Cooking with Essential Oils: The Basics

Using essential oils to replace herbs and spices can really give your favorite food an extra boost. Only a drop or two is needed so they are highly diluted in the recipe. A little goes a long way; it can save you money when compared to their spice counterpart. Knowing how much of each oil to add when making this substitution can be tricky so I follow these conversions:

  • Mint Oils: 1 drop of peppermint or spearmint oil can be substituted for 1 teaspoon of dried mint leaves or 1 tablespoon of fresh mint leaves
  • Citrus Oils: 1 drop of a citrus oil (orange, grapefruit, lemon, tangerine) can substitute for 1 teaspoon of citrus zest, 3-10 drops could replace the zest of a whole citrus fruit
  • Cinnamon: 1 drop of cinnamon can be substituted for 1-2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
  • Cassia: 1 drop of cassia can be substituted for 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or cassia
  • Herbaceous Oils: Basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, cilantro, dill should be added to taste with just a toothpick dipped in oil and then dipped into recipe. Stir and add more as needed.
  • Floral Oils: Start with a toothpick to add a hint of floral oils like lavender, add more if desired.

In general when substituting an essential oil into a recipe 1 drop of oil should replace 1-2 teaspoon of dried spice or herb or 1-2 tablespoon of fresh spice. Taste before adding more! If you are adding the oils at the end of cooking less will be needed than if added before baking, simmering, or steaming due to evaporation. The flavors can get stronger the longer the food sits before eating so if you are prepping this food for a later date, keep this in mind!

Some extra tips…

  • Avoid plastics when cooking with oils by using glass or stainless steel mixing bowls.
  • Use a dropper bottle to avoid extra drops making it into your recipe by mistake.
  • Not all essential oils should be ingested, so make sure the ones you choose are pure, therapeutic grade oils.

Happy cooking!


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