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Cooking Without Grease or Oil: 4 Ways to Get Started

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

You have to use oil or butter when you cook, right?

Wrong. It’s easy to take a break from oil, whether you want to cut calories, for example, or eat a more heart-healthy diet. In fact, when you start cooking without grease or oil, you can enjoy food flavors usually masked by the butter, olive oil, or lard (as good as those fats can taste!).

Using Juice

Self magazine offers five tips for replacing oil with juice, including apple, orange, pomegranate, cashew and carrot juices. Not only do these juices add flavor, they give dishes an extra boost of antioxidants, which may help prevent heart disease and cancer.

For example, try using apple juice instead of oil or butter to baste pork, turkey, or chicken. You’ll get sweet, moist meat with fewer calories and no added fat. Orange juice makes a tasty marinade for fish and chicken; a pomegranate reduction over any white meat lends a strong flavor and is loaded with antioxidants. Cashew juice isn’t as well-known, but the familiar cashew seeds actually grow attached to tree fruits — you can buy packages of the juice and add it to beef dishes or stir-fry.


When you need to saute vegetables, replace the oil with the same amount of water. The water will keep the veggies from sticking to the pan (a task made even easier when you use non-stick cookware). You’ll want to make sure you heat the pan fully before you add the vegetables, and then stir constantly until they begin to soften.

When you need to caramelize onions, you don’t even need to use water. Make sure you use a non-stick skillet and to stir until they are brown, sweet, and soft, with the natural sugars released and intensified. If you need to cook onions for more than five or six minutes, do add water to prevent sticking.


Baking is one of the easiest ways to start cooking without grease or oil. If you’re baking vegetables, such as winter squash or chopped root vegetables, you’ll need to let them cook a little longer than you would if you used cooking spray or oil. Add water and turn down the temperature if you’re worried about burning or sticking.

In baked goods, oil binds and softens ingredients and enhances flavor. Approximately the same amount of applesauce, mashed banana, or pureed prune can do the same work with great result. For savory recipes, you can use mashed tofu to replace the oil.

You don’t need to use oil to prepare baking pans either. Rather, line the pan with parchment paper or silicone bakeware.

Salad Dressing

There are many options for oil-free salad dressings. In general, you can simply leave the oil out, or use water or juice to make up the volume. Blended silken tofu and ground flax seed mixed with hot water are good for creamy salad dressings. A ranch dressing, for instance, is great with silken tofu in place of mayonnaise; simply blend the tofu with the rest of the ingredients in your favorite ranch recipe.

Cooking without grease or oil can take a little practice, but it needn’t be complicated — and it certainly can taste delicious.