Waterless Cooking: Know Your Water Footprint In The Kitchen & Beyond

Words: Emma Nkunzana

With Day Zero looming, we’ve had to drastically change the way we think and use water, especially in the kitchen. Waterless cooking – cooking with little to no water – should absolutely part of our daily routine.

But the water we use for cooking goes beyond what we use in our kitchens. Every ingredient comes with its own ‘water’ price tag, from the amount used to grow and harvest, until, eventually, it ends up on your dinner table as a (hopefully) delicious meal.

Just as we have become aware of our carbon footprint, equally, we need to consider our water footprint.

Waterless Cooking

Why it’s important to know your water footprint.

What’s scary is that there is enough water for everyone on earth. The problem is that it’s unevenly distributed, wasted and or unsustainably managed. Which is why it’s so important for water-scarce cities like Cape Town to know and watch their water footprint.

What is a water footprint?

Simply put, your water footprint is the total amount of water needed to make the end product. It takes into consideration the whole supply chain and the water used either directly or indirectly to produce.waterless cooking

Why you should be thinking beyond your kitchen when cooking.

As consumers in our modernised society, where produce is readily available all year round, we are seldom forced to stop and think about what resources went into an item unless there is a crisis in price – like for example the recent butter price surge or a crisis in supply like our current water crisis.

The fact is, as a consumer we possess the collective power to drive demand down. Eventually, this trickles down to the farmers and supermarkets thereby reducing our footprint. We really do have the power!

Calculating Your Water Footprint.

To give you an idea of how much water is used in food production, we have listed the global average of litres of water used per kilogram for 10 essential everyday ingredients most common to the South African household.

To calculate your water footprint per meal; times the value per kg by the amount consumed. So if you’re having one slice of bread weighing 0,04 kg (40 grams) your water footprint would be ± 65 l. Wait, What?!

Don’t worry, we’re not saying don’t eat more than half a slice of bread per day. Rather, we want to illustrate how much water we actually indirectly use and why it’s important to be conscious and mindful of what we consume and even waste.Waterless Cooking

Below is a list from waterfootprint.org, which shows the global average of litres of water used (both directly and indirectly) to produce the final product.

See where South Africa ranks globally HERE.

Global Avg. water used for everyday ingredients

Beef 15 415 l/kg
Lamb & Mutton 8 763 l/kg
Pig 5 988 l/kg
Chicken 4 325 l/kg
1 egg 200 l
Sugar Crops 197 l/kg
Vegetables 322 l/kg
Starchy Roots 387 l/kg
Fruits 962 l/kg
Bread 1608 l/kg

Waterless Cooking Tips To Reduce Your Water footprint

Fewer dishes, less cleanup = less water

>> Stick to recipes that use only one pot or pan, and if you must reuse the same pan for different dishes. Think oven tray cooking (don’t forget to line trays with oiled tin foil to avoid hours of scrubbing).
>> Invest in good quality non-stick pans and if your pots are losing their stick, check with the supplier where you can get your pan resprayed.
>>If you can’t get your hands on a non-stick pan, a temporary solution is to season after washing or use a spray and cook before cooking.

Say No to Boiling and Steaming

Obviously! But, if you must have rice or pasta, opt to cook them in the sauce or stock. As for steaming; pop veggies in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of water, cover with pieced clingfilm and nuke till cooked through, about 8 minutes.


If you secretly love hoarding, then this one’s for you! Legumes have a low water footprint, unfortunately, in their dry form they need soaking and boiling, but you can avoid these steps by using canned ones.

Water Saving Recipes

Feeling Inspired? Amp up your water saving with our selection of simple waterless cooking recipes that use little to no water.

waterless cooking sweet sour stir fry
waterless cooking zucchini noodles

Sweet & Sour Stir Fry With Sweet Potato Spaghetti

With pasta being a no go, there’s never been a better time to go low carb and spiralize those veggies as substitutes. Flash fry for flavour and to retain some crunch.

Recipe for Sweet & Sour Stir Fry with Sweet Potato Spaghetti

Zucchini Noodles with Chicken, Feta & Kale Meatballs

If you buy your zoodles (zucchini noodles) you can usually nuke them in the bag. Alternatively, flash fry in a little olive oil, no boiling needed.

Recipe for Zucchini Noodles with Chicken, Feta & Kale Meatballs

waterless cooking pumpkin gnocchi roasted sausage
waterless cooking curried beans

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sausages

Roasted pumpkin makes incredible gnocchi and is so delish with your favourite sausages.

Recipe for Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sausage

Curried Beans

A delicious curried bean recipe, perfect for any side dish or even as a main

Recipe for Curried Beans

waterless cooking dhal
waterless cooking baked potatoes

Tomato & Coriander Dhal

Use canned lentils for this recipe – cook the spices with the onions, then add the canned lentils with their liquid and you have yourself a one pot wonder.

Recipe for Tomato & Coriander Dhal

Baked Potatoes

Cheap, easy and the best way to enjoy spuds. Oh, and did we mention, seriously delicious!

Recipe for Baked Potatoes

waterless cooking loaded potatoes
waterless cooking broccoli slaw

Loaded Mexican Potato Wedges

Stock up on frozen vegetables to roast when you’re pressured for time. And when you’re feeling inspired, load them up Mexican-style, as done here.

Recipe for Loaded Mexican Potato Wedges

Broccoli Slaw with Avocado Oil Mayonnaise

Just because there’s a drought doesn’t mean you can’t stay healthy. Did you know most veggies are edible raw? This salad is such a winner and improves over a day or two.

Recipe for Broccoli Slaw with Avocado Oil Mayonnaise

waterless cooking hash
waterless cooking lentil bobotie

Aubergine, Tomato & Pumpkin Breakfast Hash

A great veggie powerhouse anytime meal.

Recipe for Aubergine, Tomato & Pumpkin Breakfast Hash

Lentil & Vegetable Bobotie

A delicious veggie classic that we love.

Recipe for Lentil & Vegetable Bobotie

waterless cooking roast chicken bacon and tarragon cream pie
waterless cooking wonton cups

Roast Chicken, Bacon & Tarragon Pie

A few of our favourite things baked in pastry, there’s not much we can fault with that.

Recipe for Roast Chicken, Bacon & Tarragon Pie

Wonton Cups with Tuna Tartare & Wasabi Mayo

One of our favourite summery dishes – if you can’t get hold of tuna, try yellowtail, it’s equally delish.

Recipe for Wonton Cups with Tuna Tartare & Wasabi Mayo

waterless cooking Recipe fishcakes
waterless cooking Shashouka

Crumbed Fishcakes with Cashew & Vegetable Stir-fry

The original recipe calls for salmon, but trout or tinned tuna will also work. We advise roasting the potatoes in the oven, rather than boiling. Save water and you’ll get a better texture of the potato.

Recipe for Crumbed Fishcakes with Cashew & Vegetable Stir Fry


A great dish that works for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Buy pre-washed spinach so you can pop it right in!

Recipe for Shashouka

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