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Oil-free Sautée & Developing Flavor

Cooking without oil is no more difficult than using oil to develop deeper flavors. We just need to get comfortable with the sticking part and deglazing to release, which is really what develops deeper flavor, not the oil.

The Chile Bean Chili recipe video and instructional photos shows how to sautée without oil and develop flavor. This oil-free sautée technique can be applied to many other sauce dishes and soups that start with the aromatic vegetables like, onion, garlic or mirepoix.

Enameled cast iron braiser pan with onions sauteeing and grated garlic

The Cookware

Heavy stainless steel clad pans, like All-Clad, and enameled cast iron pans (like Le Creuset) both work well with this technique varying slightly with the pan pre heat. Stainless steel cookware tends to cook faster than enameled cast iron. The exact heat level will also depend on the range you have. Some are notably hotter or cooler on the medium setting. Adjusting the heat during the cooking process may be needed to achieve optimum results.

Stainless Steel pan: Heat the saucepan to medium-low heat. Test the pan with a little water. The water should bead up and dance across the pan surface before adding food to the pan. If needed increase heat to medium and test again.

Non-stick or Enameled pan: Heat the pan to medium with 2 or 3 tablespoons of water. When the water starts to boil (about 3–5 minutes) the pan is ready to add the onions. Don’t let the water evaporate before adding food to the pan.

Start the Oil-free Sautée with the Onions

Heating the pan properly is key to a good start for any dish. Proper heating methods change slightly with the cookware you are using as noted above.

Once the onions are added to the pan, spread the onions to make a single layer and let them pick up color before stirring. This stage brings out the natural sugars and builds the flavor. Continue to stir the onions as needed. Some recipes call for the onions to become translucent and some recipes for caramelized or browned. Browning will take a little longer.

Next comes the Grated Garlic

About 3–5 minutes later,  the grated garlic can be added to the center of the pan. The garlic isn’t sautéed. Instead the grated garlic is pushed down on the pan surface with the edges of a wooden spatula to form a layer which will start to caramelize and stick to the pan bottom. This is good. The liquid that comes after the dried spices if using will lift the garlic and release that mellow golden flavor into the sauce. This step is called deglazing.

Toasting the Spices

For some dishes toasting the spices really adds an extra layer of flavor, especially true for chilies and curry stews. To toast the spices, clear an area of the pan and sprinkle in the dried spices. Allow spices to just start to smoke, then stir into the onion and garlic mixture. Add a little broth, to release the spices and onion mix from the pan surface (deglaze). Continue with the rest of the ingredients to make the sauce.

Red-glazed terracotta casserole serving dish with Chile Bean ChiliOil-free Vegan Chile Bean Chili and a chile pepper-shaped dish with tangy bites, lime wedges and diced red onion behind.

Oil-free Vegan Chile Bean Chili Recipe

A mix of sweet & piquant peppers, fresh & dried chiles, this oil-free vegan chili is all about the bright fresh red peppers and deep flavored dried chiles.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Mexican, Southwestern
Diet: SOS Free, Vegan, WFPB
Servings: 8 cups

Tools Used in this Recipe

  • Cutting Board
  • kitchen scissors
  • 1 cup jar with lid
  • hand blender and blender cup (immersion blender)
  • heavy bottom braiser pan or Dutch oven, tri-clad and enameled cast iron cookware work great for this type of dish
  • flat wood spatula
  • flexible spatula
  • soup ladle to serve


  • 2 ancho chiles
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 red jalapeno
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 tbls garlic grated (4–6 cloves)
  • 1 tbls ground cumin
  • 1 tbls ground coriander
  • 1 tbls paprika
  • 2 tbls tomato paste
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or store bought preferably with no added salt, or water
  • 1 tbls miso optional
  • 4 cups cooked black beans (3 cans black beans rinsed and drained) or homemade from dried beans
  • 2 cups cooked kidney beans (1 can kidney beans drained and rinsed until water runs clear) or homemade from dried beans

Optional Garnishes


  • Rinse the ancho peppers, then remove the stem and seeds. Cut the ancho peppers vertically, then cut the membrane, the seeds will usually all fall off with the membrane.
  • Cut the ancho peppers into smaller pieces, place in a jar and add hot water to cover. Set aside and continue with the next step.The anchos will soften enough to blend in about 10–20 minutes.
  • Remove the stem and seeds from the ripe red bell peppers and jalapenos, then cut them up into pieces about 1in x 1in so the blender can easily break them up.
  • Place the red bell and jalapeno peppers in the blender cup or blender. If using a blender cup, wrap a paper towel around the top so the liquid doesn’t spatter out. Continue blending until you get a pretty smooth consistency. Set aside.
  • Heat the braising pan to medium with 2 or 3 tablespoons of water. When the water starts to boil (about 3–5 minutes), add the sliced onions (don't let the water evaporate before adding the onions). Stir, then leave to brown a bit, about 3 minutes, stir again and brown a bit more.
  • Make a space in the center of the pan and add the grated garlic. Using the edge of the spatula push the garlic down to make a layer. As with the onions, cook until it picks up a little color and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan so that it caramelizes a little and becomes fragrant (about 1–2 minutes).
  • Clear an area in the pan and sprinkle in the coriander and cumin until they just start to smoke and become fragrant. This step brings out a toasty, smoky flavor especially in the cumin. Sprinkle the paprika next on the onions.
  • Add in the tomato paste and stir around the pan jut until it starts to change color. (1– 2 minutes)
  • Pour in the fresh red bell and jalapeno pepper mixture into the pan and stir. The onion and garlic that stuck to the pan earlier should lift easily, if not rub a little more with the spatula.
  • Put the ancho peppers and liquid in the blender or blender cup and blend until smooth. No need to clean the blender cup before adding the ancho peppers.
  • Add a tablespoon or so of the ancho paste to the pan and stir. Taste the mixture and continue to add more ancho and spices to your taste. Add the miso or salt if using. If using miso, mix with about a 1/4 cup of vegetable stock in a small bowl first to make a slurry then mix in with the rest of the sauce. Just adding in, miso sometimes just stays in a single clump.
  • Slowly pour in the vegetable stock, stir well, put the lid on and simmer for at least 20–30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add in the drained cooked beans, stir to coat.
  • Simmer with the lid on for another 10–30 minutes to heat through, stirring occasionally.
  • Garnish with your favorite chili toppings. Limes, onions, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, salsa, vegan feta bites, red onions



SOS free version: Omit the miso. This Chili is a naturally bright, full-flavored dish. The Garden Salsa Fresca is SOS free and adds lots of flavor.
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