Team

The Engine 2 Team is dedicated to helping you become plant-strong! Each of us are on the plant-strong journey right along side of you!

  • Lynnette
    Posted at 12:04h, 09 April

    How well does silicone bakeware hold up? I’ve been looking for some, but it is hard to find unless going on line. Do you have any tips on what to look for and how to care for the bakeware?

    • Engine 2 Team
      Posted at 13:43h, 09 April

      Lynette – just be sure to use a silicone knife or cutting utensil – because we have made the mistake of using a regular knife, which cuts through the bakeware or can leave lots of scratches. Generally we bake something, and then after it cools, pop it out – usually comes out clean, however when it doesn’t, we soak it a little with some warm soapy water and use a non scratch sponge to clean it.
      We’ve had a lot of luck using every thing from bread pans/bake pans and muffin cups.

  • Kate
    Posted at 12:20h, 09 April

    I’ve been using stainless steel cookware without oil for years. It is so easy to brown onions and other aromatics with water and low heat. The flavor is outstanding and don’t miss the oil at all. In fact oil now is so distasteful that it gags me and gives me indigestion. I’d rather eat another helping of banana ice cream than add a bit of oil to my marinara.

    • Matt
      Posted at 21:01h, 09 April

      Amen to that!

  • Cindy
    Posted at 13:49h, 09 April

    I have found it very easy to saute, and cook, and bake without oils, and I’m trying hard to make our own salad dressing because healthy fat free ones are really hard to find! But what I have trouble with is finding tortillas, even corn, without oils, I like a corn chip with taco salad and can’t find one brand without oils! 🙁 no healthy crackers, which I have to admit, I miss, I guess it’s that crunchiness every once in awhile that I miss. Any suggestions? Thanks so much! My family loves your recipes!

    • IserC
      Posted at 14:07h, 09 April

      Whole Foods has corn tortillas without oil. I believe that they also have fat free/oil free dressings that are healthy. You may want to try a good balsamic vinegar with dijon mustard.

    • Susie
      Posted at 15:41h, 09 April

      I love the 3-2-1 salad dressing in Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s book. 3 TBSP balsamic vinegar, 2 TBSP good mustard, 1 TBPS pure maple syrup. Blend and eat — yummy! Also, you can find oil-free corn tacos at Whole Foods, and for a “crunch,” I like Edward & Sons Baked Rice Snaps. There are some that DO contain oil, but my favorite flavor, Tamari Sesame, has no added oil, and is gluten free. VERY tasty!

      • Cindy
        Posted at 20:21h, 09 April

        That’s my problem, Whole Food’s is 230 miles away! 🙁 I order most of my stuff on line and have to drive 50 or 70 miles to the closest Walmart and Raleys, and that is my pretty much my only choices. I only found one salad dressing the one time I did go to Whole Foods and I did not find any tortillas or chips. It makes it very hard to find healthy choices!

        • Patt
          Posted at 20:42h, 09 April

          Whole Foods has several oil-free salad dressings on its website. Just search for “Health Starts Here” recipes.

      • GemmaStar
        Posted at 21:48h, 04 February

        I just made up the 3-2-1 dressing. Delicious! Thanks for posting it.

    • Matt
      Posted at 21:02h, 09 April

      The other comment is correct. Whole Foods has BIG (Chipotle style) VEGAN friendly burritos at the deli counter. They are VERY good.

    • Barbara
      Posted at 09:03h, 10 April

      Make your own chips! Mission corn tortillas are made without oil, which is what I use. Cut into slices, sprinkle seasonings, and bake at 350 about 6 minutes on each side or a bit longer for crispness. Let cool thoroughly and put in a plastic bag or other container to preserve freshness.

    • Eddie
      Posted at 11:48h, 10 April

      For salad dressing we use lime juice and Real Salt sea salt. They work great together because the salt has a slight sweetness to it. And yet salty.

  • Laura
    Posted at 13:57h, 09 April

    Why are oils bad? Could you do a break down of oils, including palm, coconut and olive oil and alternatives to each?

    • Carol
      Posted at 14:12h, 09 April

      Hi Laura
      Just remember that all oils are normally 80% fat, there is no such thing as a good oil in the quantities that they are used today and once you start to cook with the vast majority of oils you kill their nutrients anyway so you may as well just buy a vegetable oil and save money.

    • Elaine
      Posted at 14:27h, 09 April

      Yes, I have the same question, please post oils and alternatives to them. I can see how using PAM or just any processed oils or fats can be bad but olive oil and coconut oils?

      • Conz
        Posted at 17:13h, 09 April

        Oil is oil. And all oils are bad. When you think about it, theyre all processed too. There isnt really an alternative to oil as such, for baking sub applesauce/yoghurt/something gooey, and for sauteing, just dont use it.

