Learning to cook without oil

Learning to cook without oil

Take a Mediterranean-loving girl like me and tell her no oil in your cooking, and it creates a complete mind freeze. Say what? I’m an olive oil devotee. Every dinner meal begins with fragrant onions turning translucent in olive oil. But when your beloved partner is threatened with a rare disorder for which the only possible recovery is via no oil or saturated fat, you learn quickly to adapt.

Fortunately, others have paved the way so recipe ideas have inspired me to new levels of creative cuisine. Plus, there is an upside – weight loss!


Reversing heart disease through diet

You may have read about the plant-based, low-fat diet that eliminates saturated fat and all types of oil, which is used to reverse cardiovascular disease for heart patients.

This scientifically validated diet has been pioneered by doctors like Dean Ornish, M.D., Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D. and John McDougall, M.D. (no relation). This diet is a testimonial to how something as seemingly simple as what we eat can profoundly alter our health!

After my husband was diagnosed with a rare condition affecting his veins, I became interested in the oil-free diet’s effect on the epithelial cells that line our blood vessels as well as many other surfaces in our body. It seems that they don’t like fat, either saturated or unsaturated. They are absolutely amazing cells found in great abundance throughout our intestines, veins, arteries – really everywhere. If we stretched all these cells out flat, they would cover 8 tennis courts!

Epithelial cells produce a variety of chemicals to regulate our bodies including nitric oxide that expands our arteries, increases oxygen flow and gives men erections. In the colon, they are key barrier cells to keep the bad microbes out of our bodies and they interact with inulin to regulate the immune system. Inulin is the prebiotic in chicory root, one of the unique phytonutrients that makes Teeccino so healthy to drink.

Onwards to cooking without oil...

I have to confess, I moaned inwardly at the thought of giving up eating fish, goat & sheep’s cheeses, and oils of any kind. Of course, I didn’t have to since I’m not the one who is under a major health threat, but I’m a devoted partner. To lead the way and show it could be done, I committed to jumping in first to convince him to follow. But wait. How do I replace olive oil?

I started with salad dressing. A day doesn’t go by without at least one garden fresh salad in my life. I don’t buy bottled salad dressings at the store because they don’t use virgin olive oil and other fresh ingredients that I find indispensable in a good dressing (I’m often urged by friends and family to bottle my salad dressings, but I know that the high-quality ingredients I use would make it too expensive to commercialize).

Facing the challenge of a no-oil salad dressing, I decided I’d use everything I normally use and just find a new base to replace oil. You can’t have your salad dressing running off the lettuce and pooling at the bottom of your plate like a puddle. A good dressing should have viscosity so it coats the salad ingredients and makes them all so delicious.

Plus, fat in a salad has been shown to help increase the absorption of the nutrients and antioxidants your salad has in abundance. Usually, you get fat from your dressing’s oil, but you can also get it from avocados, nuts and seeds all of which I still plan to continue eating. When fat is naturally bound in fiber, it doesn’t overwhelm your blood with free floating fat from oils that coat your epithelial cells. Eating fat bound in fiber, just like sugar bound in fiber (instead of refined sugars), is another dietary goal for optimal health.


Not to forget the fact that oil has 9 calories per gram! How much is a gram? Well, a tablespoon of oil holds 13.6 grams so it contains 122.4 calories. See why you can lose weight easily just by cutting oil out of your diet?

My oil-free salad dressing solution jumped at me quickly. Happiness! A seed I’m passionate about can provide both the viscosity and the fat: chia seeds! With ground chia in my super seeds cereal, TeeChia, I know all about the goodness these tiny powerhouse seeds packed with omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber can add to my salad’s nutrition. Plus, their ability to absorb liquids keeps my oil-free salad dressing from separating and thickens it to just the right consistency to coat my salad leaves.

Enjoy this dressing on your next salad and let me know how you like eating oil-free salads!

Caroline’s pomegranate chia salad dressing


  • 1/2 cup POM pomegranate juice (or another brand)
  • Juice of 1 orange (use a hand citrus press to make it quick & easy!)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp red wine or sherry vinegar – organic is preferable!
  • 1 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard (Trader Joe’s has my favorite French brand)
  • 3-4 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/2 shallot
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves picked off of their stems – press them into measuring cup to pack them down when measuring
  • 1 tbsp ground chia seeds
  • ½ tsp herb salt (Spike is my favorite brand)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper, depending on if you like a bit of heat


  • 5-7 raspberries to add a fruity flavor and nice red color
  • Use blood oranges when in season for a bright red color
  • A small cheat for really fabulous flavor & nutrition: add 1 tbsp. of lightly toasted walnut oil which is high in omega-3 fatty acids and so yum!!


  • Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend thoroughly until the basil leaves are all chopped up.
  • Pour dressing into an airtight container or carafe and store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
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