J. Schatzel works in healthcare administration in rural upstate NY and has a master's degree in history.
What Can I Substitute for Butter in Baking Recipes?
- Apple sauce
- Vegetable oil
- Greek yogurt
- Pumpkin puree
- Coconut oil
- Prune puree
- Olive oil
- 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 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 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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.)
- 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!).
- 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!)
- 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 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!
- 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!
- 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!).
- 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 the 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
|Substitute||Recipe Calls for This Amount of Butter: Use This Ratio Replacement||Nutritional Considerations When Compared to Butter||Works Best in...|
1 cup butter:1/2 cup applesauce
Lowers fat calorie content
Good for most things.
Not particularly nutritional
Good for most things.
Not particularly nutritional
Do not use this as a substitute when making pie crust. Otherwise, good for most things.
High fiber, lots of nutrients
Works well with pretty much everything.
Works especially well in cakes. Gives cakes a rich texture.
Lots of nutrients and good stuff. Varies depending on which kind of squash puree you use.
Good for most things.
Lots of nutrients
Better for sweets. Flavor can be noticeable.
Lots of nutrients. May have high sugar content.
Darkens food significantly. Works best with cakes, brownies, and other sweets.
Lots of nutrients
Best for savory items. Try to avoid using with sweets, such as cakes and brownies.
Applesauce and buttermilk
Not particularly nutritional
Everything but pie crust. Great if you want a substitution that doesn't have a strong taste.
Looking for sugar substitutes in baking?
- Sugar Substitutes in Baking
Between my husband's dietary restrictions, and my own interest in culinary experimentation, here are some substitutes I've found to work well in baking.
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
Question: I have to cream butter for my recipes. I tried substituting with vegetable oil, and everything fell apart. What do I do?
Answer: I would definitely use less oil than the amount of butter that is called for in the recipe.
Question: My recipe asks for 2 tablespoons of butter. I don't have butter, so I'm going to use cooking oil instead. For 2 tablespoons of butter, how much cooking oil do I use?
Answer: For so little called for, I'd probably just use 1 3/4 tbsp oil.
Question: If I am using a boxed cake mix should I use salted or unsalted butter?
Answer: You could use either, it shouldn't affect the taste significantly.
Question: I'm a plant based chef and recently got into baking health supportive treats. I test recipes constantly with alternatives to refined sugar, egg, soy, and dairy. Still working on a good recipe for frosting. Thanks for the chart, I've printed it out for future baking. What do you recommend for a basic frosting?
Answer: Coconut oil works well for the consistency, as long as the flavor works with what you are frosting!
Question: What can I substitute for butter in a recipe for rice?
Answer: It depends on the flavor in the recipe, Probably vegetable oil, olive oil, etc.
Question: What can we substitute for butter in biscuits & pie crust? No oil, please.
Answer: I've used pumpkin for pie crust when making a pecan pie, and Shepard's pie, and in biscuits. It does alter the flavor (and color), but the texture was comparable.
Question: If I have butter on hand what type of butter should I use when baking?
Answer: It depends on what you are making. For example, I would use unsalted butter for cake or pie crust, and salted butter in biscuits or butternut squash rolls.
Question: Would cream cheese work as a substitute for butter in cookies, and, if so, what would be the ratio?
Answer: Cream cheese as a substitute for butter will not work well for baking.
Question: can I use mayonnaise as a substitute for butter in making brownies?
Answer: I've never tried using mayo in place of butter for baking; you might also need to adjust the number of eggs in the recipe, then. It might also alter the taste, as mayo contains mustard and vinegar.
Question: I have a recipe that calls for 1/2 a cup of butter. Will it throw off the sugar cookie recipe if I exclude it? If so, what could I substitute the butter with?
Answer: I have tried coconut oil or avocado with success, and applesauce also. The avocado can alter the color however, and the coconut oil and applesauce can alter the flavor slightly.
Question: What is the best substitute for butter when making a pie crust?
Answer: I use vegetable oil in my pie crust:
1-3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon if making apple, pumpkin, or sweet potato pie
Question: Can I use non-fat greek yogurt or plain as a butter substitute in baking?
Answer: I have used either, without a noticeable difference.
Question: Which of these substitutes is best for baking pie crusts?