        • Rick
          Posted at 20:31h, 12 April

          What about specifically coconut oil? I heard it is better for you than the regular oils and recently bought a jar at Whole Foods Market. Getting use to the taste.

    • Engine 2 Team
      Posted at 20:16h, 09 April

      There are no alternatives to those oils – they should all be eliminated. Remember, oil is pure fat – everything good is extracted from the source and only the fat is left. They strip many of the nutrients, all of the phyto chemicals, all of the fiber and water. It is always best to eat the whole food. In addition oils cause damage to the endothelial lining which leads to heart disease. (See video above by Dr. Esselstyn).
      For more on coconut oil: http://www.jeffnovick.com/RD/Newsletter/Entries/2008/4/10_Marketing_Junk_Food%3A_Dont_Go_Cuckoo_Over_Coconut_Oil.html

      We don’t need to add pure fat to our diets in order to be healthy, we get plenty in a plant-strong diet.

      • caroline
        Posted at 09:19h, 11 April

        Hi…what about taking vitamins like vit E..fish oil vit D etc…should you stop if you are on E2Diet?

  • Carol
    Posted at 14:10h, 09 April

    I have been cooking without oil for just over 2 years now and it is the biggest discussion point in my cookery demonstrations, every week I have at least one person say ‘but we need oil!’ and I am happy to prove that we dont. Thank you for this posting it makes me feel ‘normal’

  • Jenny
    Posted at 14:34h, 09 April

    What about Flax seed oil? It has loads of Omega 3 and 6. I was adding it to my daily Green smoothie, or my oatmeal.

    • Brian
      Posted at 15:26h, 09 April

      Youre taking the flax seed out of its natural state. Oil is processed and what omegas you think you’re getting are often lost during that pressing process. Just use the flax seed or meal itself for the balance of omega 3 and 6 in your smoothies and oats.

    • Conz
      Posted at 17:14h, 09 April

      Just use whole flaxseed meal (ground), it’s more nutritious, and doesnt have that vile taste the oil does!

      • Engine 2 Team
        Posted at 20:19h, 09 April

        Absolutely agree with the above commenters – ground flax seed will work much better 🙂

  • Melinda Toumi
    Posted at 15:24h, 09 April

    I add fruit juice or juice a lime in place of oil in my dressings, if that helps anyone. What about cast iron pans? I know how dangerous teflon coated pans are and went all cast iron years ago – but how would you care for them without any fat? We use plant oils to “season” them, and that creates a non-stick surface that lasts for 3-12 months (depends on who scrapes what on my pans) and I’ve found that broth, juices, and wine work well in place of fat during actual cooking of food. Anyone have other ideas for cast iron?

  • Kelli
    Posted at 16:49h, 09 April

    I think a better reason not to cook with oil/fat is that it becomes oxidized when heated. Oxidized fat is inflammatory and toxic to the body. The only fat that is stable enough for cooking is coconut oil because it is a saturated fat. I think oils/fats are best eaten in raw whole foods or, if you’re not against extracted oils, as raw cold-pressed oils in moderation. (@Jenny: Absolutely never cook with flax oil. It’s very vulnerable to oxidation. It needs to stay refrigerated in a dark bottle if you do buy that.)

  • Cage
    Posted at 19:42h, 09 April

    I love this new info, but I guess we ALL learned something. Because in the Engine 2 Diet book I bought, it says in writing that “Pam” is okay, and over half of the recipes call for “spraying” the pan. No big deal. Just feels a bit odd that there was no “Oops, we said you could use Pam, but here is why you shouldn’t” Still love the concepts!

    • Engine 2 Team
      Posted at 20:20h, 09 April

      We are also always learning – the book was written a few years ago, and we were hoping to help people transition, we have learned a few new things since then as well.

      • Cage
        Posted at 21:02h, 09 April

        It is a good teacher who can admit when they are still learning! 🙂 We really DO love your recipes, and one of the reasons I am trying to follow your path closely is my doctor tried to put me on statins for cholesterol that was 10 points out of range! I said I could do it myself, and then grabbed your book! Loving it!! Especially Rip’s Big Breakfast Bowl! 🙂 Keep up the GREAT work!!

        • Engine 2 Team
          Posted at 22:20h, 09 April

          Thanks so much! Keep up the great work 🙂

  • Michelle Pruitt
    Posted at 20:18h, 09 April

    I am really enjoying using no oil. I like the tip of using vegetable stock to saute. I also enjoy using the mashed bananas instead of a “butter” spread.

  • Jeanne Aloia
    Posted at 20:42h, 09 April

    I find that well-seasoned (ok it does take some oil to do that) Pampered Chef muffin pans, tube cake pan and pizza round, make it easy to bake non-fat items! I also use Dr, Barnard’s method of “sauteing” in water works great with preparing onions, carrots and such for soups and stews!

