We are delighted to welcome the very talented Adele Halsall from Everything’s Peachy on to the blog today, who’s providing us with top tips, recipes and sharing her personal experiences of living an oil-free, vegan lifestyle.
What on earth is “oil-free”?
The concept ‘oil-free’ might sound kind of bizarre to those who aren’t familiar with the idea of cooking without oil. Oil has been used in cooking of all kinds for a long time and is a staple in many cuisines, such as Indian and Italian cooking. It’s often used to bring flavour and satiety to dishes. It makes a stable base and gives moistness to baked goods.
So why would we miss it out? Well, the oil in our food is rarely something we think about, and yet it’s actually in a lot more of our food than we think – salad dressings; cakes; stir-fries; curries and savory snacks etc. When all our food is homemade this isn’t so bad, but in restaurants chefs tend to be much more liberal with the stuff, and in store-bought foods it’s a main ingredient. That’s not to say restaurant food is “bad” or that we should never treat ourselves. It just means that we may be consuming more oil than we actually know about.
Eating oil-free basically is what it sounds like – preparing and cooking food without oil or replacing it with other ingredients. Those who advocate an “oil free” lifestyle tend to also be those advising a high carb or starch-based diet. The two don’t have to go hand-in-hand – you can be low-carb, omnivorous or paleo or whatever and still be oil-free. But these advocates do raise some good points and I believe there are many benefits to leaving the oil behind.
So wait, all oil is suddenly ‘bad’?
Not at all. I will acknowledge here that not all oils are created equal. There are many more benefits to, say, coconut and avocado oil, than there is in the cheap, processed vegetable oils that fill so many packaged foods on the shelves. Cold-pressed, organic, extra-virgin oils are where it’s at – if you are going to enjoy a bit of oil in your food, be prepared to pay for the good stuff.
Without boring you all to death, I’ll jump straight in and say that for me, oil provides very little nutritionally that you can’t get from other foods – not enough to warrant the number of calories. For example, just one tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories (just to clarify, I don’t work in calories, but I know this will be interesting to those who do).
Other fat sources, such as avocados, chia seeds and nuts offer not just healthy fats but a whole bunch of other benefits as well – fibre vitamins and minerals. Not only that – when the oil is already extracted and bottled, it’s pretty easy to overdo it. It’s much harder to overdo avocados, chia seeds and olives because they’re so filling.
I will say quickly here too that going ‘oil-free’ doesn’t have to be a black-and-white business. I believe coconut oil to have a myriad of benefits and often use it in my baking. I also use a teaspoon of rapeseed oil to season the pan before I make my pancakes. Think of it as a general 80% rule – not a law you can’t break.
“So where would vegans get their fats from?”
Somebody once said to me that vegans should use oil when cooking in order to make up the calories their losing from meat. Which to me is just plain ludicrous!
The best sources of fats are always going to be whole, plant-based foods – so avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, coconut milk etc. These foods are great sources of essential fats as well as a whole load of other nutrients and benefits. If you were able to eat MORE of the actual foods you loved simply by leaving out one small ingredient you’re unlikely to miss, I imagine you’d find it pretty awesome.
“Ew, cook without oil? That’s crazy!”
Cooking without oil can be a strange concept at first and one that most people will believe to be impossible. But it CAN be done and, with a little bit of transition time, you’ll barely be noticing the difference.
I personally found that without oil, all my meals tasted fresher, cleaner and more flavoursome. I was able to appreciate the ingredients, herbs and spices so much more, without any heaviness or greasiness. Now, I don’t like food to be too oily. After eating in a restaurant or enjoying a pre-packaged veggie burger I’m always happy to go back to home-cooked food soon afterwards.
Lots of people report losing weight effortlessly after going oil-free but for me this was not my main goal. I just love knowing I can fill up more on the other good stuff – whole grains, veggies and starches – without feeling guilty!
How to Replace Oil in Food
How you replace the oil in cooking is a lot like replacing eggs – it’s all about what you’re making. Below are a few of my own personal ways I replace oil, though you can find plenty of tips on other blogs across the web.
Sauteeing – I usually sautee my veggies or garlic in a little bit of water or veg stock.
Frying – If crispy breaded tofu or caramelised onions is your aim, try baking in the oven to get the same crisped-up effect.
Roasting – For roasted vegetables I usually like to drizzle a little bit of veg stock over the vegetables before putting into the oven. For potato wedges, simply line your tray with greaseproof paper as they can be roasted without anything. (I will say here that I do use about a tsp of rapeseed oil if making roast potatoes for Sunday dinner!)
Dressings – When making a salad dressing, you can simply omit the oil or replace it with the equivalent in water (I do this). If the consistency isn’t to your liking you can try adding a bit more water, one tablespoon at a time, until you’re happy. Be sure to check the flavour is not diluted and add more herbs/spices if necessary.
Baking – Oil can be replaced by a number of ways in baking – with mashed banana, apple puree or even plain soy yoghurt. Start with equal measurements and adjust if needed. Remember that mashed banana and apple puree will sweeten a recipe to some degree, so always remember to taste as you go along. You can find my own apple puree recipe here.