This recipe has been custom designed for Agrarian, California Coastal, California Keto, Forager, Hunter Gatherer, Lean Machine, Mediterranean, Modified Paleo, Mosaic, Nordic, Okinawan, Paleo Plus, Pegan, Pescetarian, Trainer, Urban Grazer, Vegetarian, Villager, West Angeleno and Wyoan diet types, learn more.
When you first wade into the waters diet changes, it can be completely overwhelming to cut out some of the things you see as a staple. One of the questions I get most often is how to function in the kitchen with little or no oil. We’ve already had a discussion on avoiding vegetable oil, but how to we cook and bake with no oils?
Look at almost any recipe online, and you’ll almost certainly see oil or butter on the list of ingredients. So why would we want to avoid them? For some folks, a moderate amount of oil can add some nutritional benefits and good fats, but for those on a more restricted fat diet, a splash here and a splash there can quickly rack up the fat and calorie content of a meal. Not only that, but oil does not necessarily always fit in with a whole food, unprocessed diet. The British Nutrition Foundation reports that heating any type of unsaturated oil at high temperatures will result in the breakdown of double bonds present in the fat, which leads to the formation of compounds that have been shown to adverse effects in the body, such as interfering with endothelial function and accelerating the atherosclerosis process.
The primary role of oil in baking is usually to keep things lubricated which results in a moist final product. So when baking without oil, it is important not to just omit the oil, but to swap it with one of the alternatives that will contribute to the moisture content. In cooking, oil is used mainly for heat transfer. Fat very efficiently transfers heat but luckily so is water. Choosing the right cookware is essential to successfully pan frying and sautéing without oil. My go-to materials are stainless steel and cast iron. These are both eco-friendly, non-toxic options that will yield great results.
Not to fear, there are some great alternatives in both cooking and baking that won’t compromise flavor, and in some cases adds even more flavor.
For baking, the most common plant-based oil substitute is applesauce or other fruit and root vegetable purees. Oil in a baking recipes can be substituted 1:1 with a fruit or root vegetable puree. Keep in mind that it will lend some of its flavor and color to the recipe when choosing which to use. The most common is applesauce, which is very moist and low in calories.
For pan-frying and sautéing, oil can be swapped for a small amount of water or broth, as we do in the recipe below. When you opt for this method, you’ll want to be sure to keep whatever you are cooking moving around the pan to prevent sticking. I like to keep a bowl of water and a tablespoon next to the stove and add the water a little at a time when I see the food start to stick to the pan. The water not only functions to keep food from sticking to the pan, but also to transfer heat from the pan to the food.
This recipe is vegan, so instead of using eggs in the arepa batter, we use what is known as a flax egg. This can be done with ground flax or chia seed and is a simple combination of 1 part flax or chia and 3 parts water. As the mixture sits, it thickens and can contribute the same binding characteristics of an egg in baking. Here, we chose flax seed. Specifically Spectrum Organic Ground Premium Flaxseed, which is cold-milled to prevent nutrients from oxidation. It is high in omega-3 and adds a delicious nutty flavor and a healthy dose of fiber, which has been linked to heart health and a reduced risk of some types of cancer. If you’re
For the almond flour, we love Anthony’s Organic Almond Flour. It has a fine texture to mimic flour and a mild nutty taste. Anthony’s makes their almond flour with no preservatives or artificial ingredients and batch tests to ensure it is gluten free.
For the sweet potato, you can certainly use fresh, but we like to keep Farmers Market Organic Sweet Potato Puree on hand for a quick fix. It’s very handy to have in your pantry if you’re cooking oil free. It is made from certified organic sweet potatoes and nothing more.
Like our other recipes, this is easily customized to fit your diet. You can make a big batch of these arepas and stuff them with anything that you love that fits into your personalized diet plan. So if you’re not avoiding eggs, go for an egg or if you’re not avoiding dairy, add some crumbled goat cheese.
Danielle Moore is a professional recipe developer, Nutrition expert, food photographer and lover of veggies. Read her full bio here.