  • Jeanne Aloia
    Posted at 20:43h, 09 April

    Oh, I forgot, I have a “pump spritzer” which I fill with EVO for emergencies!

  • Kelli
    Posted at 06:15h, 10 April

    I have a hard time believing high-quality raw, cold-pressed fruit and seed oils would damage the endothelial lining (of course you don’t want to eat a lot of fat, whatever the source). I know that oxidized/cooked oils do cause damage.

  • Wendy (Healthy GIrl's Kitchen)
    Posted at 08:15h, 10 April

    Oh, the irony of it. Just yesterday from Choosing Raw: http://www.choosingraw.com/building-a-healthier-pasta-bowl-quinoa-spaghetti-with-tomato-cream-sauce-plus-some-thoughts-on-oils-in-a-plant-based-diet/
    Seems people are getting the message to lighten up on the oils, but why oh why is the no-oil way being dissed so hard? It’s not like we killed somebody!

  • Abigail
    Posted at 08:57h, 10 April

    Thank you for your website. I came about it through Susan, my friend. I first learnt about cooking without oil through a relative of mine whose husband had a health issue. She threw in seasonings into the hot pot first, before anythingelse. After some years later, I read a herbal book written by a herbal doctor who sauted’ with water, so I began using the method with two Tbsp. water, or lemon or lime juice, or vegetable broth, and have been successful since then, and I must say that my meals are always tasty. I have been vegan for some years now, and have learnt about using applesauce as a substitute for baking. One day, I tried using a bit of avocado pear to my whole wheat flour to make roti or pita, and it came out soft and tasty. Adding mashed boiled potato also to flour for making pitas will work fine. I have tried it also.

  • Tammie
    Posted at 21:47h, 11 April

    how do you make pancakes without oil in the pan? The nonstick pans lose their nonstick after a while…

    • ChefV
      Posted at 03:30h, 11 April

      saladmaster has pans that let you bake a cake with no oil, on the stovetop 🙂 I did it

    • ChefV
      Posted at 03:32h, 11 April

      Saladmaster makes a griddle, I just bought one. The metal makes even heating on low, pancakes cook nice with just a little coconut oil on it….MMMmmmmm. Coconut oil won’t hurt you.

    • marie kilbane
      Posted at 13:14h, 15 April

      Good Question

  • caroline
    Posted at 06:23h, 12 April

    April 11, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Hi…what about taking vitamins like vit E..fish oil vit D etc…should you stop if you are on E2Diet?

  • Ninufar
    Posted at 18:29h, 13 April

    I’m afraid that even after watching Chef Del’s video (tnx to the Healthy Librarian) I still don’t know about full on no-oil, no-oil-spray cooking. I’ve learned to sortof brown onions without any oil, but then they taste like metal (stainless steel pan), and then I’m less interested in eating my dinner.

    I didn’t know about the reversal on oil spray, and I always knew it was not zero, so I went ahead and used a comparably small amount & smeared it around on the pan before sauteeing vegetables… much better. Guess I will be taking the cadet approach.

    Since I already need to skip gluten and sugar (incl maple syrup, agave syrup, whatever), and I thankfully let go of dairy years ago, I struggle (mentally) with this issue. For now, it’s a big enough step to keep nuts/seeds to 1 serving per day (per PCRM) and to use no more than the equivalent of a spray of oil while cooking.

    BTW I have had lousy results with silicone muffin cups and GF flours, I find them nearly impossible to get completely clean, but the larger pan I have has worked okay. Am still dubious; would rather use metal and a tiny amount of oil or glass and unbleached parchment paper.

  • marie kilbane
    Posted at 13:17h, 15 April

    1 TBS of Oil will not hurt you

  • Gary
    Posted at 09:16h, 13 August

    I’ve tried cooking without oil and find it tough. Everything seems to stick. I am using a Tefal ‘non-stick’ pan without effect. Any more tips are welcome!

  • Pamela Oakes Goff
    Posted at 21:39h, 20 November

    I noticed a post below regarding cast iron pans. An acquaintance recently mentioned that all the “vegan gurus” -aka- Caldwell, Esselstyn, McDougall, et al, wrote articles stating not to use cast iron as it would leach toxins into the food. I have been googling and looking on the “gurus” sites and can’t find any articles about the use or non-use of cast iron pans. Can you point me in the right direction or give me some advice?

  • sarah
    Posted at 13:58h, 02 January

    how do I make stove top popcorn … am struggling.. I tried with water and salt… not popping…

    • chloeholly
      Posted at 20:16h, 29 July

      I got an air popper for popcorn off Amazon. It works great and the popcorn tastes great too. Amazing.

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