Answer: In a previous answer below, I posted my favorite pie crust recipe. I prefer to use vegetable oil in pie crust (or olive oil if making the pie crust for a savory meat pie).
Question: When making cookies, can I use oil? Will it still spread?
Answer: You can use oil, but would likely need to use less than the amount of butter called for in the recipe. And keep in mind that the kind of oil used can affect the taste (i.e. coconut oil, olive oil, etc)
Question: I am going to use vegetable oil instead of butter but the recipe only asks for 1/4th cup of butter. How much should I use?
Answer: Only use 3/4 of the amount of butter called for, if using vegetable oil.
Question: Can I mix these substitutions together?
Answer: It might depend on what you are making, as it could alter the flavor. But I have used yogurt and applesauce when baking a cake, and it turned out great!
Question: My Streusel topping calls for 2 tablespoons of cold, unsalted butter. What can I use in place of it?
Answer: I'd use coconut oil.
Question: I want to make homemade biscuits. However, I do not have any cooking oil, shortening, or butter. I do have a tub of Country Crock. I do have unsweetened applesauce, and I can make buttermilk with vinegar. What do you suggest?
Answer: I'd use the margerine, or buttermilk, for the best results. Applesauce would change the flavor of the biscuits.
Question: I am baking muffins, and I don’t have butter. What do I use instead?
Answer: Applesauce, or coconut oil - either works well for muffins!
Question: What could I use as an alternative to butter in a shortcrust pastry?
Answer: Maybe coconut oil or vegetable oil would work, so as not to alter the taste too much.
Question: In your recipes, when you say "1 cup of butter," do you mean 1 cup of melted butter or one cup of soft butter?
Answer: For either use, it still equals 1 cup, so use an appropriate amount of your desired substitute.
Question: Will sugar cookies fall apart if I substitute the butter with vegetable oil?
Answer: You can use vegetable oil, but would need to decrease the amount used accordingly.
Question: How many grams is a cup? My recipes are in grams, not cups.
Answer: 128 grams per cup.
Question: If I am short of butter can I use a mixture of butter and vegetable oil for a cake recipe? What is the method to cream it?
Answer: I would use less of the oil than you would have used butter, as it will be too liquid to replace in a 1:1 ratio. I'd just mix the butter and oil with the wet ingredients for baking, or you can probably cream it in with the sugar called for and mix it in as otherwise directed in your recipe.
Question: I am going to use vegetable oil instead of butter but the recipe only asks for 1/4th cup of butter, how much vegetable oil should I use?
Answer: If the recipe calls for 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of butter, I'd only use 3 tbsp of vegetable oil.
Question: I want to make muffins, but I don't have butter or oil what else could I use?
Answer: Maybe applesauce, or avocado.
Question: When baking, if l have no butter, can I use 3/4 cups of vegetable oil?
Answer: The amount used depends on what your recipe calls for. Which substitute you choose depends on the texture/taste you prefer for what you're baking.
Question: When substituting apple sauce for sugar, you advise reducing the amount of added liquid by about 2 Tbsp; by 'added liquid' does this include eggs?
Answer: No need to reduce the amount of eggs, when baked the eggs will stabilize.
Question: For buttermilk biscuits, it calls for 9 tbsp butter, and 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk. If I substitute the butter for yogurt, do you think it will be too loose?
Answer: I think it would turn out fine!
Question: What is a nutritional substitute for a stick of butter in baking banana bread?
Answer: I like to use pumpkin in banana bread!
Question: We are kosher and I'm trying to find non-dairy substitutions for baking. Is it ok to sub coconut oil for butter in brownies, cakes etc?
Answer: You can indeed, just remember it may alter the flavor of what you're baking, as coconut oil has a distinctive flavor.
Question: What would the be the best butter substitute for cupcakes?
Answer: Applesauce works well for me.
Question: If my recipe calls for a pound of butter how much applesauce would I use as a substitute?
Answer: I'd try 1/2 pound of applesauce (about 1 cup).
Question: If I don’t have butter then what should I use to make cookies?
Answer: I've used avocado, pumpkin, or applesauce with success. The flavor will be slightly altered (and color), so it really just depends on what kind you want to make, and which flavor would pair best with it.
