There are many uses for essential oils that you know about and probably already prepare, such as body oils, room scenting, and beauty products. But essential oils can also be used in food, as long as it is done properly. Think of edibles that you make that have fresh and bright herbs in them and you are on your way to thinking of how you would use essential oils in cooking.
You probably already eat minute amounts of essential oils in your food. According to Grand View Research, “Essential oils are widely utilized as flavoring and aromatic agents across diverse end-use industries including (food). …These oils … increase the overall appeal of products.” Small quantities of essential oils are added to beverages, snacks, bakery, dairy products, and frozen food to enhance flavors.
You can add flavor at home by reaching for essential oils with tastes you are already familiar with; Anise, Basil, Ginger, Mints, Thyme, and most citrus can enhance a meal. My alma mater, ACHS, has a few tips for cooking with essential oils, notably to start small then add to taste and to add essential oils towards the end of cooking. They also offer this suggestion: “Prepare a basil cooking oil by adding 1 milliliter to 100 milliliters of organic virgin olive oil, and use it as a salad dressing and for stir frying.” You can also use this basil cooking oil in the pan to stir fry your onions and tomatoes while preparing tomato and pasta dishes.
Another example from ACHS is to make a tea by placing a few drops of Roman “Chamomile essential oil into a cup of hot water. If you mix it into a little honey first, it will dissolve more readily in the water.” This beverage can improve digestion and help you unwind after a long day.
If I search my fridge and cannot come up with a bit of lemon to squeeze into a dish, I have been known to stick a toothpick into Lemon essential oil to grab just a wisp of the flavor. I then drag the toothpick through the food I am cooking. It adds the perfect amount of brightness to rice dishes or a sauce.
When using essential oils in food, keep in mind that they are highly concentrated plant extracts and a little goes a very long way. It’s easy to overdo it and ruin your dish but also burn your mouth. So start slow and add your essential oil to a fat in your dish to keep it well diluted.