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Substitutes for Butter in Baking

Updated on December 6, 2016
J Schatzel profile image

J. Schatzel works in agricultural/occupational medicine in rural upstate NY, and has a Masters degree in History.

Muffins

Muffins are a great place to use the applesauce or pumpkin substitutions for butter in baking!
Muffins are a great place to use the applesauce or pumpkin substitutions for butter in baking!

What Can I Use to Replace Butter In Recipes?

The following, although by no means a complete list of the infinite possibilities out there, are those that worked well with minimal differences from the expected outcomes of using actual butter in baking recipes. I hope you find one that works for your needs! I started by substituting only half of the butter in a recipe, then 3/4, then all as I worked my way through the various butter alternatives below. For the following substitutes, I was able to successfully substitute for 100 percent of the butter in a recipe, I won't waste your time with the list of substitutes I've tried that only worked when substituting for half of the butter in a recipe! While I offer no medical advice, I have found these to be healthier alternatives to butter in cooking, with minimal noticeable effects to the finished baked product.

Applesauce: You can replace butter in baking recipes with unsweetened applesauce, by using half of the amount of applesauce as the amount of butter called for in the recipe. Doing so is helpful if you are watching fat calories, need to add a little more fiber, or just don't have enough butter for a recipe. Doing so has worked well for me in sugar cookies, cakes, and breads like banana or zucchini bread.

Vegetable Oil: You can substitute 3/4 cup of vegetable oil for every 1 cup of butter called for in a baking recipe. This has worked well for me in all manner of baking recipes to date, although does not have as many health benefits of some other possible substitutions.

Buttermilk: You can substitute 1/2 cup of buttermilk for every 1 cup of butter called for in a baking recipe. This has worked well for me in all recipes I've tried it with, with the exception of pie crust, it changed the consistency of the dough too much and made it crumbly, instead of flaky. (No buttermilk on hand? No problem! Just add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice of vinegar per cup of milk, and let stand 5 minutes.)

Avocado: You can substitute pureed avocado, in equal parts for the amount of butter called for in a baking recipe for a higher fiber, higher vitamin K/C/B-5/B-6/E butter alternative. I have not yet found a baking recipe this did not work well with (Even spread on toast in lieu of butter was delicious!)

Greek Yogurt: For a higher protein substitution for butter, use half of the amount of Greek yogurt, as the amount of butter called for in a recipe. This substitution works especially well in cakes, creating a velvety texture. (I also use Greek yogurt instead of butter when making mashed potatoes, and my husband has never noticed a difference once I switched!)

Pumpkin puree: For every cup of butter called for in a recipe, you could use 3/4 cup of pumpkin (or butternut squash, hubbard squash, or other similar squash) puree. (On a side note, you can substitute pumpkin puree in equal amount of the quantity of oil called for in a baking recipe!)

Coconut oil: With similar properties of being solid when cool and liquid when warm, I have found coconut oil to be a successful butter substitute, using an equal amount of the oil to the amount of butter called for in a recipe. If the recipe calls for a substantial amount of butter, you might notice a flavor difference in the finished product, so probably not the best to use in more savory breads, but has worked just fine in cakes, cookies, and muffins!

Prune puree: Similar to pumpkin puree in use, substitute 3/4 cup of prune puree (you can use prune baby food!) for every cup of butter called for in a baked item. This works best for cakes and brownies, but be warned! It will darken the color of the finished product, adding a reddish purple tone!

Olive Oil: Olive Oil can be used as a substitute for butter in baking by using 3/4 cup of olive oil for every cup of butter called for. DISCLAIMER: Olive Oil has a stronger flavor, and works best in savory items like herb breads or biscuits, and would likely hurt the flavor of sweeter items like cakes and cookies, or pie crusts. I do however find this is a tasty substitute for butter in pie crusts I am using for meat pies / pot pies (and my picky-eater hubby has not noticed a difference!).

Applesauce & Buttermilk: If you are concerned about the integrity of the taste of the dish (I find the above substitutions do not alter the taste, but my husband swears he can tell a difference when I use any but this substitution), using 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce and 1/4 cup buttermilk for every cup of butter called for in a recipe works well. The only recipe I have found so far that this does not work well for is pie crust, it changed the texture too much.

Cutout Cookies Using The Avocado Substitution

Baking without Butter

What substitutions have you found success with in baking? Let us know in the comments below!
What substitutions have you found success with in baking? Let us know in the comments below!

Your Experience

When substituting for butter in baking, what is your reason?

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    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 months ago from the short journey

      Thanks for listing these substitutes. My go-to for baking is coconut oil. I'm looking forward to trying sugar cookies with applesauce.

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