I’m a big fan of using essential oils consistently and proactively. Sure, essential oils can be a big help to treat health problems… but why not also use essential oils to prevent problems in the first place?
Today, I want to share one amazing way to do just that. I’m talking about using essential oils in cooking and food flavoring.
Now, if this made you prick up your ears because it sounds so unusual, let me explain.
We already consume a lot of essential oils in our food — the reason that herbs and spices like basil and oregano add aroma and flavor to our food is precisely because of the essential oils they contain.
This is why you can use certain essential oils in cooking, whether it’s to replace fresh or dried herbs or to add the zesty zing of citrus fruits. Cooking with essential oils can be incredible because of the powerful and concentrated aroma and flavor the oils bring, and also because of the proactive therapeutic benefits.
First off, here are a few guidelines for cooking with essential oils:
- Quality is important
If you are going to be using essential oils in cooking, you have to get high-quality essential oils. What I mean by this is that each essential oil you use should be an extract from a specific plant, without any synthetics, impurities, or adulterants added.
I’ve written before about how to ensure your essential oils are actually high quality — check out this article if you want more information on the topic.
- Make sure the oils are safe for ingestion
The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t get very involved in regulating essential oils, but one thing they do have is a list of essential oils that are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for human consumption.
Basically, if you see an oil on this list, it means it should be safe to ingest in very small quantities (more on the quantities in a bit).
If an oil is not on this list, it’s a good idea to do further research or consult an aromatherapist before you ingest it or use it in cooking in any way — some non-GRAS oils, such as eucalyptus, can be toxic even in very small quantities.
- Use small amounts
Essential oils are incredibly concentrated substances, and a drop or two of an essential oil is all you will need to give a burst of flavor to any dish.
Using more than one or two drops of essential oils is likely to overpower your dish, and it’s not a good idea to experiment with it unless you are well acquainted with the properties and effects of the particular oil.
- Mix essential oils with oil, butter, or other fatty substances
Essential oils dilute well in plant oils (such as olive oil) or substances like butter or milk. They do not dilute at all in water-based substances (water, juice, vinegar).
In order to ensure your essential oils are well-dispersed throughout your dish, both for the sake of flavor and for safety, use essential oils in those dishes in which you can dilute them in this way.
- Add essential oils towards the end of cooking
Essential oils are volatile substances, which means that they evaporate quickly. Mixing essential oils with a plant oil or a fatty carrier will slow this process down, but it’s still a good idea to add the essential oils close to the end of cooking to retain as much of their aroma and flavor as possible.
Now, when it comes to using essential oils in cooking, much of the fun is in experimenting for yourself and finding which dishes can be enhanced with a drop of essential oil.
But to get you started, I want to give you a few ideas for how to use essential oils in cooking:
- a drop of lime essential oil for guacamole
- a drop each of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, pepper, orange, vanilla and clove essential oils for flavoring chai
- a drop of oregano, thyme, and basil in your salad dressing
- a drop of lemon, cacao, coffee, butter, peppermint, and/or vanilla in your cakes or ice cream
- a drop of butter essential oil for popcorn
Have you used essential oils in cooking? I’d love to hear about it — add your story in the comments below. Mahalo!