Rethinking Palm Oil: Sustainability and Vegan Cooking

Rethinking Palm Oil: Sustainability and Vegan Cooking


Sustainability has been a big topic for me personally and with the work I have been doing recently especially in Haiti. There are several ways sustainability is defined one that is referred to often comes from The UN World Commission on Environment and Development: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The UCLA Committee also says that “sustainability presumes that resources are finite, and should be used conservatively and wisely with a view to long-term priorities and consequences of the ways in which resources are used.”

I look at sustainability through multiple optics it extends beyond the environment. How is my lifestyle sustainable for me to thrive for the generations that are come through me. For the past 12 months, I have been doing an overall to move towards a more sustainable way of living. This has included me educating myself more, reducing the amount of plastic I use, looking at how the clothes I wear and the food I consume manufactured, and much more. One of the things I have been researching is Palm Oil.  

Palm oil has gotten a bad sustainability rep lately, but most people just don’t know the whole story. Because of its versatility, efficiency and affordability, so many brands use the ingredient. It gives baked goods, nut butters, and shortenings their desirable texture and shelf stability. And it’s found in nearly every type of beauty product, from soap to skin care.

When cultivated with an eye to the environment and the farmers who grow it, it’s a smart ingredient that can support people and the planet. To understand its environmental efficiency,  check out that compares palm oil to soybean production in a variety of areas, including pesticide, nitrogen and energy use.

I recently connected with Daabon they have been ranked number one worldwide by the London Zoological Society’s SPOTT tool in Sustainable Palm (RSPO). Daabon’s farms are located in Colombia, where the company is committed to supporting earth-friendly farming practices, local communities, and peace-making efforts

When it comes to palm oil  the key is ONLY purchase from companies sourcing the ingredient consciously. Demand transparency! Companies that can tell you where their ingredient comes from, right down to the name of the farmer, should ease your concerns around sustainability and worker treatment.

I use palm oil primarily for cooking. A lot the West African recipes I make call for palm oil. Red palm oil is a staple when it comes to cooking. It adds a beautiful red tone and unique flavor. The first major difference between palm oil (palm kernel oil) and red palm oil is that palm kernel oil is derived from the kernel or seed of the fruit, whereas red palm oil is derived from the pulp of the same fruit. This creates unique color, odor and flavor differences, Healthy fats are all the rage and palm is among the best of ‘em. The ingredient contains around 50 percent healthy unsaturated fatty acids, along with a host of vitamins and nutrients that support everything from eye to heart to brain health.

Today I am going to share my two favorite Ghanaian dishes that call for palm oil,  Kelewele, spicy fried plantain, and Red Red, stewed black-eyed peas. They are usually paired together but you can have them apart.

Kelewele (Spicy Fried Plantain)


  • 3 Ripe Plantains
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Chili powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Ginger powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Palm oil
  • Palm oil for frying


  1. Peel the plantains and cut into slices. Add the ginger, garlic, chili powder, nutmeg, salt, and palm oil.
  2. Mix everything together until the spices are well distributed all over the plantain. Let it marinate for 5 minutes.
  3. Heat palm oil in a frying pan. Once the palm is hot, carefully add the plantain slices.
  4. Fry for the plantain turning it once, approximately 3-5 minutes on each side. Both sides should be golden brown.
  5. Drain on absorbent paper, keep in a warmed oven until all the plantains are fried. Serve kelewele immediately.

Red-Red (Stewed Black-Eyed Peas)


  • 1 to 2 cups of dried cups of black-eyed peas
  • ¼  cup palm oil (red palm oil if possible)
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 4 cups tomatoes, chopped
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 tsp  liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon,  fresh ginger, chopped
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • Cayenne pepper or red pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste


  1. Wash and clean black-eye peas in water in a large pot. Soak at least for an hour or overnight. Drain and rinse peas. Add to pot cover with water, boil for 30 minutes or until soft.
  2. While the black-eyed peas are cooking place palm oil in a pan on medium heat. Once the oil is warm add onions. Saute until translucent. Then add tomatoes, tomato paste, ginger, and garlic. Let this cook for 25-30 stirring frequently.
  3. Drain Black-Eye peas and add to tomato mixture. Bring to a boil. Then lower heat and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Season with cayenne pepper, liquid smoke, and salt to taste.
  4. Serve with Kelewele or fresh vegetables.


“What Is Sustainability?” UCLA Sustainability,

This post was created in paid partnership with New Hope Network and Daabon.

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