Use Water Instead

Healthier, Cheaper, Easier!

There are a few key ingredients I rely on in the kitchen, especially to create healthy, plant-based meals. 

Some are expensive and others are cheap. Some require a bit of searching and others are already in my pantry. 

But the one ingredient I use every single day when I’m cooking for my family is WATER. 

If you’re looking to have a healthier diet, simplify mealtime, and save money while doing both, water is your answer. 

Here are 3 ways that I use water instead of a purchased ingredient or tool to prepare my plant-based meals. 


1. Vegetable Broth

I love making my own vegetable broth. My how-to is in The Plant-Based Cookbook. But I don’t always plan appropriately and sometimes I totally forget (more the latter these days). Of course, you can buy vegetable broth, but usually the low-sodium, organic varieties that don’t have added sugars or oils are pricey! Up to $6 a carton. So, most of the time, A LOT of the time, if I don’t have any broth made, I just use water!

Broth definitely helps in building flavor but I account for this by adding more spices to the soup or stew I’m making. Depending on the recipe in question, I’ll increase the spices by about 25%, and taste and reseason with salt and pepper.  

2. Oil

If you’re a frequent visitor to Rise Shine Cook, then I’m preaching to the choir because you know how passionate I am about sautéing with water. If you’re knew here, know that using water instead of oil to sauté veggies is life-changing!

Oil is a staple ingredient in most kitchens because it’s used both as a tool (to lubricate and coat foods while you cook them) and also for taste. But neither are necessary.

As an example, a vegetable stir fry made with water has virtually 0 grams of fat but if made with just 1 tablespoon of olive oil, it now has 14 grams of fat!

By using water instead of oil, not only do you reduce the calories and saturated fats in a meal, but you limit your exposure to rancid, inflammatory fats as well.

When we sauté we’re generally cooking at a high heat and many “good quality” oils with healthy fats are damaged in the process becoming, not only not healthy, but actually harmful. 

I keep a large measuring cup of water next to the stove while I’m sautéing and just add water as I go. Check out my “fried” veggies and rice HERE.

I use water instead of oil in so many other ways too. I use it in Hummus and bean spreads, I use to make salad dressings and sauces like in this Tofu Teryaki, it’s a must-have main ingredient in my kitchen. 

3. Smoothies

This one might surprise you. About 4 years ago I started using water in my smoothies rather than plant-based milks. Not always but quite regularly. 

The reason? I moved to Taiwan and couldn’t find any nut-milks! So I used water instead. 

Again, using water saves money and time. And if you add nuts, seeds or their butters to your smoothie, you’ve already created a nut milk by blending it with water anyways.

Four years later, there are plant-based milks all over Taipei! There’s even more variety here than back home (Newfoundland), but I still opt for water. 

Sometimes it can be hard to know what to buy or what to use when you’re swapping out unhealthy ingredients for healthier ones, but water is an ingredient that will always be a good option. 

I hope you found this helpful! Even though these tips are simple, it really is the small, modest changes that add up to make a big difference. 

Do you have any recipe hacks or kitchen tips that involve water? 

If so, I’d love to hear about them. Post your tips and tricks below! 


  1. Reply

    Michelle Oberg

    February 17, 2023

    Love this unique post in water and I never thought about if I add nuts to my smoothie, I’ve made a plant milk anyway. Genius.

    • Reply

      Ashley Madden

      February 17, 2023

      Thanks Michelle!

  2. Reply


    February 17, 2023

    THANK YOU – a BRILLIANT reminder use 💦❣️

    • Reply

      Ashley Madden

      February 17, 2023

      Thanks Meo!

  3. Reply


    February 17, 2023

    Love your post. A great reminder to use water to saute and add a ton in vegetable soup. I dilute store bought vege broth with water as a rule

    • Reply

      Ashley Madden

      February 19, 2023

      Excellent tip Marcia!

  4. Reply

    Susan Orr

    February 25, 2024

    I love the measuring pitcher you used for your photo. Where can I buy one of those?

    • Reply

      Ashley Madden

      February 29, 2024

      Isn’t it lovely!? I purchased this one at Zara Home a couple of years ago!

      • Reply

        Susan Orr

        March 1, 2024

        BTW…I own both of your cook books and absolutely love them!