Essential oils are a natural wonder that can be used in lots of ways; most people are surprised to learn that oils, widely known and used for aromatherapy, are equally applicable to the culinary arts. They can enhance the flavor of your food and turn common everyday recipes into culinary delights.
Essential oils are widely used in the food manufacturing industry as a way to add flavor and aroma to products. In fact some well-known snacks such as spearmint gum, chocolate oranges and peppermint drops have been invented by creative use of essential oils in cooking. Be sure to use food-grade essential oils for your recipes.
If you have concerns about ingesting essential oils, rest easy, the FDA has declared a long list of essential oils as safe.
4 Types of Essential Oils for Cooking
The kinds of essential oils which can be used for cooking fall into four main groups, depending on the source they are derived from:
- Citrus Fruits
Essential oils cooking techniques are not commonly known, this is unfortunate as these oils pack in a lot of flavor and will provide a boost to marinades, soups, sauces, salad dressings, even desserts, cakes, the possibilities are endless.
Herb Essential Oils
These can add a perfect touch to casseroles; simply add to the pot or include them in the marinade that you make for the meat. Keep In mind, these flavors are very powerful, do not add too much.
You can add a drop at first and adjust according to the quantity of food. To create an earthy, flavorful loaf of bread, add in a drop of sage or rosemary to the dough. Enhance the flavor of a regular and boring vegetable stir-fry by adding a drop of any herbal oil.
Citrus Essential Oils
These work great with fish and poultry, marinades, sauces, and salad dressings. Here a few quick ideas for you to try:
- Add lemon oil to a wine-based beef marinade, it will enhance the flavor of the meat and the marinade
- Give fish and vegetables a deeper flavor by using lemon butter (lemon essential oil+ butter).
- Spread some goodness of ginger butter on leafy greens such as peas or green beans
- Make an orange-chocolate sauce that goes great with ice-cream
Food Grade Essential Oils
It is important that you use certified food-grade oils for culinary purposes. Oils of a lower standard are not good for your health and might end up harming your internal systems. Whether you buy your oils online or in a store, ask about the grading of their products. Most essential oil stocked in stores complies with a “health and beauty grade” which is a lower standard that should not be used in food.
What Essential Oils can be used?
Any of the oils that have been declared safe by the FDA can be used for cooking, as far as the taste and other ingredients go, we list the major oils and the types of food they can be used with easily. Essential oils cannot be simply combined with any recipe; they have their own strong flavor and will either enhance or completely ruin the flavor profile of your recipe if used incorrectly.
Citrus and Flower-based Essential Oils
You can pair these with the following kinds of foods:
- Jasmine Essential Oil -oily fish, fatty meats, desserts and curries
- Geranium Essential Oil -rice, meat and curries
- Rose Essential Oil -vegetables, rice, poultry and meat
- Lavender Essential Oil -suitable for meat and vegetables
- Melissa Essential Oil -goes with fish, poultry and vegetables
- Spearmint Essential Oil -Meat and vegetables
Herbs and Spice-based Essential Oil
Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Clove, Cardamom, Coriander, Peppermint, Mellisa, Basil, Anise, Dill, Cumin, Fennel, Ginger, Black pepper, Marjoram, Rosemary, Parsley, Thyme, Sage.
These oils can be combined with meat, fish, vegetables, etc. the guide for basic pairings is given below:
- Rosemary Essential Oil – Best with lamb, poultry and vegetables
- Parsley Essential Oil – Vegetables, poultry, grains and red meat
- Dill Essential Oil – Fish, poultry and vegetables
- Fennel Essential Oil – suitable for fish, vegetables and poultry
- Basil Essential Oil – Use with tomato dishes, pastas, salads and cold meats
How much do I use?
The amount really depends on the kind of oil you are using. Here are a few basic rules that will be of help.
- For herbs and spice-based oils:
1 teaspoon of dried herb/spice=1 drop of the same essential oil
If the oil you use has a strong flavor, for example, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary or Marjoram, it is better if you dip a toothpick into the oil container and stir in with the dish before serving.
- For baking or Candy-making:
1 teaspoon of natural extract= 1/4th teaspoon of the essential oil
- For citrus-based oils:
1 tablespoon of citrus zest=1/8th teaspoon of the citrus oil
Fantastic Recipes You Need to Try
You can start out your essential oil culinary journey by trying out any of these delicious recipes, most of them are twist on traditional methods but some of them have been created primarily around the essential oil used in them.
- Perfect Cucumber Dip
You will need:
- Chopped cucumber-2 tablespoon
- Yogurt-1 cup
- Spearmint essential oil-1 drop
- Lime essential oil-1 drop
Combine ingredients and serve with chicken wings or fried chicken.
