Eating an oil-free diet doesn’t have to be difficult thanks to these clever substitutes. Whether you’re trying to move away from conventionally processed fat sources or watching your triglycerides, the oil-free cooking subs below will help you create healthy, tasty meals without relying on sketchy, low-fat packaged foods.
You may be used to giving your sauté pan a swirl of olive oil before cooking veggies and meats, but you can use veggie or chicken broth instead. Heat up a few tablespoons until sizzling, then add your veggies and meat. The key to prevent sticking is to stir frequently, and you can keep adding small amounts of broth to deglaze the pan too.
As with broth, you can sauté veggies in a few tablespoons of water to keep them from sticking to your pan. You can add water to your roasting pan to prevent scorching when cooking at high heat. Water can also be used to simply replace oil in sauces and salad dressings, though the texture will be thinner than in the original recipe.
Fresh fruit and vegetable juice can be used in place of oil in things like salad dressings. It replaces the volume of the oil, has more body than plain water and adds flavor at the same time. Try a tomato juice-based Italian dressing or a citrusy orange juice and raspberry vinaigrette for a spinach salad with strawberries and goat cheese.
4. Unsweetened applesauce
Applesauce can be used at a 1:1 ratio in place of oil in many baked goods, like muffins and cakes. Avoid using applesauce as an oil replacement in denser baked goods like brownies and cookies — it can make them crumbly rather than fudgy, chewy or crisp.
For denser baked goods like brownies, banana is a great oil substitute. It has a thicker, gooier texture than applesauce, making it a better choice for rich sweets. In most cases you can use a 1:1 ratio to replace the oil.
Bonus: Add acid (like buttermilk) or a little extra sugar to baked goods when using an oil substitute. This will help “soften” the texture of the batter so your treats won’t come out tough.
Blend or puree an avocado, and you can use it to replace oil or butter in many types of foods. Avocado is great as a butter substitute in cookies (try half avocado, half banana to make up the amount of oil called for in the original recipe), and chocolaty baked goods mask the flavor of avocado particularly well. You can use pureed avocado to add body to oil-free salad dressings too. You can also try mashing avocado with a little salt and lemon juice to use as a spread on toast instead of butter.
Note: Avocado can cause baked goods to brown more quickly, so you might need to lower your oven temperature slightly. Also note that using any oil replacement in cookies will generally result in cakey or chewy rather than crispy treats.
7. Homemade nut milk
A rich, homemade nut milk is the perfect substitute for that drizzle of olive oil on your tomato soup or to give a silky texture to a cream sauce in place of butter. Simply blend 1 cup of nuts (soaked overnight) with 4 cups of water, and then strain through a cheesecloth or a nut milk bag. For a thicker milk, reduce the amount of water used.
8. Pureed silken tofu
In recipes that call for oil as an emulsifier (as in creamy salad dressings), try using pureed silken tofu. You’ll get a luxurious, smooth texture without the extra fat.
9. Bonus tip: Preheat your pan
Whether sautéing or roasting, preheating your pan will help prevent your food from sticking to your cookware. When roasting, line your pan with parchment paper for an extra nonstick boost. And if you’re committed to oil-free cooking, investing in (and taking proper care of!) a nonstick sauté pan isn’t a bad idea either.