Cooking Oil-Free and Recipe for Creamy Sweet Balsamic Dressing

Last week I explained why I don’t eat oil. Now that we’ve covered the why, let’s get into the details of how to cook without oil. I admit, I had a hard time wrapping my head around how to cook without oil, I mean, I’d only known cooking with oil! How was I going to sauté anything, especially since I’d learned how harmful Teflon and other nonstick surfaces were? What about dressings and baking? Well read on, my friend, and I’ll share how to make delicious and healthy oil-free food!

No Oil Sauté

Leeks, onions, shallots, and all alliums sauté beautifully without oil!

The main reason fat/oil is used in sauté is to keep food from sticking to the pan. Any liquid will work to keep things from sticking, it’s just that oil doesn’t evaporate during cooking like other liquids, so you’ll have to add a little more as you’re cooking. Instead of oil, use:

  • Water
  • Vegetable Stock
  • Wine
  • Vinegar
  • Cucumber Water: Peel a cucumber, cut into chunks and blend with ⅓ cup water until completely blended and liquid.

Type of Pan

You can use any type of sauté pan, Dutch oven, wok, enameled cast iron (like Le Creuset), Instant Pot, etc. for this process. It doesn’t have to be a nonstick surface, but if you’d like to use nonstick, stay away from Teflon. I have a ceramic titanium griddle and sauté pan from Scan Pan, which are safe and I love!


Heat up your sauté or other type of pan without anything in it. You want a medium-high heat. Your pan is ready when a drop of water dances across the hot surface. Add your ingredients, stirring, and if things start to stick, add some liquid, a tablespoon at a time, stirring to free any stuck items. You’ll get some browning on the surface of the pan and your veggies, which is exactly what you want! Continue this process until the food is cooked as desired. Note, garlic will tend to burn fairly quickly, so add this with other items rather than as a single ingredient or at the beginning of the sauté.

No Oil Saute!

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How to Roast Without Oil

These wedges of kabocha and acorn squash are coated with aquafaba and spices in preparation for roasting in the recipe for Roasted Kabocha Squash and Chickpeas.

Oil is traditionally used to keep food from sticking to the pan and to adhere herbs and spices to food while roasting. Silicone baking sheets or parchment work great to keep things from sticking to the pan. You can find silicone baking sheets in many sizes, including ones that fit in toaster oven trays.

Silicone baking sheets (Silpat, left) and parchment paper, right, are great for oil-free roasting.

As in oil-free sauté, use a liquid to prepare food for roasting:

  • Water
  • Vegetable Stock
  • Aquafaba, the liquid drained from a can of white beans, like garbanzo beans
  • Nut butter slurry, nut butter or tahini blended with water
  • Mustard
  • Maple Syrup
  • Lemon or Apple Juice
  • Vinegar, etc.

Preheat oven to 375-425˚F (I use 400˚F for my oven). Toss prepared veggies in the same amount of liquid that you would have used oil. Add herbs and spices. Pour out onto a prepared baking sheet. Cook uncovered for 45-60 minutes, stirring/flipping halfway through while they cook.

Substitutions in Baking

I updated our old family recipe for Caramel-Topped Oatmeal Cake to be refined oil-free.

You can bake most things oil-free as well. Fat is a tenderizer in baked goods as it slows down gluten development by separating water and protein. Oil-free baking uses water and fiber to achieve tenderness. The increased moisture helps keep things soft and natural fruit pectin helps to form a similar barrier between water and protein. Nut butters can be used as well, adding some fat, water, and fiber. You may need to experiment to see which ingredient works best as an oil substitute in your particular recipe.

Substitute these items 1:1 for oil, butter, lard, etc.:

Parchment paper and silicone baking sheets work great to line pans for baking cookies, cakes, loafs, etc. And, makes it really easily to lift from the pan later (with less dish washing too!).

You can find silicone baking pans in all shapes and sizes, including these awesome cupcake liners!

I love these silicone cupcake liners. They’re one of my Favorite Things!

Dressings and Sauces

This Creamy Sweet Balsamic Dressing is one of my favorites! You can get the recipe at the end of this post.

While oil is thought of as a lubricant, it actually is quite sticky. This stickiness is why oils have been added to a lot of dressings and sauces. You can just leave out the added oil, or achieve the same property with some oil-free plant-based options:

Thick Water

Mix together 4 tsp. cornstarch or arrowroot powder and 1 cup of water (I put this in a lidded jar and shake well to combine). Pour into a small saucepan and bring to a boil until thickened. Cool. Use in equal parts to what you would use oil.

Putting it All Together

Cooking without oil is a skill, one that takes practice, believe me! So be patient with yourself and give it a try! See which methods and ingredients work best for you and your recipes. Eventually, oil-free cooking will be as automatic as cooking with oil has been. And your body will thank you!

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5 from 5 votes

Creamy Sweet Basalmic Dressing

Course Spreads, Dips, Sauces, and Dressings
Cuisine American, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free
Keyword balsamic, Nutritional Yeast, Silken Tofu
Author Cindy Thompson, MS, NBC-HWC | Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching


  • ½ cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 3 tbsp Tamari soy sauce, or coconut aminos for soy-free
  • 3 tbsp Pure Maple Syrup
  • tsp Onion Granules
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • ½ tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • ¼ tsp Black Pepper
  • 12 oz Silken Tofu


  • Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth. Keeps up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

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