- Delicious Lime and Garlic Dip
You will need:
- Mayonnaise-4 tablespoons
- Garlic cloves (crushed)-2
- Lime essential oil-4 drops
Crush the cloves and mix in the lime oil. Then combine with the mayonnaise.
- Minty Lime Sauce
You will need:
- Olive oil-4 tablespoons
- Mustard-1 teaspoon
- Chopped parsley, chives and mint-1 teaspoon each
- Lime essential oil-4 drops
Mix the lime oil and olive oil, add in rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
- Yummy Marinade for Grilled Chicken
You will need:
- Honey-4 tablespoons
- Mustard-2 teaspoons
- Lemon essential oil-2 drops
- Orange essential oil-2 drops
Combine all ingredients and for a paste, brush over the chicken before grilling.
- Delicious Aromatic Desserts
Add in 2 drops of any essential oil (fruit or flower-based) to every 2 and a half cups of crepe batterPerfect Pudding Sauce
Use 2 drops of essential oil for every 1 cup of liquid to create the perfect pudding sauce.
Flavorful Fruit Puree
To enhance the flavor of fruit purees add in 1 drop of essential oil per cup of the puree. Most dessert recipes call for apple puree, use oil of geranium, orange or rose to lend it the perfect touch.
Yummy Frozen Yogurt
Before freezing the yogurt put in 1 drop of essential oil per 1 cup of yogurt, the flavor of the yogurt will be greatly enhanced.
- Red Meat Marinade
You will need:
- Red wine-1 cup
- Essential oils of thyme, marjoram and clove, orange-1 drop each
- Olive oil-2 tablespoons
- Garlic-2 cloves
- Chopped onion-1
- Pinch of salt
- Whole black peppercorns-quarter teaspoon
Combine the thyme, marjoram and clove oils with the olive oil. Pour in the wine and orange oil, garlic and onion into a large dish. Brush the oils onto the meat and place the meat into the dish. Let the flavors soak in for eight hours and cook the meat in whichever way you prefer.
Essential Oils in Candy-Making and Chocolate Crafting
Essential oils can also be used for making chocolate treats, candy, candy-coating, flavoring candy centers, and much more. The amount you can use in a chocolate-based dessert recipe is a quarter to half teaspoon of the essential oil per pound of chocolate.
Flavoring Chocolate with Essential Oils
The oil is added to the chocolate once it has melted; dip a toothpick into the chosen essential oil, and stir into the chocolate. If you are using flower or herbal essential oil such as lavender, jasmine or bergamot, start out with a small amount and adjust as needed. Taste your chocolate after each addition; it is easy to overdo the flavor because essential oils are very intense in flavor.
Some of the oils that taste delicious when combined with chocolate are:
This is a classic combination that goes best with chocolate. The crisp fresh taste of peppermint mixed with the dark, richness of chocolate makes for the perfect taste. If you are tired of using extracts that lack flavor and fail to add the richness to the recipe then it is time you switched over to essential oils. The essential oil will add a rich and vibrant taste to the chocolate. However, it is a little difficult to find the perfect tasting peppermint essential oil; experiment with a few brands until you find one to your liking.
Peppermint will work best with recipes that call for dark chocolate. If the recipe only uses white chocolate, add in a little dark chocolate to balance out the peppermint. The taste of peppermint also works well with any dessert that includes something crunchy; granola, dehydrated grains, even chopped nuts, almonds will be delicious.
Orange and chocolate are a match made in heaven; the flavors work well with each other and are a standard in many ice-creams, desserts and chocolate recipes. Tangerine and Mandarin essential oils are also great to flavor raw chocolate.
This is a surprising option that works well; its citrus-packed punch will give an added complexity to dark chocolate. Raspberry is another flavor that will make a good trio; use raspberry powder or whole dried raspberries.
Also a good option for both white and dark chocolate, try it with a normal white chocolate truffle recipe.
This oil is made from the same plant that Earl Grey tea comes from, so if you are a fan of Earl grey, you will probably like this. Bergamot flavored chocolate is a great option to try if you are sick of the standard recipes.
A very strong oil, so use sparingly, it makes the perfect addition to chocolate candy centers.
This is a balancing oil, it helps subdue the stimulating effects of raw chocolate. Using ground up cardamom will often ruin the texture of the recipe because you have to add in a lot in order to get the right flavor.
Essential oils are perfect for cooking and can be used in all dishes, both savory and sweet. Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or follow some alternative eating plan, essential oils are the perfect addition to your recipes. Try them and let us know which ones worked and which ones didn’t.