No Oil, Low Fat Caramelised Onion and Mushroom Risotto

I started out skeptical about cooking without oil, but I have since gotten to really like not using oil. Of course this is prompted by health reasons, but I love not needing to de-grease the stove and counter top after cooking, and washing up is a real cinch! (just some added benefits to oil free cooking, but boy, it's great!)

Why is reducing your intake of oil beneficial to your overall health?

(excerpt taken from Rosane Oliveira (APRIL 16, 2015). The Good, Bad and Ugly About Oils, from

  1. Oils are jam-packed with calories; as pure liquid fat, oil gets ALL their calories from FAT.

  2. As a processed food, oil is virtually devoid of nutrients (except Vitamin E and Vitamin K).

  3. Oils slow blood flow, depress the immune system, stack up inside arteries, damage blood vessels and contribute to insulin resistance.

  4. ALL oils promote heart disease. A study in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), all oils – saturated, monounsaturated (olive oil) and polyunsaturated (flax oil) – were associated with an increase in the plaque build up that clogs our arteries and leads to heart attacks.

  5. Oil also causes our red blood cells to clump up, which limits their ability to absorb and deliver oxygen to our cells and slows blood flow. Studies have shown that (blood) flow-mediated dilation decreases by over 30% for four hours after we eat a fatty meal. With such a decrease in flow-mediated dilation, is it any wonder that so many of us “crash” after a meal?

  6. Finally, according to the National Institutes of Health, oil suppresses our immune system, which makes us vulnerable to infections and impairs our bodies’ ability to stop the growth of cancer cells.

With an average of 120 calories and 14 gram fat per tablespoon of oil, your waistline will also thank you for reducing or cutting out oil in your diet.

This is an easy recipe that you can whip up within 30 minutes, perfect for a weekday night dinner.I adapted this recipe from I omitted the 1 tablespoon olive oil, and used chicken broth instead. That one substitute made quite a difference in the fat content:

1 serving with 1 tablespoon olive oil: 360 calories, 4.1g fat (0.6g saturated fat)

1 serving without olive oil: 330 calories, 0.6g fat (0.1g saturated fat)

Nutrition Facts with 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutrition Facts with No Oil

Nutritional Disclaimer

Sauteing Without Oil

Cooking without oil is strange to most people, me included. Actually, it's surprisingly easier than I thought, and definitely doable. The main thing about sauteing without oil is to watch constantly, as food burns very quickly without oi. Use water or broth to substitute for oil.

A non stick pan is best for cooking without oil, but most pans are possible. The trick is to ensure that the pan is well heated before adding food, and to add about 2 tablespoons of water or broth whenever it gets dry. To identify if the pan is properly heated so that food does not stick to it, put pan on high heat, then sprinkle water on it. If water is absorbed into the pan, it's not hot enough and you need to wait a while longer. If the water droplets ball up and is able to roll around the pan as you swirl it, the pan is hot enough and ready.

To caramelise onions, add onions to the pan once the pan is hot enough, then leave the onions without stirring them until the bottom of the onions turn signitificantly brown. Then add 1 - 2 tablespoons water or broth to the onions, and stir it around. Keep adding small amounts of water or broth to the onions whenever they dry up, until onions are well cooked and caramelised.

Add mushrooms and stir the same way, always adding a small amount of water or broth until they are cooked.

If you don't have dry white wine (I didn't), just use broth.

Traditional risotto is made with arborio rice, which is extra starchy. I didn't have arborio rice, so I substituted it with short grained rice, which worked well.

How to tell when risotto is done?

Risotto needs to be cooked just right - creamy, not mushy. That's all well and good, but how to know when it's done? Looking at it is not good enough. Tasting the texture is good if you know what to look out for, but there is a more foolproof way to test. I frankly did not do that as I just found this method after I made this risotto, but will definitely give this method a try the next time I make risotto. If you try it, let me know how it works.

It's called the Smear Test, and this was a great tip from Whitney Chen, the chef in charge of the risotto at Thomas Keller's Per Se, in an article for Gilt Taste. I read about this from

(taken from Smart Tip: For Perfect Risotto, Use the Smear Test,

Chen's method is to smear a grain of rice with your finger. Risotto is done when the rice grain looks like the one circled in red - most are smoothly smeared but you can see a little white in the middle. If it's completely smeared (the one of the right), it's overcooked. Undercooked risotto will not smear smoothly and will have a larger white centre.

This method is great for those who don't want to rely just on taste along to figure out the texture, and is perfect for beginners to risotto.


No Oil Risotto with Caramelised Onions and Mushrooms

(adapted from

Yields 4


  • 1 onion, sliced

  • 6 shitake mushrooms, sliced (or any mushrooms of your choice)

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 ¼ cup short grained rice

  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

  • 4 – 6 cups warm low sodium broth (your choice of vegetable, beef or chicken)

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • pine nuts or herbs (optional)


  1. Use a non-stick pan to caramelize the onions. Heat the pan on high. To test if the pan is ready, sprinkle some water into the pan. If the water is absorbed, pan is not hot enough and needs more time to heat up. If water droplets roll about when you move the pan, it’s ready.

  2. Place the onions into the hot pan. Leave the onions in the pan without stirring them. Once onions start to get brown underneath, add about 2 tablespoons of broth or water, and stir. Cook for another 3 minutes, stirring the onions constantly, while adding a little broth or water to ensure they don’t burn.

  3. Reduce pan to medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes, until mushrooms are cooked, constantly adding more broth as needed.

  4. Add in garlic and rice, then stir for about a minute, until the rice is fully coated.

  5. Add in wine and simmer on low heat until wine has just about evaporated. If you don’t have wine, you can use broth instead.

  6. Add broth gradually, about 1 cup each time, and keep stirring until broth has been absorbed. Keep adding broth and stirring, until rice is soft and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add herbs if desired. Lay onto a plate, then top with roasted pine nuts if desired.

#risotto #hearthealthy

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