What are Essential oils and how do we cook with them?

Essential oils are volatile liquids from plants, trees, and flowers. They are carefully obtained through distillation or cold pressing. Each essential oil (EO) contains hundreds of different constituents which are all highly concentrated and potent. Often referred to as the blood of plants and flowers. 

There are many different ways to extract the EO’s. One method is steam distillation used to extract delicate materials in heat and pressured controlled environment. Another method is cold pressing, used to extract fatty acids and citrus essential oils. Resin tapping is used on many trees and is a method that taps directly from the tree in controlled amounts, enabling sustainability for the tree to keep growing. Absolute extraction is when oils are in a very delicate material and solvents have to be used to extract the EO.

There are endless ways to use the EO’s be it; aromatic, topical and dietary one of the most common is smell. The smell is the only sense connected to the limbic lobe of the brain, the emotional control centre. A scent can evoke an emotion before we are aware of it. 

Cooking with EO’s can be fun, as well as a healthier and excellent economical option. Oils are great to store for long periods, up to several years, unlike herbs, which dry out and lose their flavor. Dried herbs and spices need careful storage, or they could get humid right after opening the packet. There is also a risk for dried herbs etc. to accumulate high levels of microbes and bacteria, which may cause food poisoning as they are highly dependent on how they are handled. Oils tend to be more aromatic. EO’s are concentrated with much more flavor-enhancing properties carrying potent health properties. Cardamom, as well as Lemongrass EOs, are associated with digestive wellness, nausea relief, and potent antioxidant properties.

When using the oils for cooking you only need one or two drops for a full recipe, typically one drop is equivalent to a teaspoon for a fresh substance. For savory recipes, it is best to dilute the oils in olive or coconut oil. Or for sweet non-  liquid recipes honey or syrup works well. In water or tea use a bit of honey or sugar. Essential oils should only be added to the recipes at the end to avoid evaporation. A huge amount of preparation time can be saved using the essential oils including washing, chopping, and slicing.

Lavender lemonade, calming and refreshing

The calming activity of lavender is due to both the psychological effects of the fragrance as well as the physiological effects of the oil.

5 cups water
5 lemons
1/2 cup of honey or agave syrup
1 drop of lavender essential oil

Freshly Squeezed Juices with Citrus Essential Oils for Detox

Only one drop of EO may enhance flavour and boosts the antioxidant power of juices. Good choices are citrus oils and peppermint oil. It may also help preserve the juice longer.

Example of a nice combination of a juice

1 drop of Lemon or Lime EO
1 slice of pineapple
1 orange
1/2 cucumber
1 cm of ginger

Juice everything in a juicer (better if slow juicer)
Add one drop of lime essential oil (and/or peppermint)
Stir well

Vegan Pesto with Peppermint, Lemon & Basil

The base is fresh basil, pine nuts, and garlic. Then we add the olive oil and essential oils plus some seasoning. The essential oils will add flavor plus add antibacterial and antioxidant powers working as a preservative.

Mix well all the ingredients in a food processor
1 drop of Peppermint EO
1 drop of Lemon EO
1 drop of Basil EO
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup Pine Nuts
1 tsp Crushed Garlic
1/3 cup (20g) Nutritional Yeast
1/2 cup Fresh Basil Leaves
1/4 cup Water
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper

Strawberry Mousse with Lemon

This is a delicious mousse and an easy to cook, guilt-free dessert! It has many benefits to people with intestine issues, as it combines low sugar fruits with low -glycemic sugars (rice jelly) and the Agar-Agar which is algae-based and rich in nutrients.

300g of strawberries
4 cups of apple juice
1 cup of rice jelly
1 tsp of agar-agar (algae based jelly, in powder)
3 drops of Lemon EO

Cook the agar-agar in apple juice. After boiling remove from heat and add the strawberries, rice jelly and 3 drops of Lemon EO. Allow it to cool down and solidify. At serving time, use the food processor, and it will quickly turn into a silky and tasty mousse.

Chai tea 


250 ml chai tea
1 slice of fresh ginger
1 drop Lemongrass EO
1 drop Cardamom EO
2 tbsps Soya or Rice Drink (optional)

For more information contact José Cardoso at:

Email: [email protected]

Illustrations by Kay Hare 






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