Your signature marinara sauce is simmering on the stove and filling the kitchen with its rich, spicy aroma. You stir it, inhale, and notice something is missing. It’s close, but needs an extra something.
You go to your spice cabinet and pull out your basil essential oil. One drop goes into your sauce and it’s perfect. You turn the burner down and call your family in for dinner. After scarfing down their second helping, they say this is the best spaghetti you’ve ever made.
That’s the power of authentic essential oils in cooking.
Once you start cooking with essential oils, you’ll wonder how you went so long without it. These simple rules will help you get started.
Tips for Cooking with Essential Oils
1. Use the Right Oils
Make sure you choose the oils you cook with carefully. Not all essential oils are safe for cooking.
The oils you use in the kitchen—and, honestly, everywhere else—should be high-quality, pure essential oils. No additives or fillers.
Essential oils are made from real food, herbs, and plants, so you should shop for them the way you’d shop for produce, and keep those pesticides out.
If you are unsure whether an oil is safe to eat or not, read the Supplement Facts on the label. It looks like nutritional information and should tell you whether the oil is safe to ingest. If you can’t find the information, leave it out.
2. Know When to Use Oils
Essential oils are highly concentrated forms of food, plants, and herbs. Their strength may cause allergic reactions for some, so before you start cooking with essential oils in your home, test yourself and your family for any allergies.
You can do a skin test by applying a few drops of the oil and a carrier oil where your elbow bends. Bandage the area for 24 hours. If there is no reaction a day later, the oil should be safe to use.
Also, be aware that some essential oils are not safe for pregnant women and children to use. Always check the label for warnings and recommended use before adding essential oils to your recipes, and consult a certified health care professional with additional questions.
3. What Kind of Oils to Use
There are hundreds of essential oils out there, but not all of them go well with cooking. In general, essential oils are used to replace normal ingredients in cooking, so only use oils that correlate with foods or herbs you would normally put in a dish.
The most common types of essential oils for cooking include spices, herbs and citrus. Some of these include:
- Red Mandarin
- Sweet Marjoram
It’s important to know where on the plant the oil is extracted from. For example, lemon essential oil is extracted from the peel, not the fruit, so that oil can be used to replace zest in a recipe, but not lemon juice. Keep this in mind as you cook.
4. How to Add Essential Oils
How much essential oil you use varies from oil to oil. However, because the oils are so concentrated, you will always only need a few drops at most.
That is one of the perks of cooking with essential oils. Instead of spending a lot on handfuls of herbs that will go bad before you can use them, you can just use a few drops of essential oils!
Typically, only a drop or two will do — depending on the strength of the oil and how prevalent you want the flavor in your dish. For some particularly strong oils, you may want to just dip a toothpick in the oil and then stir the dish with it, instead of directly adding oil.
Depending on the bottle your essential oils come in, you may want to drop the oil in a spoon and then mix it into the dish. You don’t want to over pour and then ruin the whole meal!
A good rule of thumb is to always start with less than you think you need. You can always add more oil, but it’s hard to alter the recipe if you accidently add too much.
5. When to Add Essential Oils
The amount of oils you add will also depend on when you add them. Essential oils evaporate, so they can be cooked out of your dish if added too soon.
More often than not, you’ll want to add the essential oils just before plating the dish. Especially if your meal involves baking, simmering, or steaming.
However, stronger oils, such as oregano, marjoram, and thyme, can be added earlier so that their flavor is more mild by the time you take a bite.
Conversely, if the food sits for a while without being cooked, the oil flavor and scent will be stronger. Foods that have to steep or sit in the fridge for a long period of time should get essential oils an hour or two before serving.
6. Storing Essential Oils
Essential oils are sensitive to light, heat, and evaporation. To make your essential oils last longer, make sure you never leave the cap off, as they can evaporate just by sitting.
You should store your oils in a dark, cool place. Although a spice cabinet will work, the fridge will keep your oils fresher for longer.
7. Tips for Cooking with Essential Oils
Cooking with essential oils will take some practice as you figure out what amounts and combinations suit your pallet. However, you can follow these guidelines to get you started.
Typically, 1 drop of a citrus oil can substitute for 1 teaspoon of citrus zest. If a recipe calls for 1 fruit, use 8 to 14 drops of oil.
For minty oils, 1 drop usually equals about 1 teaspoon of dried mint leaves or 1 tablespoon of fresh mint leaves.
You can substitute 1 drop of cinnamon oil for about 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon.
For herb oils, start with a toothpick dipped in the oil and stir your recipe. Taste and then add more as needed.
Floral oils, like lavender, can be used in cooking, but the flavors are uncommon. Start with the toothpick method and add more if desired.
Cooking with essential oils allows you to add nuance to your dishes, save money on ingredients, and easily experiment with creative, new flavors. If you haven’t been doing it already, it’s time you start!
The quality of your essential oils is crucial to adding them to recipes, so make sure you only get the highest quality, pure, organic essential oils, like the ones at Nature’s Sunshine. Our essential oils are 100 percent authentic and will go great with your favorite dishes!
Cooking with Essential Oils – FAQs and Tips