How To Sauté Vegetables
And Fry Soy Foods Without Oil

Learn to sauté vegetables and fry soy and high-protein foods without oil. Plus, how to use less oil. And the best pan for the job.

How To Saute Veggies and Fry Soy Foods Without Oil

Most people don't realize that you don't need butter or oil in a pan to cook up your veggies so they come out perfectly tender.

And with awareness growing about the dangers of using too much oil in your cooking, it makes sense to learn how to cook without oil, yes?

That said, I am not the type of person that would ever tell you that you MUST cook without oil because that's your business. But what you'll learn in this article is how to cook both with and without oil, and the various limitations of each, so all the bases are covered.

We'll also delve into cooking high-protein foods like pancakes and soy foods (like tofu!), which can easily become a disastourous food-stickage challenge if you don't use oil. Fortunately, I'm here to share with you what I have learned over the years about the proper way to cook these types of foods so it's easy and painless and will save you from pulling out all of your hair.    :)

So let's get started...

To Use Oil or Not To Use Oil - That IS the Question!

I'll never forget a day recently when I was watching The Food Network and a chef was POURING oil in a pan. I mean, WTF? That's insane, even if you DO cook with oil!

Then on the other end of the spectrum are the large number of people that are turning their back on oil. That's a good thing to consider, especially if you have some major health problems that you're trying to get under control.

But does EVERYBODY have to go oil-free? And if you don't, how much oil should you use to cook with?

Well, here's the deal...

Yes, it's a very good idea to start moving yourself in the direction of an oil-free diet. No doubt about it.

But for some of you switching over to a vegan diet from the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.!), I feel it's difficult enough for you to go from eating a high-fat, sugar-filled, sodium-filled diet, to a diet that doesn't allow this stuff.

So instead, we try to find a happy middle ground in a way that can work for YOU and the level you are at right now.

If you're used to cooking with oil, here's what I recommend...

  • Do you cook with Tablespoonfuls of oil? Then move down to 1 Tablespoon of oil.
  • Do you usually cook with 1 Tablespoon of oil? Then move down to a teaspoon.
  • If you normally use a teaspoon, move yourself down to a half-teaspoon.
  • If you're cooking with a half-teaspoon, move yourself down to adding a little oil to a napkin, and then spreading it around the pan;
  • If you're used to cooking with just a swipe of oil in a pan, move to 1/4 cup vegetable broth instead.

In other words, you don't have to go cold turkey off the oil. Just be conscious of the amount you're using, always striving to work your way to lesser and lesser amounts.

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A Couple Notes About Cooking With Veggie Broth or Oil

If you choose to use vegetable broth, then add about 1/4 cup veggie broth to your pan (or 1/4 cup water with a little pinch of a veg bouillon cube) -- or simply use water. When the broth/water is hot, add your veggies (or other food you're cooking or heating, such as reheating whole grains or beans).

My stainless Secura pan

I use stainless pans for oil-free sautéing.
Learn why here.

You can cover with a lid or not. Some people will argue that covering them leads you a little more into steaming territory. Personally, I don't care about cooking terms and labels -- I just do what I need to do to get my food tasting good.    :)

As the food cooks (or heats), the veggie broth may begin to dissipate, so just add more water, a little at a time as needed until your veggies are cooked to your desired tenderness.

If you DO cook with oil, then add a drop or two of water to the oil before you begin heating the pan. This is your best shot at keeping the oil from moving into super-hot dangerous levels.

How To Sauté Vegetables

Add 1/4 cup veggie broth, or a swipe of olive oil, to a pan. Heat the pan over medium (or medium-high heat depending on the pan as mentioned above).

Cook until crisp tender. It depends on the vegetable (see below), but most veggies usually take between 5-15 minutes to become tender. Basically the larger the chop, the longer it takes. The smaller the chop, the less time it takes. Very fibrous greens like kale and mustard greens take longer than more delicate green leafies like Swiss chard and spinach.

During the cooking process, if I'm in a hurry I'll put a lid on it so the veggies get soft quicker, then I'll remove the lid so the veggies can crisp up slightly which adds IMMENSELY to the flavor, but this is entirely your choice.

Here's an example of how I might sauté some cauliflower...

Add 1/4 cup veggie broth to a large pan over medium heat until the veg broth is hot. Add coarsely chopped cauliflower.

Place lid on the pan, stirring occasionally and adding more water a little at a time until my veggie is slightly softened.

Remove lid, and allow the veg broth to begin to "dry up", which concentrates the flavors of the vegetable broth and browns the cauliflower nicely -- again, adding more veg broth or water as needed until cauliflower is cooked through.

Choose A Vegetable

The instructions above are very general for sautéing veggies.

Now, find your favorite vegetable below to learn specific cooking times. Then, click your favorite and go beyond sautéing as you learn more about cleaning, prepping, and seasoning your favorite ingredients, as well as learning more cooking techniques.

These vegetables are perfect for sautéing.

Red beets
15 minutes
10 minutes
Brussels sprouts
10-15 minutes
Red cabbage
10-15 minutes
10-15 minutes
10 minutes
Collard greens
10-12 minutes
12-15 minutes
Variety of potatoes and sweet potatoes
10-15 minutes
Spinach leaves
5 minutes
Swiss chard
5-7 minutes
15-20 minutes

How To Fry Soy and Other High-Protein Foods

Frying up some pancakes, veggie burgers, scrambled tofu, tempeh, and other foods that are packed with protein can be difficult.

Why, you ask?

Great question, Grasshoppah.

These foods stick. Badly. Believe me, I have tried just about every type of pan out there. I have used oil, and not used oil. I have tried high heat, I have tried low heat.

Here's what works, in my experience...

Seriously, if you search around the internet, you'll see zounds of people bitching and moaning about how their high-protein foods stuck to their stainless steel, ceramic, and cast iron pans. It would be sort of funny if it weren't so sad that all that food was going to waste!

My Calphalon pan

I use Calphalon pans
for oil-free frying.
Learn why here.

But then a huge number of people are crying about non-stick pans and how we should shun them. That's because when the coating starts to chip away, they need to be thrown away because you do NOT want to ingest that coating. Well, that makes sense, doesn't it?

But until pans come along that satisfy all of our needs, I recommend you simply dump the oil completely when frying these foods, and just use a non-stick pan for those occasions where you want to make these sticky protein-rich foods.

If you use these pans ONLY for these high-protein situations, and take good care of them -- don't use stainless steel utensils, don't scrub with stainless steel pads (like Brillo), etc, -- they'll last you a long time. Promise!

But again, as soon as they start wearing away and chipping, replace them. Pronto!

Hope you have found this article helpful.

As always, thanks for joining us. Happy cooking!

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