Sauteing and Roasting Vegetables Without Oil

Today marks the halfway point of the 28 Day Healthy Eating Challenge Whole Foods invited me to try.  I have now gone two weeks without any meat, dairy, eggs, sugar or oil, and I’m starting to feel just fine.  The first several days were tough – probably because my body was going through sugar withdrawal!

Tonight I attended a “cooking without oil” class at my local Whole Foods Market, and because my biggest issue during this challenge has been the inability to saute in a bit of olive oil, I wish the class had been offered sooner. My whole foods approach to eating accommodates healthy fats, and I enjoy cooking with oil and butter.  However, I am always open to learning new methods and techniques, so I was super excited for this class.

We started with onions.  Much to my total shock, oil is not needed to cook onions!!  I always assumed the onions would stick to the pan and cook unevenly without any oil, but quite the opposite was true.  As the instructors demonstrated, the pan needs to be hot enough for water drops to “dance” when splashed in it.  Once the right temperature is achieved, toss in the diced onions and allow their natural “sweat” to keep the pan lubricated.  Stir frequently.

Once the onions were softened, chopped garlic and diced sweet potatoes were added to the pan along with a few tablespoons of vegetable broth.  This “steam saute” method cooked the potatoes perfectly in just a few minutes.

We also enjoyed simple roasted asparagus.  Without a coating of olive oil, the earthy taste of the Michigan-grown asparagus really shined through.

Oil-Free Roasted Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), tough ends trimmed

Juice of 1/2 orange or 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs such as parsley, thyme and mint

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange spears on baking sheet.  Squeeze orange or drizzle vinegar over asparagus, toss to coat and season with pepper.  Roast, shaking the pan occasionally, until just tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Watch carefully to avoid overcooking! Transfer to a platter, scatter herbs over the top, and serve.

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11 Comments for this entry

  1. Liz says:

    Another green site I read recommends 360 cookware’s vapor technology pans which don’t require any oil to cook. I haven’t tried them myself and I am trying to resist the temptation to order but they might be good for this month. Good luck!!

  2. Amber says:

    I can’t believe I missed this when you first posted it. Not using olive oil has been my biggest challenge. I will give the juiced orange method a try. I was also surprised that onions would saute w/o olive oil, but I have to keep adding water to the pan, otherwise they burn.

    • Pat says:

      I have been cooking without oil and butter for 8 months now, (Being Italian, that was not natural for me), however I keep an abundance of Low Sodium Vegetable Broth on hand at all times. I use it to saute everything that I used to use oil and butter with. It works great, and gives a wonderful flavor.

  3. Kay says:

    I have reached day 7 of no meat, no dairy, no refined sugar, no refined oil except scant amount in salad dressings, and I feel GREAT! already losing weight, inches and have energy to bounce with. Health is so exciting!

  4. Clay says:

    Anybody have any suggestions for what to use when roasting particular vegetables? I think balsamic vinegar might leave a certain unwanted taste on them. I been trying to roast eggplant and sweet potatoes. Without oil – on a non-stick sheet- they don’t come out crispy enough.

  5. Kelly says:

    Just found this post – what a cool idea! I can’t wait to try this out, I’ve wondered about sauteing onions without oil before, so it’s cool to see it done!

  6. Yeli says:

    I actually tried sauteeing onions with Pam yesterday (I was too afraid of the non-oil thing), for a tomato sauce. They stuck to the pan quite quickly. I had to toss in the tomatoes in order to prevent them from burning. Stock is a good idea, and I will try that today. Thanks for posting!!

  7. Bill says:

    The only oil that is safe for people to cook with two roasted is coconut oil. There are so many toxins in our environment that it simply an unacceptable risk to consume too much oil of any kind these days. If you must put the olive oil on the asparagus after it’s done. It retains the lovely consistency of fresh olive oil, isn’t damaged and actually it’s better that way. That’s just my opinion not even a teensy bit unless it’s coconut oil. Olive oil turns into a major carcinogen in the oven and too much of it needs down that dangerous path to cancer. And that’s all I have to say about that. Thanks..

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