10 Substitutes for Butter in Baking

Updated on January 17, 2018
J Schatzel profile image

J. Schatzel has baked her way through many recipes and loves sharing what she's learned with others.

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 Substitute for Butter in Baking Recipes?

  1. Apple sauce
  2. Vegetable oil
  3. Buttermilk
  4. Avocado
  5. Greek yoghurt
  6. Pumpkin puree
  7. Coconut oil
  8. Prune puree
  9. Olive oil
  10. A mixture of applesauce and buttermilk

Which Butter Substitute Should I Use?

Remember: we're talking about the substitutions in baking, not in other forms of cooking.

The following list is by no means a complete list of the numerous butter replacements that exist. However, these are the ones that worked well with minimal differences from using butter. 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 completely replacing butter as I worked my way through the various alternatives below. For the following substitutes, I was able to successfully substitute 100% 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 it in a recipe! While I offer no medical advice, I have found these to be healthier alternatives when cooking, and there were minimal noticeable effects to the finished baked product.

  1. 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.
  2. Vegetable Oil: You can substitute 3/4 cup of vegetable oil for every 1 cup of butter called for. This has worked well for me in all manner of baking recipes to date, although vegetable oil does not have as many health benefits as some of the other possible substitutions.
  3. Buttermilk: You can substitute 1/2 cup of buttermilk for every 1 cup of butter. 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 or vinegar per cup of milk, and let stand 5 minutes.)
  4. Avocado: You can substitute pureed avocado in equal parts for the amount of butter called for, especially if you want a higher fiber, higher vitamin K/C/B-5/B-6/E 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!).
  5. Greek Yogurt: For a higher protein substitution, use half of the amount of Greek yogurt as the amount of butter. This substitution works especially well in cakes because it creates 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!)
  6. 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!)
  7. Coconut oil: With similar properties of being solid when cool and liquid when warm, I have found coconut oil to be a successful substitute when 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!
  8. Prune puree: Similar to pumpkin puree, 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!
  9. 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. Note that olive oil has a strong flavor, works best in savory items like herb breads or biscuits, and would likely hurt the flavor of sweeter items, such as cakes, cookies, or pie crusts. I do, however, find this is a tasty substitute for butter in crusts I am using for meat pies or pot pies (and my picky-eater hubby has not noticed a difference!).
  10. 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.

Butter Substitution Ratios

Replacement
Recipe Calls for This Amount of Butter: Use This Ratio Replacement
Nutritional Considerations When Compared to Butter
Works Best in...
1) Applesauce
1 cup butter:1/2 cup applesauce
Lowers fat calorie content
Good for most things.
2) Vegetable oil
1:3/4
Not particularly nutritional
Good for most things.
3) Buttermilk
1:1/2
Not particularly nutritional
Do not use this as a substitute when making pie crust. Otherwise, good for most things.
4) Avocado
1:1
High fiber, lots of nutrients
Works well with pretty much everything.
5) Greek yogurt
1:1/2
High protein
Works especially well in cakes. Gives cakes a rich texture.
6) Pumpkin puree
1:3/4
Lots of nutrients and good stuff. Varies depending on which kind of squash puree you use.
Good for most things.
7) Coconut oil
1:1
Lots of nutrients
Better for sweets. Flavor can be noticeable.
8) Prune Puree
1:3/4
Lots of nutrients. May have high sugar content.
Darkens food significantly. Works best with cakes, brownies, and other sweets.
9) Olive oil
1:3/4
Lots of nutrients
Best for savory items. Try to avoid using with sweets, such as cakes and brownies.
10) Applesauce and buttermilk
1:1/4:1/4
Not particularly nutritional
Everything but pie crust. Great if you want a substitution that doesn't have a strong taste.

Cutout Cookies Using the Avocado Substitution

These cookies were made using avocado and not butter. They turned out delicious!
These cookies were made using avocado and not butter. They turned out delicious!

These Cookies Were Baked Without Butter!

Your Experience

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

See results

I Want to Hear About Your Experience.

