So many recipes call for oil and using infused oil can add another layer of flavor. Oil can be infused with herbs, aromatics like garlic or onion, citrus, and even nuts. It’s easy to make your own infused oils! Here’s how to do it.
First, remember that you must always use fresh herbs when making infused oils. The flavor of fresh herbs is more pure than dried and using fresh herbs will give your oil a vibrant color.
- A blender or food processor
- Cooking pot or oven-safe bowl
- Cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer
- Glass bottles with tight fitting caps
- Olive oil (or any other neutrally flavored oil)
- Fresh herbs, aromatics, citrus, and/or nuts
Herb Infused Oils:
Blend soft herbs like basil and cilantro with the oil in the blender or food processor before heating. If you want a more vibrant color blanch the herbs then shock with ice water before blending. Adding the herbs without blanching gives you more flavorful oil. When using woody herbs like thyme or rosemary, simply add the sprigs to the oil and follow the instructions for heating.
When you have combined your herbs and oil heat them in a small saucepan over medium heat until the oil is lightly bubbling. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the oil to cool completely.
Strain the oil through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer. If making oil using soft herbs, be sure not to press on the solids. Care during the straining process will prevent cloudy oil. You can place the woody herbs in the bottle but it will cause slightly cloudier oil.
While basil, cilantro, rosemary, and thyme are commonly used herbs you may want to also try these herbs:
Aromatic Infused Oils:
For both dipping and cooking oils infused with aromatics like garlic and onion can’t be beat.
Wash whatever aromatic you’re going to use even though you’ve peeled them. You want to be sure to remove any trace of impurities.
Cut large items like onions in half or in rings. Garlic cloves and shallots can be left whole.
Roast aromatics before heating them with the oil. Pop them in the over on a baking sheet at 350°F for 20 to 30 minutes or until just golden. This releases the fragrance and flavor.
Add the aromatic to the oil in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the oil begins to lightly bubble. Remove the pan from the heat and allow mixture to cool completely.
Although you can leave aromatics in the bottle without causing cloudiness the aromatic will continue to infuse the oil making the flavor stronger over time.
Garlic and onion are popular aromatics used in infused oil but also try:
Green onions (scallions)
Citrus Infused Oils:
Citrus zest can add a bright flavor with a little tang to your infused oil.
Wash fruit carefully to remove any trace of pesticides. Use a vegetable peeler to make long strips of peel for easier removal. Be sure not to get any of the bitter, white pith.
Add peel to oil in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until the oil begins to lightly bubble. Remove the pan from the heat and allow oil to cool completely.
Removing the zest while the oil is cooling will leave you with clearer and more delicately flavored oil. Leaving the zest in while the oil cools will produce a stronger flavor but cloudier oil. Strain the zest from the oil before bottling.
Lemons, limes, and oranges are typical citrus choices for infusing oil but you can also infuse oils with these citrus flavors:
Nut Infused Oils:
Use raw, unsalted nuts to make nut infused oils. Buy nuts that have been skinned or blanched. The oil will not taste quite the same as nut oils because they are made by pressing the oil from crushed nuts. Your nut infused oil will have a rich, roasted, savory flavor.
Add the nuts to the oil in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the oil is lightly bubbling. Remove from heat and allow oil to cool completely.
You don’t even have to strain the nuts out because they will not cloud the oil.
Peanut infused oil, while not the same as commercially produced peanut oil can add a lot of flavor but you may want to try these, too:
Try combining flavors when you infuse oils. Many herbs, aromatics, citrus fruits, and nuts combine well together. Just follow the instructions for preparing each ingredient then combine with the oil and heat, cool, and strain.
Make these for cooking or great dipping oils for crusty bread:
Basil and garlic
Basil and mint
Marinade or cook chicken in these tasty oils:
Cardamom and orange
Rosemary and orange
Try these spicy combinations for Mexican dishes:
Cilantro, red pepper flakes, lime, and onion
Cilantro, scallions, jalapeno, and garlic
Keep your infused oils in the refrigerator and discard after a month.