Culinary argan oil: history, health and how to eat it

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” - Laurie Colwin

At youforher we want to cook with you, and cook with generations of Moroccan women who brought our liquid gold, argan oil to life. So here is a bit of history, past, present and future on making and cooking with argan oil.

 

Vegan, all natural, culinary argan oil in a glass on a table with argan fruit, nuts and kernels

"Liquid Gold" argan oil.

 

Past - A historic liquid gold

Argan oil is well known for cosmetic purposes, skin, hair and nails. However, its first purpose was actually culinary. For thousands of years in Morocco, it’s been used as a culinary oil for its incredible taste and its health benefits. Called the ‘liquid gold’, it is made from argan trees, which exist only in one place in the world, the south of Morocco. This is where cooperatives of Berber women have learned and passed on for years the subtle art of making it. After cracking open the argan nut to release the kernel, they roast the kernels, which are then either ground by hand in a stone grinder, or nowadays are cold-pressed by machine (saving a LOT of strenuous arm energy). This process of roasting creates a subtle flavour and makes culinary oil edible and delicious.

 

Argan tree with argan fruit closeup and argan trees on hills in the background

The argan tree.

 

Women in the Moroccan argan oil cooperative cracking the argan nuts, in the process to extract argan oil

Berber women cracking the argan nuts by hand to release the kernels.

 

Present - the secret of chefs and innovative cooks

Today culinary argan oil is a delicious and rare ingredient to be cherished. A lot of famous chefs around the world, including French innovators are cooking with it for this subtle flavour distinct from olive or coconut oil. Its unique flavour makes it the perfect oil for all salads and add-on to food, as its flavour stands most when uncooked. It’s great to add it on vegetable soups after it’s cooked for extra flavour. It’s also amazing on grilled fish or grilled meats or vegetables. For roasted veggies, adding argan oil and a bit of feta cheese combined is delicious.

Argan oil really stands out with sweets and deserts. You can add it to yoghurt, honey and fruits as a simple dish that suddenly adds a different dimension. The Moroccan favourite breakfast is amlou, made with almond butter, argan oil and a bit of honey. It’s a delicious spread that is great with bread. It is the ‘Moroccan Nutella’, however extremely healthy, nourishing and sustainable.

We use argan oil instead of any oil in most cake and baking recipes. It is healthier than coconut oil, and is more suited than olive oil for cakes as its taste is not bitter, but nutty. It is also the perfect ingredient for all paleo and keto cakes and baked goods and as it is one of the best fats you can eat and makes cakes extra yummy.

 

Gluten free, dairy free, vegan argan oil pancakes

Delicious argan oil pancakes!

 

Future - a health food, good for our hearts and for our planet

As we are moving towards healthier diets, less processed foods, additives and toxins, we believe that ‘superfoods’ are key to a balanced health approach. In French we use the term ‘alicament’, which is a combination of ‘ailment’ (food) and ‘medicament’ (medicine). A few of those alicaments are more popular nowadays, like blueberries, goji berries, broccoli or celery juice. We believe argan oil is the alicament of oils.

For many centuries, argan oil embodied the main constituent of traditional Berber medicine where it was used for many illnesses such as heart disease, arthritis and skin conditions. However, for the past decade, argan oil became the most prominent component in the beauty industry.  Recently researchers have been studying its healthy properties.

“Argan oil contains 80 % unsaturated fatty acids and laboratory testing has demonstrated that argan oil has antioxidant properties, neutralises free radical agents, protects conjunctive tissue and restores the skin’s water-lipid layer and finally lowers bad cholesterol. Numerous statements have been made regarding the positive impacts on health generated by the consumption of argan oil. Researchers have established that a daily consumption of argan oil is "highly likely" to be one factor that helps prevent various disease such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases and obesity.” Narcisse Benkabou, My Moroccan food. 

Recent studies proved that a tablespoon of argan oil every day lowered cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as lowering the risk of diabetes (Adil Haimeur, et al. 2013 and Derouiche A, et al. 2005).

Contrary to palm oil used in most processed spreads, impacting our environment, buying argan oil supports the ecosphere in Morocco helping plant more argan trees and supporting women who maintain its growth.

 

Argan oil and amlou dip, a typical healthy Moroccan morning tea

Argan oil and amlou dip.

 

We are extremely proud to have started youforher, hoping to bring goodness, health and a delicious food to our customers, sharing a thousand-year-old Moroccan health secret and in the process, supporting the women who make it.

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” said Hypocrates. We hope you experience our argan oil as more than just food...but also as a healthy philosophy of life.

 

 - Written by Hind El Aoufi

 

Check out our argan oil recipes here.

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