A Beginner’s Guide to the Oil-Free Sauté


Sautéing maintains the vegetables’ natural flavors and it lends itself really well to seasoning the vegetables. A little bit of herbs and spices or a tasty sauce can really make your vegetables go from good to outstanding.
The basic sauté method is cook the food in an uncovered pan over medium or high heat, and stirring them often. The higher heat and thinner pieces of vegetables helps them cook quickly, which minimizes nutrient loss. With a high heat setting this method can also be called stir-frying.

In traditional sautéing, oil or animal fat is used to prevent the food from sticking and add flavor. Up until recently most people thought a fat of some kind was a requirement for sautéing vegetables.

However, now we know this is not true. In fact, whether in a sauté or a dressing, oil actually coats our taste buds so that it’s harder to recognize flavor! Oil also brings 120 calories with every tablespoon used, making it the densest food on the planet!
Thus, we have very good reason to leave the oil out of our cooking. Now the question is: how do we do this? Well, we have several techniques to choose from depending on individual preference and what is best for the dish at hand.


The technique closest to the traditional sauté is a water-sauté. This method replaces the oil with water or another liquid, such as broth, juice or wine, and the rest of the process is the same.

A slightly different method, known as a dry-sauté, does not use the oil nor a replacement liquid. Here the only difference with the technique is that you ‘ll need to stir the vegetables often. Without any liquid added the pan is dryer, making it easier for the vegetables to stick and burn. A little browning, or caramelization on the bottom of the pan is ok - sometimes even desirable as it can add more flavor. If there is browning on the bottom of the pan, you can add a touch of water to deglaze the pan and stir in the flavor. This is a fast cooking method, maintaining the integrity and crispness of the vegetables.


Sweating is another form of sautéing with no liquid. However, sweating differs from the dry-sauté because heat is kept to medium, but more importantly the pan is covered. Using a lid keeps the juices released from the vegetables inside the pan, adding lots of moisture to the bottom of the pan. Thus by keeping the pan covered and stirring occasionally, you can cook easily cook oil-free vegetables without any sticking to the bottom of the pan. Most vegetables have a very high water content creating more moisture, or juice, than you might expect.
The goal is to soften the vegetables without browning them and let their flavors start mingling. Look for the vegetables to start glistening and softening around the edges, then move on to the next step in the recipe.


Steam Frying is a mix of sweating and dry-sautéing. The vegetables are cooked in a covered pan without an liquid added, just like in a sweat. The difference is the heat is set to medium-high or high, which causes the vegetables to brown much quicker. Don’t be surprised if you hear the vegetables start to sizzle.
This higher heat requires that the vegetables be stirred more frequently than they would be in sweating. Replacing the lid in between stirring helps maintain a level of moisture and heat in the pan, which is like partially steaming the vegetables in addition to the sauté. This technique delivers tender vegetables with intentional browning for added flavor.


When helping people transition to a whole food, plant-based diet, one of the first moves I recommend is letting go of oil. I believe that between these various techniques, you’re sure to find one that fits your cooking style and taste preferences. You may find you that with certain vegetables you like some techniques more than others. Do some testing and have fun with it!

Plant-based vs Vegan: What's the Difference?

Katie Mae, Plant-based Transition coach

What is a Plant-Based Diet?

Is it the same as vegan or vegetarian diet?

What’s the difference?

Does this sound familiar? Don’t worry, many others are asking the same questions. There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between plant-based and vegan.

There’s a couple key distinctions. Let’s start with the food…

A plant-based diet is one that is based on whole plant foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. As the name implies, it is a diet with plant foods as the focus rather than a processed food or animal-based diet. Processed and animal-based more accurately describe the diet of westernized societies (however, this is shifting).

There are many doctors and other health professionals promoting a plant-based diet, with some adding unique specifics or emphasis. Most often a plant-based diet is referring to one that is 100% plants. However, technically one could eat a diet largely based on plants and still consume small amounts of animal products. As of yet, there is no legal regulation on what the term plant-based means.

A vegan diet, on the other hand, is one that eliminates the consumption of any other sentient being or their by-products. This means no animal flesh (beef, poultry or fish), no dairy products, no eggs and no honey. I love how Terry Mason, a urologist and Commissioner of Health for the city of Chicago, puts it: “If it walks, hops, swims, crawls, slithers, has eyes, a mom and a dad – don’t eat it.”

Depending who you ask, honey may or may not be an acceptable ingredient for vegans. A vegetarian diet comes with much more variety. Vegetarians generally don’t eat animal flesh, but are ok with dairy products and/or eggs. Ultimately, they limit their animal consumption based on what they are comfortable with. For instance some people call themselves pesco-vegetarians, meaning they eat include fish in their vegetarian diet.

A key piece to note is that even though a vegan may not eat any animal products, this does not mean they are eating whole, plant foods. French fries, Oreos and Coke can all be vegan. The food industry has caught on to the growing acceptance of a vegan diet, and thus vegan junk food has become easily accessible and increasingly palatable. These animal-free foods are still loaded with sugar, oil and salt so they are not just appealing, but can often be addictive. You can see that a vegan diet does not necessarily equate with a healthy diet.

In all honesty, I would say a whole food, plant-based diet that includes very small amounts of animal is healthier than a vegan diet consisting of highly processed foods.

 If we go beyond food, the second difference between plant-based and vegan is that veganism is a lifestyle choice involving ethics and politics. Vegans abstain from eating and using animals products, including clothes and cosmetics; and reject anything treating animals as commodities, such as hunting and animal testing.

Both choices – to be plant-based or vegan – can stem from the desire for better health, animals rights, or to protect the environment. The intention depends on the individual.

That being said there are many people that consider themselves vegan and plant-based, which I think is fabulous! This would mean living a vegan lifestyle that includes a diet solely based on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. This way of living leads to vibrant energy and health, reduced suffering for thousands of animals; and protection for the environment all at the same time. It’s no wonder why every day more and more people are making the transition. I give a big, BIG kudos to any plant-based vegan.

Have you thought about it, why not live in both worlds?

Here’s a fun Vegan Starter Kit if you’d like to know more about a vegan lifestyle. If you’d like more info about eating a vegan or plant-based diet, here’s a tasty resource from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Please share this message with any of your friends and family that are confused by the terms plant-based, vegan and vegetarian. Knowledge is power. The more we can bring clarity to these terms the more accurately they will be used in restaurants, on food packages, and in general conversations, ultimately helping to progress both the plant-based and vegan movements.