When it comes to preparing your favorite dishes, cooking oil is often the secret “sauce” in a recipe. Whether you’re mixing a savory salad dressing, roasting vegetables, broiling salmon or grilling steak, the right healthy cooking oil can make (or break) the flavor profile. But we’ll let you in on a secret to skyrocketing the taste of your meal: Using herb-, spice- or fruit-infused cooking oils. Here’s our guide on how to make infused cooking oils at home, plus some herb and spice combinations that are sure to tantalize your taste buds.
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Got Herbs? How to Make Infused Cooking Oils
Creating infused oils is a great way to use leftover fresh herbs, instead of letting them go to waste in your fridge. There are several ways to do it: Blanch your fresh herbs by tossing them into boiling water, then placing them in iced H2O. Next, blend them with a cup of oil until smooth.
An alternative approach is bruising your fresh herbs, according to Claire Thomas, a recipe developer and creator of the blog The Kitchy Kitchen. Wash the herbs and let them dry thoroughly before pounding them with a pestle. This helps release their aroma. Then, add the bruised herbs to a sanitized jar with the oil of your choice. If you’re going to cook with the infused oil right away, keep it sealed on your counter, says Thomas. But if you don’t plan to use it immediately, store it in the fridge. Most infused oil keeps for about a month; just toss it if you see signs of spoilage.
If you want a faster way to prepare flavored oil, Thomas recommends adding the oil and herbs in a saucepan on medium to low heat. Cook until the oil comes to a simmer, but be careful not to let it burn. Remove the oil from the heat, then let it cool before straining the herbs.
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6 DIY Infused Cooking Oils
1. Southwestern Love
Instead of seasoning lean ground beef or turkey for a Taco Tuesday dinner, cut your prep time in half with this infused oil. Combine a cup of extra-virgin olive oil with a half-teaspoon each of chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, ground cumin and smoked paprika. Olive oil has a subtle peppery flavor and slightly fruity taste, which helps offset the heat.
2. Haute Cuisine
If you’re looking for a supremely savory flavor, consider an herbes de provence blend to elevate your rotisserie chicken. Since canola, safflower and grapeseed oils can handle temperatures above 400°F, experts recommend them for oven-cooked dishes. Try Claire Thomas’ recipe: Combine your go-to vegetable oil with dried rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram and lavender. Baste the chicken with the infused oil while it’s roasting in the oven with sweet potatoes, onions and parsnips. The veggies will soak in the savory juices, which helps make them crispy.
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3. Coconut Dream
The sweet, nutty flavor of extra-virgin coconut oil makes it great for baked goods. And because it’s packed with healthy fats, coconut oil is a great replacement for butter, keeping dishes tender and moist. Infuse one cup of coconut oil with a half-teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, ground ginger, allspice and cloves. If you want to make your oil a little more festive, use cinnamon sticks instead of ground cinnamon, or toss in some vanilla beans. The sweet combo works well when making pancakes, muffins and other baked goods.
4. Tarty Hazelnut Twist
Nut oils, like hazelnut, walnut and macadamia, have a rich, toasty flavor that’s perfect for salad dressings and marinades. Drizzle on a more flavorful topping by combining a tablespoon of grated orange zest and one and a half-teaspoons of orange juice with a quarter-cup hazelnut oil, minced shallots and two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice. Your meat and greens — upgraded!
5. Garlicky Goodness
From homemade garlic bread to flavorful popcorn to baked sweet potato fries, a few spritzes of garlic-infused oil go a long way. In this Kitchen Konfidence recipe, you cut three garlic heads in half and place them in a baking dish filled with two cups of olive oil, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and a teaspoon and a half of toasted black peppercorns. Allow the combo to bake until the garlic turns golden (about one hour).
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6. Mediterranean Crush
As far as the olive groves of Tuscany to the Greek island of Mykonos, the rich and flavorful ingredients of the Mediterranean region inspire this infused oil. Combine a cup of extra-virgin olive oil with four fresh basil leaves, two fresh oregano leaves, two sprigs of fresh parsley, three olives and two tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Use the tasty blend on salads, crostini, hummus and any dishes that need a little drizzle of oil for flavor.
To learn more about different infused oil flavor combinations, check out this video from Claire Thomas, creator of The Kitchy Kitchen: