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9 Easy Butter Substitutes & 5 Butterless Baking Tips From Experts

We’ve all been there. You know, craving a tasty cookie treat one night only to realize you’re out of the most important ingredient: butter. How can you enjoy your food without the flavor of this creamy-rich goodness now? Read on to find out.

You may want to replace butter in your recipe for many reasons. You could be avoiding butter for health concerns. Or perhaps you’ve forgotten to list butter in your shopping list. Whichever the case, you can still enjoy food in many ways without relying on this one ingredient.

Facts About Butter

Facts About Butter

Butter is concentrated fat that comes from dairy milk. Manufacturers separate the fat from the liquid in the milk by stirring or beating at high intensity (called churning).

The solid result of churning makes butter, while the remaining liquid makes buttermilk.

But while considered concentrated fat, butter isn’t 100 percent fat.

Most commercial butter brands we spread in our crackers typically comprise 80 percent saturated fat. The remaining 20 percent is usually water and milk solids emulsified into fat.

Nevertheless, butter is a staple ingredient in many recipes. It’s what makes your food deliciously creamy and rich in flavor. From mashed potatoes and baked mac and cheese to cakes and cookies, butter adds a depth of delectable flavor to almost everything.

What Butter Is Good For Baking

What Butter is Good for Baking

But what does butter do in your baking recipes, exactly? Like most fatty ingredients, butter doesn’t have a distinct taste (or smell, for that matter). So, how can it affect the flavor of your food so significantly?

You might find it surprising, but the fat in butter does have plenty of uses in your food and pastries. For one, it acts as a leavening agent alongside your baking soda. It introduces air into your cakes and cookies, making them fluffier and lighter.

This leavening effect happens due to the water content of butter. While baking, the liquid evaporates and becomes steam, lifting your batter and dough. In classic croissant recipes, bakers often laminate each layer of dough with melted butter to create that familiar flaky texture.

Second, while butter doesn’t have a powerful taste, it does have a faint creamy and rich flavor, with a hint of milkiness from the solid milk. All these contribute to the overall flavor of baked goods. Without these qualities, your pie crusts would feel bland, dry, and flavorless.

Butter also helps your quick bread retain moisture, making it tender to bite. Think of fatty food like a loaf of brioche. Adding a dash of butter to your dough will let you enjoy tastier bread that retains moisture longer than store-bought baked goods.

Aside from keeping your bread taste softer and longer, butter increases the shelf life of your pastries. Lean bread like hard rolls, whole wheat, and Italian-style bread typically contains less moisture, making them stale faster.

On the other hand, buttered bread can last days at room temperature without turning rock solid.

Baking and cooking would be incredibly bland without butter. Your ingredients won’t blend well, and the flavors of your food won’t be as rich or creamy. A simple slice of butter melted atop your food makes a world of difference in its taste.

Can You Substitute Butter For Oil?

Can You Substitute Butter For Oil?

There are recipes where you can easily substitute butter for oil. But they’re not always interchangeable. Depending on the oil, it can add complex flavors to your treats, which can be undesirable for some bakers.

Many recipes call for butter because it adds structure to baked products. Creaming butter and sugar creates air pockets that make your cake fluffy and sturdy.

Replacing butter with oil in these situations will make your cake denser than you might want.

An excellent rule of thumb is to replace only 3/4 of the butter with oil. So, if your recipe needs 1 cup of butter, you can replace it with 3/4 cup of oil instead.

If unsure, the safest alternative is to use 50/50 butter and oil rather than omitting butter entirely. Coconut and olive oil are two of the best butter alternatives when baking.

Reasons For Replacing Butter In Your Recipes

Reasons For Replacing Butter In Your Recipes

There are a few reasons for replacing butter with other ingredients. Conscious dietary choices, allergies, and medical concerns may force you to avoid butter altogether. Of course, it’s also perfectly possible you simply exhausted your butter supply for the month.

For Vegans

As a dairy product made from cow’s milk, vegan bakers may purposely want to find a substitute for butter. If you subscribe to this dietary choice, there are several animal-friendly ingredients to replace butter in your recipes.

Some manufacturers also make vegan butter from plants that work and taste almost the same as traditional dairy butter.

For Lactose Intolerance

For Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is another reason some people avoid mixing butter in their food.

It’s a digestive condition where the individual can’t digest sugar in milk.

Consuming dairy products like butter that contains milk lactose will result in uncomfortable symptoms, such as bloating, diarrhea, and gas.

For Milk Allergic Individuals

Butter contains only trace amounts of milk protein. However, these tiny amounts can still trigger symptoms in milk-allergic individuals, which can be mild or severe.

Eating milk products like butter can cause wheezing, vomiting, hives, digestive issues, or anaphylaxis—a life-threatening scenario.

For Various Health Concerns

For Various Health Concerns

You could be avoiding butter for its saturated fat content.

As you likely know, experts link consuming high amounts of saturated fat to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Additionally, butter is naturally high in calories.

So, you may want to cut off butter from your food if you’re following a low-calorie diet.

Best Butter Substitutes For Baking

Best Butter Substitutes For Baking

So, you’re smack in the middle of whipping eggs before realizing you’re out of butter? There’s no need to fret. Try the following ingredients with similar buttery properties to complete your meal.

Ghee

Ghee

Ghee is a clarified butter popular in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine, particularly Indian. Unlike your regular butter, it comes from processing cow milk in low heat until the liquid evaporates, leaving behind the buttery material.

This butter has a distinct aroma and nutty taste.

Try swapping butter with ghee if you prefer a strong butter taste in your homemade treats. It can replace butter in a 1:1 ratio. That means adding one cup of ghee for every cup of butter needed in the recipe.

You’ll want to adjust the liquids in your recipe when using ghee instead of butter. As it contains more liquid, you might unwittingly turn your treat into a watery mess. We’d suggest reserving this alternative for baked goods that need high-temperature cooking.

Margarine

Margarine

Flavored to taste like butter, margarine is another substitute for butter. Margarine will make a superb butter replacement for recipes like cookies, cakes, doughnuts, and more.

If you have a cup sitting ignored and untouched in your cupboard, it might be time to put it to good use.

Margarine is a blend of (mostly) unsaturated fat and oils. Mixed with your pastries, it offers an almost identical moisture and soft texture to butter.

But note that some margarine brands may also contain preservatives, emulsifiers, and colorings.

The upside to using margarine is it can hold your cookies’ shape better than butter. Use it as you use butter—with equal amounts and applications. The finished product may not be as rich or creamy, but margarine is an easy swap that works well in a pinch.

Greek Yogurt

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is a thicker, tangier, and protein-rich version of regular yogurts. It came from the same fermented dairy products, buttermilk, sour cream, and kefir.

The only difference is that Greek yogurt is more concentrated, requiring more milk in its making process.

Do note that this yogurt has a more solid consistency than liquid. Nevertheless, when used correctly, it’ll help with the leavening process like butter, reacting with baking soda.

Taste-wise, Greek yogurt adds a creamy, tangy goodness to pastries, with a flavor similar to buttermilk.

Add as much Greek yogurt as the recipe needs butter. However, if your recipe calls for more than one cup of butter, you might need to adjust your dough’s flour to account for the yogurt’s moisture. For the creamiest finished product, use full-fat instead of low-fat yogurt brands.

Best Butter Substitutes For Vegans

Best Butter Substitutes For Vegans

If dairy products aren’t your cup of tea, you can purchase vegan butter online or at nearby grocery shops. But who has time to spare when you’re already mashing that dough? In this case, look for these vegan alternatives in your pantry.

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil

Since we’re replacing a high-fat ingredient, a straightforward solution is to swap it with a high-fat but plant-based alternative.

Coconut checks out all these markers, consisting of 100 percent fat, 90 percent of which is saturated.

The unique property makes it the best substitute for butter in baking than most naturally-occurring oils.

Swap butter with coconut oil in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio.

The coconut flavor works particularly well with chocolate recipes or any dishes with tropical twists. You can also use it for many pastry recipes, including cakes and cookies.

Like butter, coconut oil becomes semi-solid at room temperature, helping your baked goods retain their structure. Replace the butter needed in your recipe with 3/4 coconut oil and 1/4 water. Mix the liquids thoroughly beforehand to avoid oily bites in your cookie snacks.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil

Besides coconut, olive oil is a terrific, dairy-free substitute for butter you might be passing on. It adds a pleasingly light, fruity taste to any food.

You can use olive oil for sauteing veggies and baking pancakes and muffins.

When using olive oil for baking, use a 3:4 ratio to reduce the amount of moisture.

It means substituting each cup of butter with 3/4 cup of olive oil in your recipe.

But if the recipe calls for melted butter, you can directly swap the two 1:1.

The catch is that some pastries require the fat to solidify as they cool to keep their form. For this reason, olive won’t make a suitable butter for cake frosting and certain cake recipes. Olive oil also has a low smoking point and easily burns at high temperatures.

Avocado Oil

Avocado Oil

If you enjoy fruity flavors in your food, avocado oil could be the answer you’re looking for. It’s a healthier alternative with plenty of nutritional value, replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fat.

It’s easy to use as a stand-in, too.

Unlike olive, avocado oil has a relatively high smoke point, making it a great butter alternative when searing, sauteing, frying donuts, or baking loaves.

You may also drizzle it on fish and other dishes to add another depth of healthy flavor.

Use the same amount of avocado oil as butter in your recipe, one cup for one cup.

For the healthiest approach, use avocado puree instead of oil. Mash an even amount of avocado fruit to swap for butter and use it for your toast. Try it on homemade baked goods, including banana bread, muffins, and cupcakes.

Best Butter Substitutes For Pastries

Best Butter Substitutes For Pastries

There’s nothing like a warm piece of cooky spread with soft butter to satisfy your midnight cravings. But without a single pad of butter, can you even get the same satisfaction from your treat?

Thankfully, you can easily replace butter in your cookies, brownies, or cakes with these common ingredients.

Applesauce

Applesauce

Applesauce is a fruit puree made from apples. It can be sweetened, unsweetened, peeled, or unpeeled.

Regardless of your puree preferences, applesauce can be an inexpensive and delicious replacement for a missing butter.

This fruity alternative significantly lightens baked goods and works best with muffins and quick breads. It reduces the calorie and fat content compared to butter.

But it does lend extra sweetness, so you’ll want to cut down some sugar from your other ingredients.

You can swap one cup of butter with applesauce in your recipe. You may also use applesauce alongside other oils when switching from butter. Use 1/2 cup of applesauce and 1/2 cup of oil to compensate for the missing fat and calories.

Don’t hesitate to experiment with the amount of applesauce to oil in your recipes. Add more or less applesauce to play around with its texture and flavor. Opt for unsweetened applesauce brands to minimize unnecessary sugar content.

Nut Butters

Nut Butters

Nut butter is a spread made by mixing water and nuts until it creates a pasty consistency. This condiment has a few varieties, such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, or peanuts.

Like butter, they’re high in fat and calories, making them a superb alternative.

When mixed with baked goods, nut butter provides healthy fats and nutrients, similar to what avocados give.

It’ll help your pastry treats retain their moisture longer, adding a nutty taste you’ll surely enjoy.

Nut butter tends to make pastries denser and heavier, though.

Shortening

Shortening

Shortening is a smart butter replacement most newbie bakers don’t know about. Unlike butter, it’s made from 100 percent hydrogenated vegetable oil.

It tastes neutral without milk or water content, allowing other ingredients in your recipe to shine.

In most cases, you can swap butter for shortening one-to-one. While it doesn’t have water content, shortening traps more steam than butter, helping your pastries rise higher.

