12 Ways to make Sautéed Vegetables Taste Amazing without Oil (+ Recipes)

by Alena
Jun 18, 2018
woman wearing large white linen shirt standing on the stove and sautéing vegetables in a black pan
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Does the thought of having some sautéed vegetables on your plate make you gag unintentionally? You’re not alone. Only 9% of Americans meet the daily recommendation for vegetable intake. Unfortunately, this number explains many of our leading causes of death which are largely preventable by eating a healthy, plant-based diet. 

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We totally get that veggies are probably not your go-to comfort food, nor are they super convenient. Healthy eating in general can be tough, especially when your taste buds are used to calorically dense foods and lots of sugar, salt, and oil. The good news is that your taste buds can change when you cut back on hyper-palatable food.

Our tongues appear to become more sensitive to rich flavors if we eat less of them. This means that it’s actually possible to bite into some plain steamed broccoli or a raw carrot and enjoy the natural taste these vegetables have to offer! But don’t worry if you’re not here yet, this is what this article (and website) is for.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s an honorable effort to try and eat more vegetables.

Unfortunately, in the beginning, when they don’t taste very appealing yet, most people likely cover them in oil when sautéing or frying them. Even when baking, or just eating veggies in form of a raw salad… adding oil decreases the overall healthfulness of the meal and, instead, increases the number of calories by 120 per tablespoon.

Plus, you don’t even really taste the oil - I mean, would you eat it by the tablespoon? Your tongue doesn't even have any fat receptors and we need a lot of sugar, salt, and vinegar to make oily dishes taste good.

So, what can we do then to get the best from both worlds? Can health and deliciousness go hand in hand? And how to sauté vegetables at all?

In this article, we’re not only making the veggie dishes entirely plant-based (getting the highest amount of desirable essential nutrients) but are also upping our game here and leaving the oils completely off the table!


Curious to learn about the reasons for cutting out oils? Click here to read our thorough article about different types of oils, fats, and the associated risks & benefits.

How to start liking vegetables

We’re aware of the fact that everyone and their mom has already told you to eat your veggies, so what’s new here. Well, we want you to consider that if you start learning about what they do for you, you can get really pumped about eating them and have an easier time stomaching the sometimes bitter taste.

So please, feel free to do some research on this to get yourself in the right mood. Or maybe, the recipes we’ll present later on will already do the job of having you run to the kitchen and start to chop away.

But for some general ideas on what you can do with your veggies before, during, and after sautéing them to make the dish very healthy yet tasty, check out these tips:

  • Buy the less bitter, more flavorful “baby version” of the vegetable
  • Use vegetable broth, cooking wine, or a sauce (soy, hot, teriyaki etc.) as your liquid
  • Add something tangy like lemon juice or vinegar (apple cider & balsamic are our favorites)
  • Dry-fry garlic and onions first, then add the rest
  • Blanch the veggies by steaming them for 30 to 60 seconds, then dropping in cold water
  • Cut them finely so they absorb more flavor and have a nicer texture
  • If preparing veggies is too much of a hassle for you, buy a frozen medley
  • Add fresh or dried herbs for some extra aroma and health benefits
  • Try different combinations, starting with the veggies you already like
  • Mix in some starches or legumes to make them more satisfying
  • Add some fruit like pear, apricot, dates, or raisins to the veggies for a sweet touch
  • Top with nuts and seeds as well as your favorite dip
  • Alright, now that you’re equipped with the know-hows and insider tips of us plant-based munchers, let’s get to the real, hands-on recipe part. We know you all want that! And the following concoctions won’t disappoint… so let the beautiful pictures inspire you to put more colors and flavors onto your plate today.

    12 Amazing Recipes for Sautéed Vegetables 

    (*Note: yes, technically, some of these are not sautéed in the classic sense but they are prepared without oil, using the cooking liquids and methods described above. The recipes also show you in which ways you could eat the vegetables, meaning as a pasta dish, omelette filling, etc.)

    1. Spring Vegetable & Couscous 

    Spring Vegetable Couscous

    This bright dish is filled with Mexican flavor and bursting of all types of delicious veggies. A perfect example of how vegetable broth can go a long way and how simple ingredients can come together to create something beautiful.

    2. Easy Fried Rice with Tofu & Veggies

    Easy Fried Rice Veggies

    Having a serious Chinese takeout craving? Try this far healthier and more satisfying version that’s loaded with traditional flavor. It’s perfect for those who don’t like most vegetables since it only calls for peas and carrots – both of which are easy to love.

    3. Sweet'n'Spicy Sautéed Vegetables 

    Sweet'n'Spicy Sautéed Vegetables

    This recipe calls for some soy sauce to bring out the “umami” taste. Together with a dash of coconut sugar and pepper, it nicely coats your mushrooms, bell pepper, and zucchini. You cannot go wrong with this simple recipe! Have it with some starches of your choice to actually satisfy your hunger, though.

    4. Vegetable Teriyaki Stir-Fry

    Sautéed Vegetables Teriyaki

    This meal is seriously better than takeout! The vegetables are vibrant and cooked until just a little tender but still fresh and with some crunch. And the sauce… it’s brimming with lots of fresh garlic and ginger and has that salty/sweet teriyaki appeal. Salivating yet? Go try it out.

