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10 Substitutes for Butter in Baking (Plus Tips)

Jess likes to bake and share healthier alternatives to common ingredients.

Using applesauce or pumpkin puree instead of butter in muffin recipes works very well!

Using applesauce or pumpkin puree instead of butter in muffin recipes works very well!

What Can I Use Instead of Butter in Baking Recipes?

  1. Applesauce
  2. Vegetable oil
  3. Buttermilk
  4. Avocado
  5. Greek yogurt
  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 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!

How I Tested These Alternatives

I started by substituting only half of the butter in a recipe, then three-quarters, 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 on the finished baked product.

If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1/2 cup applesauce.

If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1/2 cup applesauce.

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.

  • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1/2 cup applesauce.
  • Best for: Sugar cookies, cakes, banana bread, 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.

  • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 3/4 cup vegetable oil.
  • Best for: Most things

3. Buttermilk

You can substitute half a cup of buttermilk for every one 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 one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar per cup of milk. Let it let stand for five minutes before using.)

  • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1/2 cup buttermilk.
  • Best for: Most things except pie crust
If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1 cup pureed avocado.

If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1 cup pureed avocado.

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. I've even spread this on toast instead of butter, and it was delicious!

  • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1 cup pureed avocado.
  • Best for: Most things

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 hasn't noticed a difference since I've switched!)

  • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1/2 cup Greek yogurt.
  • Best for: Most things, especially cakes
If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 3/4 cup pumpkin puree.

If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 3/4 cup pumpkin puree.

6. Pumpkin Puree

For every cup of butter called for in a recipe, you could use three-quarters of a cup of pumpkin (or butternut squash, hubbard squash, or other similar squash) puree. (As a side note, if you're looking for a substitute for oil in a baking recipe, you can substitute an equal amount of pumpkin puree.)

  • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 3/4 cup pumpkin puree.
  • Best for: Most things

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 it's probably not the best to use in more savory breads, but it has worked just fine in cakes, cookies, and muffins!

  • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1 cup coconut oil.
  • Best for: Cakes, cookies, muffins, and other sweets

8. Prune Puree

Similar to pumpkin puree, substitute three-quarters of a 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!

  • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 3/4 cup prune puree.
  • Best for: Cakes and brownies
If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 3/4 cup olive oil.

If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 3/4 cup olive oil.

9. Olive Oil

Olive oil can be used as a substitute for butter in baking by using three-quarters of a cup of olive oil for every cup of butter called for. Note that olive oil has a strong flavor, which means that it works best in savory baked goods like herb breads or biscuits. It 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 for meat pies or pot pies (and my picky-eater hubby has not noticed a difference!).

  • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 3/4 cup olive oil.
  • Best for: Herb breads, savory biscuits, and meat pies

10. Applesauce and 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 one 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.

  • How much: If the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1/4 cup applesauce plus 1/4 cup buttermilk.
  • Best for: Most things except pie crust
These cookies were made using avocado instead of butter. They turned out delicious!

These cookies were made using avocado instead of butter. They turned out delicious!

Butter Substitutions: How Much to Use?

SubstituteRecipe Calls for This Amount of Butter: Use This Ratio ReplacementNutrition Compared to ButterWorks Best in...

Applesauce

1 cup butter:1/2 cup applesauce

Lower fat

Good for most things

Vegetable oil

1:3/4

Not particularly nutritious

Good for most things

Buttermilk

1:1/2

Not particularly nutritious

Good for most things except pie crust

Avocado

1:1

High fiber, lots of nutrients

Good for most things

Greek yogurt

1:1/2

High protein

Works especially well in cakes (velvety texture)

Pumpkin puree

1:3/4

Lots of nutrients. Varies depending on which kind of squash puree you use.

Good for most things

Coconut oil

1:1

Lots of nutrients

Better for sweets. Flavor can be noticeable.

Prune puree

1:3/4

Lots of nutrients. May have high sugar content.

Darkens food significantly. Works best with cakes, brownies, and other sweets.

Olive oil

1:3/4

Lots of nutrients

Best for savory items. Avoid using with sweets, such as cakes and brownies.

Applesauce and buttermilk

1:1/4:1/4

Not particularly nutritious

Everything but pie crust. Great if you want a substitution that doesn't have a strong taste.

These holiday cookies were baked without butter!

These holiday cookies were baked without butter!

Share Your Experience

I hope you found some good information about butter substitutes. Another ingredient that people sometimes wonder about is sugar substitutes in baking. Have you experimented with substituting ingredients when you bake? What have you found that works well—or not? Let me 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: 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 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: 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: 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: What is a nutritional substitute for a stick of butter in baking banana bread?

Answer: I like to use pumpkin in banana bread!

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: How many grams is a cup? My recipes are in grams, not cups.

Answer: 128 grams per cup.

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: 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: 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: 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 would the be the best butter substitute for cupcakes?

Answer: Applesauce works well for me.

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 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: 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!

Question: How much applesauce should I use if the recipe calls for 1/2 cup butter?

Answer: I'd try 1/4 cup applesauce.

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.

© 2016 Jess Schatzel