If you’ve been following me for a while, you will know that I love using essential oils in cooking as they provide such an intense flavour to any dish. And not only that, they are so simple to use.
So why use essential oils in cooking you ask? Well for one they add flavour. Essential oils are naturally potent and powerful because they are highly concentrated and are taken directly from natural sources. But it’s not all just about the flavour, essential oils also provide a number of internal health benefits.
Certain oils can promote healthy digestion and cleansing benefits to the body. They can also provide the body with antioxidants and other support to our internal body systems.
Using essential oils can also be more convenient. Who else has been in the kitchen cooking and realised they are missing a herb or the zest of a fruit? Having essential oils on hand makes it easier when you forget to buy or don’t have time to get to the store to buy fresh herbs, spices etc. Plus, it can be difficult to find fresh ingredients throughout the entire year, as some herbs, spices, and fruits are only available during certain seasons. Not only that, essential oils are safe and natural as they come directly from the plant itself, meaning they have no additives or preservatives.
Remember though, that not all essential oils are created equal, and some companies will use fillers or synthetic ingredients in their oils. I only use dōTERRA essential oils as I know they are 100% pure and are Certified Pure Tested Grade. dōTERRA’s testing process ensures that their essential oils are safe to use. The essential oils go through several rounds of rigorous testing and are closely examined to ensure that they don’t contain any contaminants or harmful substances.
Essential oils can also be more cost-effective in the long run. Now I’m not saying to replace all your herbs and spices with the essential oil, far from it. I for one, love the texture and freshness that fresh herbs and spices provide, however as it only takes a tiny amount of essential oil to add flavour to any dish, you can save money by not having to replace your ingredients as often. Plus, the shelf life of essential oils is long, so you don’t have to worry about them going bad before the expiration date, unlike fresh ingredients which usually only has a few days before they spoil.
Since essential oils are highly concentrated, usually only one drop is needed. There is no hard and fast rule for substituting the whole herbs and spices with essential oils, but a good tip to go by is that one drop will replace one teaspoon. Some essential oils provide a much intense flavour, so even one drop will be too strong. In this case the toothpick method can be used, where you insert a toothpick into the oil bottle and then swirl the toothpick throughout the dish. This can be done several times to achieve the desired flavour.
It’s important to remember that not all essential oils will taste as good as the herb when used in cooking. Sometimes the oil has too much of a certain component, making it less than ideal to use. It is also a good idea to delay adding the essential oils to hot recipes or dishes, as heat can change the chemical component of the essential oil and therefore change the smell, taste etc. Plus, essential oils are “volatile” meaning they evaporate quickly, especially in high heat. It is recommended that you add the essential oil at the end of cooking. In stove top recipes, stir through the essential oil after the cooking is finished.
There are different types of essential oils that can be used in cooking, with the most common being the herbs and spices. Here is a list of essential oils that are considered safe to add to your food and drinks:
Basil, Bergamot, Black Pepper, Cassia, Cinnamon, Clary Sage, Fennel, Geranium, Ginger, Grapefruit, Juniper Berry, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, Marjoram, Melissa, Oregano, Peppermint, Roman Chamomile, Rosemary, Thyme, Wild Orange and Ylang Ylang.
Peppermint essential oil is a great oil to start with when you first begin cooking with essential oils. Its strong flavour adds an intense minty taste for chocolates and many sweet treats…did someone say brownies? One drop of peppermint essential oil is the equivalent to 28 cups of peppermint tea (yes, it’s that strong), so be mindful when adding your drops.
Lavender is another easy one to use when you first start out. It’s great in savoury recipes like scones or sweet desserts like cupcakes. A couple of drops will give your dish a unique flavour with a hint of floral.
And then there’s the citrus oils…probably my favourite oils to use in cooking. Pretty much all the citrus oils are great to use. The essential oils in citrus come from the peel or rind of the fruit, so whenever a recipe calls for the rind of a fruit, you can use the essential oil. A general rule of how many drops, is the rind of one fruit is approximately 8-14 drops of the essential oil. Of course, it’s always best to start off with fewer drops as more can be added if needed. Citrus oils are fantastic in drinks, smoothies and desserts, but their uses don’t stop there. Savoury dishes such as casseroles and curries and even dips are other ways to use these delicious oils!
But there are some essential oils that should never be added to food or used internally in any amount due to their chemical makeup. Here is a list of the essential oils that are not safe for cooking:
Arborvitae, Cedarwood, Cypress, Douglas Fir, Eucalyptus, Spikenard, White Fir and Wintergreen.
As you begin using essential oils in cooking and start experimenting with different flavours, you will see the power of essential oils and how easy they are to incorporate into recipes.