    5. Southern Collard Greens

    Southern Collard Greens

    If you think veggies are boring, then check out this flavorful and packed meal. Lots of delicious spices like garlic, onion, red pepper, smoked paprika, and liquid smoke make your collard greens taste like the most amazing and satisfying load of healthfulness on your plate. Serve with kidney beans and rice for the best combo!

    6. Chunky Veggie Marinara Sauce

    Chunky Veggie Marinara Sauce

    Talk about making it easy to love vegetables… Just hide them in some pasta sauce! We’ve started out with this trick, actually. And it works perfectly on kids (small and big!). The finer you chop the veggies, the better they’ll be disguised and just soaked in flavor.

    7. Cauliflower Puree with Sautéed Mushrooms

    Cauliflower Puree with Sautéed Mushroms

    Here we have vegetables on vegetables – so make sure to have this as a side and add higher-caloric foods like starches or legumes. Still, it’s super tasty and will make it so easy to incorporate more veggies! The broth, mushrooms and tamari offer enough liquid for a nice sautéed swiss chard.

    8. Spicy Tahini Pasta with Sautéed Kale & Peas

    Spicy Tahini Pasta

    Could you ever imagine liking to eat kale? Well, this creamy pasta dish will make you want to put in a whole bunch so that you have more food to eat the sauce with. We love that it’s full of comforting, wholesome foods and the tahini makes this dish super satisfying.

    9. Filled Chickpea Omelette

    This one is great for leftover veggies! So if you’ve gone a little overboard while preparing them the other day, here’s how to use up the rest. Onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli, and asparagus are particularly good in an omelette, but almost any leftover veggies will work well here.

    10. Oil-Free Vegan Pesto Pasta

    Low Fat Vegan Pesto Pasta with Vegetables

    This comforting and delicious vegan pasta recipe features a couple of green veggies that are just thrown into the pot with the pasta for a couple of minutes before being slathered in creamy oil-free vegan pesto. Doesn't that sound fantastic? The pesto is made with legumes and therefore low in fat, too. This whole dish is easier and more convenient than you'd think!

    11. Mushroom & Bell Pepper Noodles

    Mushroom Bell Pepper Noodles

    Another easy Asian classic. The soba noodles that come with the veggies make it super satisfying and the dish is overall very colorful. As an extra health perk, it’s completely free of salt and sugar as well!

    12. Cranberry Bok Choy Stir Fry

    Cranberry Bok Choy Stir Fry

    Here you have a great example of how to add some fruit to your veggie dish for some more exciting flavors. The sauce is rich and thick, no drop of oil needed. Have this goodness on a bed of rice!

    Bonus: Stuffed Acorn Squash

    A creative way of putting together an awesome meal out of sautéed veggies! Who said this would be boring? The recipe makes enough filling for about 3 whole acorn squashes but is tasty enough to eat on its own. Or how about leftovers for lunch? Anyway, just overall so amazing. See how to prepare it in the video above.

    Have you been wanting to eat more vegetables but didn't find them tasty enough? How did you learn to actually enjoy them and did any of our methods or recipes here help? Let us know in the comments below.

    about alena.

    Alena has been eating a plant-based diet for 6 years and is passionate about sharing her learnings in the fields of nutrition, wellbeing, and vegan ethics. She is the co-creator of nutriciously and loves music, reading, nature, traveling, yoga & good food. Alena received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy, and social work.

    12 thoughts on “12 Ways to make Sautéed Vegetables Taste Amazing without Oil (+ Recipes)”

    1. Bring on the veggies! I have always loved vegetables, but my kids can be a bit picky sometimes. However, I kept on offering them and they do eat almost all veggies now with the exception of a few picky days. They actually prefer most veggies simply steamed with nothing on them! And they think raw cut veggies are a great afternoon treat! Yay! Thanks for including my pasta sauce – it’s our go-to, especially when the veggies are fresh from the garden!

      • Oh that’s really wonderful and offers a lot of hope to other moms, I’m sure! Thank you so much for sharing :) Happy to hear about your kids’ ways of eating veggies. We’re super stoked to share your valuable work on the blog!
        Thanks for stopping by and keep in touch,
        Alena

    2. I LOVE VEGETABLE ALTHOUGH AM NOT STRICTLY VEGAN BUT AM TRYING TO MAKE IT HALF HALF JUST TO MAKE SURE I EAT A BALANCED DIET

    3. Thank you for sharing my recipe! I’m honored! :) I can’t wait to check out the rest of these healthy dishes!

      • Hey Carol,
        you can find the link to each recipe in the text below the picture. Sorry if it wasn’t very clear or obvious, we’ll use different ways in the future :)
        Hope you like the recipes once you check them out!
        Best wishes,
        Alena

    4. One of my best friends is oil free and I always struggle to cook veggies for her… This is awesome and looks delicious!!

    5. Everything looks so delicious. I am looking forward to trying out the recipes in your book. I just got the weight loss ebook!

      • Thanks for the feedback, Zoe! Hope you’ve been enjoying the weight loss eBooks, especially now that we launched the upgraded version :)

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