Question: If I add 1/2 a cup of apple sauce with 1 egg do I need to let the cookies bake longer?
Answer: In my experience, the baking time has been comparable when using the substitutions, to using butter.
Question: My recipe calls for 1/2 cup butter how much vegetable oil do I use to substitute for butter?
Answer: I'd use 1/3 cup, plus 1-2 tbsp.
Question: Can I use banana puree instead of butter with cooking?
Answer: I've used banana (3/4 if the amount of butter called for) in blueberry muffins before. The texture was comparable, but the taste was very sweet/identifiable. It was a little overpowering for that particular recipe for my taste, but would probably work well for something like banana nut muffins.
Question: Can lard be used instead of butter when baking?
Answer: I haven't tried it, but I'm sure you can. It will alter the fat/calorie count and may drastically increase the sodium, and may alter the taste too.
Question: I don't have any butter only margarine, can I substitute this for brownies?
Answer: I have done that for brownies with no noticeable difference in the final product.
Question: What's a good substitute for *melted* butter in vegan dishes? I'm making a dump cake that calls for melted butter poured over the top before baking.
Answer: Maybe melted coconut oil, although it may alter the flavor of the cake.
Question: Is it possible to substitute butter with margarine when making chocolate cake?
Answer: I've never used margarine for chocolate cake, but have used applesauce with great results!
Question: When I'm baking, can I use ground flax seed in place of eggs?
Answer: I have done it with great success in making muffins, but I don't think I was substituting butter at the same time. I'm not sure how it would effect the recipe to do both (whether it would make the texture less binding, more sense, etc).
Question: I’m making brownies and it calls for 10 tbsp of butter how would I do that with the ratio 1:3/4?
Answer: You would follow the recipe instructions, and substitute 3/4 of the amount of butter called for, with the vegetable oil (or pumpkin, etc) (7.5 tablespoons)
Question: Can you use peanut butter along with applesauce to bind the ingredients better for cookie recipes?
Answer: I've done it for banana muffins before, I'm guessing it will work for cookies as well, although I haven't yet tried it!
Question: Can I substitute butter with canola oil when baking?
Answer: You can, for most recipes. If the recipe calls for 4oz (1/2 cup) butter, only use 3 oz (1/3 cup) canola oil.
Question: What could I substitute for butter when making turnovers?
Answer: I would try coconut oil or avocado.
Question: What is a good substitute for making chocolate chip cookies?
Answer: I like to use coconut oil!
Question: I want to bake some chewy ginger cookies but my friend cannot have dairy products, what is a good butter substitute for her?
Answer: I've used pumpkin and applesauce in gingersnaps with success, either substitution works well!
Question: Can i use peanut butter as an alternative to butter in my chocolate chip cookies? If so how much nut butter to regular butter
Answer: I've never tried it for cookies, but if you try it please let me know how it turns out! I suspect it would taste amazing, but might be a bit dry unless a 1:1 ratio is used.
Question: I want to make sugar cookies but don't have butter, what can I use instead?
Answer: Pumpkin works well, but will alter the color of the finished product!
© 2016 Jess Schatzel
Jess Schatzel (author) from Upstate NY on October 14, 2020:
I've used pumpkin in shortbread cookies with success, the texture was the same as if I'd used butter.
Jess Schatzel (author) from Upstate NY on October 14, 2020:
I've used applesauce or pumpkin when making cake donuts, I've never tried making pastry style donuts, so not sure if you're making that style.
simone on August 20, 2020:
i want to make doughnuts and i do not have butter. what should i use as a substitute?
Taskermatic on July 15, 2020:
For best results when you run out of butter, my top tip is to go to the nearest shop and buy some butter.
PamHardwick on June 18, 2020:
Can applesauce be used for all of the butter in a shortbread cookie recipe? Would the texture/flavor be better using 1/2 butter and 1/2applesauce?
Nina on June 13, 2020:
I am making a sponge cake instead of using butter can I use cooking oil , the recipe I am using needs 150 g of butter , how much cooking oil should I use to replace the butter
Donna on May 11, 2020:
Thanks. Very useful info.
Ashly Christen from Illinois on April 28, 2020:
Thanks for sharing! These are great tips for any cook!
