While it’s easy to replace oil with applesauce in baked goods, cooking without oil is more difficult. Although certain oils, like olive oil and especially coconut oil, have many health benefits, they’re not exactly low in calories. One tablespoon of olive oil, coconut oil, or canola oil has 120 calories, all from fat. While these are mostly healthy, monounsaturated fats that you definitely need in your diet, if you feel like you’re using too much oil, there are simple switches you can make to decrease calories and fats. Oil is most necessary in cooking when you’re sautéing vegetables, but I have three fool-proof alternatives that work just as well.
1. Vegetable Broth
Vegetable broth is the healthiest oil alternative, containing less than 1 calorie per tablespoon and zero fat. While you can sauté vegetables with water, vegetable broth is more flavorful and dissolves less quickly than water. As long as you have a non-stick pan, this is an ideal oil replacement. The broth will take a few minutes to dissolve so make sure you keep your vegetables in the frying pan long enough for all of the vegetable broth to be absorbed. You can definitely taste the vegetable broth on the vegetables, but it’s not a super strong taste so it can work with many different dishes.
2. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce is less versatile than vegetable broth because it has a stronger flavor, but it is a great option for a classic vegetable stir-fry. You can also use soy sauce to flavor tofu for a stir-fry, which is what I did. Soy sauce has 10 calories per tablespoon and no fat. However, soy sauce does contain a lot of sodium (unless you get a low sodium version), so just be mindful of how much you use. I used one tablespoon to fry a package of extra firm tofu, but I definitely advise adding more once you combine it with your grain and vegetables.
3. Orange Juice
Our managing editor, Zoe, swears by this oil replacement, and I agree. Orange juice can add a fresh, citrus taste to the classic vegetable stir-fry. Just make sure that you add it bit by bit to see how much of citrus taste you want. I used one tablespoon for about half a cup of mixed vegetables, which gave it a light citrus taste. However, if you really want to taste the citrus, I would advise using at least two tablespoons and keeping the vegetables in the pan for a longer time. Orange juice only has 6.88 calories in one tablespoon, zero fat, and adds just a little bit of vitamin C.
I combined all of these options into one big giant stir fry, and it was delicious. You’ll probably want to add some more soy sauce to the stir fry, but with all the calories you’ve saved, you certainly can afford it!
Try these oil alternatives the next time you’re sautéing vegetables, and you’ll fill your belly without widening your waistline.