In short, using shortening will make your baked products fluffier and lighter.

Shortening helps cookies and pastries retain their shape while baking. However, it provides no flavor whatsoever. If you want an ingredient to replace butter in baking to improve flavor, it’s best to check out other butter alternatives above.

Practical Tips When Replacing Butter

Practical Tips When Replacing Butter

Baking without butter can be daunting for first-timers. How can you even choose which substitute to use? Or which of these butter alternatives is the healthiest? Here are five practical tips to answer your burning questions.

For Bakers With Health Concerns

For Bakers With Health Concerns

We can’t deny that butter raises health concerns.

As it’s high in saturated fat, individuals with cholesterol issues would be better off replacing it in their recipes.

Additionally, while low in lactose content, people with severe lactose intolerance may develop symptoms.

Swap butter with less-fatty substitutes like avocado, olive, and applesauce to reduce cholesterol risks.

Using fruity or veggie puree for butter also makes a deliciously healthy alternative. For lactose intolerants, vegan butter and vegetable oils are your safest options.

For Nutrition Conscious Bakers

For Nutrition Conscious Bakers

Butter packs over 100 calories in a single tablespoon (14 grams). Removing it from your recipes may help manage your weight. Some of the best low-calorie substitutes you can try are Greek yogurt, mashed fruits, and applesauce.

Ghee is another excellent choice for nutrition-conscious bakers. It’s rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and antioxidants.

Studies also found that consuming ghee helps the body absorb essential vitamins and minerals more than regular butter.

For Baking Cakes Without Butter

For Baking Cakes Without Butter

Creaming butter with sugar is vital to achieve an even-rising and airy texture in cakes. Without butter, you get dense and flat cakes without the familiar fluffiness and taste that characterize these products.

Coconut oil achieves practically the same results.

Natural oils generally work best in cake recipes requiring liquid sweeteners, emulsifying agents, and solid fats.

Some examples of sweeteners include molasses, honey, and maple syrups.

Emulsifying agents are typically eggs, while solid fats include butter like almonds and peanuts.

For Baking Cookies Without Butter

For Baking Cookies Without Butter

Cookies and shortbreads need butter to add density and richness. They need butter less as a leavening agent and more to add depth to their flavor. That’s also why making dairy-free cookies is easier than cakes.

Switching to margarine or shortening will almost always do the trick for cookies. But oil introduces interesting changes to recipes.

For instance, using oil for cookies with nuts and liquid syrups will make them feel like shortbread to the bite. Blending oil and sweeteners for cookies without eggs will produce crispier treats.

For Baking Biscuits Without Butter

For Baking Biscuits Without Butter

Most biscuits use yeast or other leavening agents with little or no sweeteners.

It makes using oil inappropriate as it makes them tasteless and flat.

Swap butter with shortening or soy margarine to avoid serving dull snacks to your guests.

Never combine ground nuts and oil when making biscuits. It takes the floury texture away from the pastry, which defines most biscuit recipes.

You can still use oil, but the result will differ from the traditional product using butter, shortening, or soy margarine.

What About Butter Substitutes For Cooking?

What About Butter Substitutes For Cooking?

Flavorful oils like avocado and olive work as wonderful stand-ins for butter for cooking. Butter has a low smoking point, so any oil should work for sauteing veggie meals.

Naturally, opt for an oil with a higher smoking point for frying meals, such as canola or peanut.

Swap butter for oil in a one-to-one ratio when cooking. Whipping cream, sour cream, and creme fraiche will add the desired buttery thickness and richness for dipping sauces.

Instead of butter, mayonnaise also makes a delicious pair for your scrambled eggs and grilled cheese.

If what you need is spread for a quick bread midnight snack, there are plenty of ingredients that are as creamy and tasty. Try olive oil, nut butter, cheese, avocado, or hummus. These easy swaps are healthier than butter as much as they’re delicious.

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