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

Questions & Answers

Comments

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    • profile image

      Bmsullivan09 

      10 days ago

      I love butter and use a lot of it but am always running out. I was aware of the applesauce and yogurt substitutions but not the other ones. Thank you this is a great help. I do like cinnamon applesauce in apple cakes or muffins. I have also used strawberry applesauce in cake recipes and the kids loved it. I am wondering about cream cheese as a substitute in cookies. Have you ever tried it? If so how did it go? Thank you for this and all your other great posts.

    • J Schatzel profile imageAUTHOR

      J Schatzel 

      2 months ago from Upstate NY

      I soften it just enough so that it can be mixed in well, similar to room temperature butter.

    • profile image

      Sl 

      3 months ago

      How about a substitute for butter when making frosting ?

    • profile image

      No Name 

      3 months ago

      I ran out of butter so I was wondering what to use. I found this and it was a lifesaver thank you.

      Ps I'm not using my name for privacy reasons

    • profile image

      reh2384 

      4 months ago

      Do you need to melt the coconut oil first say when replacing butter in a cake mix or should you put it in in its solid form? Thank you for sharing this awesome list!

    • profile image

      Kh 

      4 months ago

      I used olive oil in place of butter in a chocolate chip cookie recipe, and, other than an oilier feeling, they taste exactly the same! Thank you so much for saving the day.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      5 months ago from Germany

      Good ideas. I have only substitute butter with margarine or oil. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      Helen Miguel 

      5 months ago

      I have used unsweeted applesaus to bake cake ,with success

    • J Schatzel profile imageAUTHOR

      J Schatzel 

      6 months ago from Upstate NY

      Susan, you are absolutely correct! It should be "or" instead of "and," correction made! Thanks for the great catch!

    • profile image

      Susan 

      6 months ago

      Great post! I ran out of butter after the holidays, and this post was a lifesaver. One thing, though: In #3, Buttermilk, it says to make your own buttermilk, "Just add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice AND vinegar per cup of milk." I think it should be 1 tbl. of lemon juice OR vinegar, not both! I think I will try the buttermilk/applesauce combo on an apple cake I'm making. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Gita Dasgupta 

      6 months ago

      I always have yogurt or buttermilk in the fridge but not butter. And I am very pleased to learn that I can skip the butter altogether. I do have a question though. Can I do this in cake recipes that use eggs? Or does that have to be adjusted as well? Thank you

    • profile image

      Lyn 

      6 months ago

      We are a vegan family but on holidays, I try to make something that we used to have and yet substitute the dairy. Thank you for these very helpful suggestions.

    • profile image

      Lori 

      7 months ago

      also gluten free and grain free

    • profile image

      Helen 

      7 months ago

      Such a helpful webpage...going to start experimenting today! Thank you!

    • profile image

      Brenda 

      9 months ago

      My sweet grandson has so many food allergies, one being dairy. This grandma is on a mission. I must find a great cookie recipe for him. Going to try all of the subs suggested.

    • profile image

      Earl 

      10 months ago

      I hardly ever leave comments on blog pages but THIS is a GREAT post, thorough and will be my go to for baking subs!

    • profile image

      Peggy Ward 

      11 months ago

      I just hate butter. Love these suggestions.

    • J Schatzel profile imageAUTHOR

      J Schatzel 

      11 months ago from Upstate NY

      I received a message from Abhijit asking "I found your post regarding butter alternatives for baking very useful. We were able to make biscuits (so far using butter) without baking soda/baking powder/refined wheat flour). Only whole wheat flour was used. Do you think we will be able to make cake without baking soda/baking powder/refined flour, using just whole wheat flour and one of your suggested raising agent like papaya puree?" I have not tried this, but if Abijhit tries it and lets me know how it works, I will update with this information!! Thanks Abhijit!

    • profile image

      Leigh 

      13 months ago

      Thank you for the substitute list, with all the bullying etc in school children these day with so many additives and preservatives in every day food I thought I would try this, organic marked items are often not stocked in super markets and labeling by manufacturers can't always be believed unfortunately.

    • Spanish Food profile image

      Lena Durante 

      14 months ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Good suggestions. I use a lot of these substitutes myself, as too much butter can upset my stomach.

      You touched on this with the applesauce & buttermilk, and I would agree that it sometimes helps to use two different ingredients for a better final result: for example, a little oil and a little prune puree in cake, or a little yogurt with a little applesauce.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      19 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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