We propose a novel route for the stabilization of oil-in-water Pickering emulsions using inherently hydrophilic nanoparticles. In the case of dialkyl adipate oils, in situ hydrophobisation of the particles by dissolved oil molecules in the aqueous phase enables stable emulsions to be formed. Emulsion stability is enhanced upon decreasing the chain length of the oil due to its increased solubility in the precursor aqueous phase. The oil thus acts like a surfactant in this respect in which hydrogen bonds form between the carbonyl group of the ester oil and the hydroxyl group on particle surfaces. The particles chosen include both fumed and precipitated anionic silica and cationic zirconia. Complementary experiments including relevant oil–water–solid contact angles and infra-red analysis of dried particles after contact with oil support the proposed mechanism.