Maream on April 09, 2020:
Hi what changes did cooks make to the traditional pound cake to make it more tender and flavorful?
Simlinda on March 14, 2020:
Hi Jess, thank you so much for sharing this Substitutes for Butter in Baking very helpful to me......
Maxineg on November 08, 2019:
Hi, I need to substitute butter in Christmas fruit cake due to my husbands health. He loves fruit cake, please help.
Lee Nelson on October 26, 2019:
Id like to print this out for future reference...
Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on June 17, 2019:
Thanks for sharing. I have not tried Greek yogurt, avocado and apple sauce for substituting butter in baking. I have to try them.
patricia a on June 13, 2019:
thanks for all the pointers, I will print these out
Damaris on June 09, 2019:
I have a recipe for bran banana muffins where I substitute the 1/3 cup butter for 1/4 cup applesauce or pear-sauce. Muffins come out tender and rise nicely.
Pear-sauce can be made by cooking down ripe pears and mashing as you would for making applesauce. The finished product can be frozen in 1/4 cup measures for later use.
Jess Schatzel (author) from Upstate NY on March 30, 2019:
I am sorry to hear that, I have used vegetable oil for many cookie recipes without a problem. Be sure to reduce the amount used, and not use the full amount the recipe calls for, if using oil as a substitute.
Grace Johnston on March 29, 2019:
I used vegetable oil and it completely ruined my cookies, butter makes the cookies creamy so when I used vegetable oil, they were dry and didn’t stick together, and on top of that, they didn’t bake properly and came out completely inedible.
Kieran on March 25, 2019:
I needed to double a cake batch but used the last of my butter for the first one. I tried using the Greek yogurt sub, and it’s so good! The only yogurt I had was honey vanilla flavored, so it gave the cake a delicious flavor.
Jennifer on November 29, 2018:
What are the the substitute ratios for melted butter?
Rhonda on November 18, 2018:
Ive read where mayonnaise could be used as a substitute for eggs
Travel Chef from Manila on September 29, 2018:
I used to substitute oil with butter. Though the taste maybe different, but the quality will stay the same.
Liza from USA on August 22, 2018:
Oh wow, I never knew this until I read your article. Very interesting and very good info. Definitely going to try it!
Jess Schatzel (author) from Upstate NY on August 21, 2018:
Valerie, use 3/4 the amount of oil, as butter was called for in the recipe.
Valerie on August 20, 2018:
Making banana nut bread. It calls for 1/4 shortening what us the ratio if i use vegetable oil?
Bmsullivan09 on July 06, 2018:
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.
Jess Schatzel (author) from Upstate NY on May 02, 2018:
I soften it just enough so that it can be mixed in well, similar to room temperature butter.
Sl on April 09, 2018:
How about a substitute for butter when making frosting ?
No Name on March 25, 2018:
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
reh2384 on March 03, 2018:
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!
Kh on February 21, 2018:
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 from Germany and Philippines on February 11, 2018:
Good ideas. I have only substitute butter with margarine or oil. Thanks for sharing.
Helen Miguel on February 02, 2018:
I have used unsweeted applesaus to bake cake ,with success
Jess Schatzel (author) from Upstate NY on January 17, 2018:
Susan, you are absolutely correct! It should be "or" instead of "and," correction made! Thanks for the great catch!
Susan on January 10, 2018:
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!
Gita Dasgupta on January 09, 2018:
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
Lyn on December 24, 2017:
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.
Lori on December 12, 2017:
also gluten free and grain free
Helen on December 10, 2017:
Such a helpful webpage...going to start experimenting today! Thank you!
Brenda on October 16, 2017:
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.
Earl on August 30, 2017:
I hardly ever leave comments on blog pages but THIS is a GREAT post, thorough and will be my go to for baking subs!
Peggy Ward on August 13, 2017:
I just hate butter. Love these suggestions.
Jess Schatzel (author) from Upstate NY on August 10, 2017:
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!
Leigh on June 09, 2017:
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.
Lena Durante from San Francisco Bay Area on May 15, 2017:
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 on December 04, 2016:
Thanks for listing these substitutes. My go-to for baking is coconut oil. I'm looking forward to trying sugar cookies with applesauce.