Think of your favorite baked good. Remember the richness, fluffiness, and softness in every part of the confection.
Those wouldn't be possible without butter. But what happens when you run out of this ingredient? Or what if you're trying to make a vegan baked good?
We can still save your recipe. I'll show you some ingredients you can use as a butter substitute (baking). Tell me which one you think is best.
Where Does Butter Come From?
Let's get to know this ingredient before we start substituting butter in our baked goods. This will help us find an excellent alternative for our recipe. Butter comes from milk, usually from cows. However, the first butter came from sheep. A herder strapped a milk container to the back of a sheep.
Having been juggled and scrambled the entire journey, the milk became an entirely different product. Thus, we have butter. We still use the same process to produce butter: churning milk from cows, sheep, goats, and even buffaloes or yaks.
This process separates the fat globules from the milk to produce a more solid product that melts when heated.
How Does Butter Affect Our Baking Recipes?
The next question we have to answer is, why do we use solidified fat globules in our recipes? Well, here's how butter helps our baked goods.
Fat is one of the most important components of baking ingredients because it tenderizes other ingredients and shortens flour gluten strands. Butter is 80% fat, which is why it's very effective in making our baked goods softer and smoother. Because of its consistency, butter helps bind ingredients together and retain their structure.
Another essential component of baking ingredients is moisture. This produces steam upon baking, creating air pockets that volumize our baked goods. Butter contains around 20% water, which means it also functions as a leavening agent to help dough or batter rise.
The last purpose of butter in our recipes is the rich flavor it brings to the table. The creaminess of milk adds depth to our baked goods and elevates their flavor to new heights.
Why Replace Butter?
If it provides some of the most important aspects of baking, why are we even talking about replacing butter in the first place? Well, there are several reasons.
The first reason is lactose intolerance. As I've mentioned, butter comes from cow's milk. Ergo, it's a dairy product. While some people may be able to tolerate small portions of butter in baked goods, others' stomachs may not be so forgiving.
Another reason why we substitute butter in recipes lies in its nature; dairy. Nowadays, vegans have popularized plant-based diets, leading some non-vegans to try them, too. Because of this, countless people search for butter alternatives that don't come from animals or are at least healthier.
There's also the possibility that you just simply ran out of butter. In these cases, accessibility is the most important factor to consider. Which substitute for butter is available in your kitchen or easy to purchase? What can you use in a pinch? Answering these questions will save your recipe.
Lastly, people avoid butter because of its fat content. Fat is extremely difficult to burn, and frequent consumption of butter may increase the risk of heart disease. Additionally, the high-fat content indicates that butter is high in calories. This means it can be detrimental to your progress if you're trying to lose weight.
Butter Substitutes in Baking
What are your other options if your recipe calls for butter but you have none? Can you still proceed with your current recipe?
Of course! Just look for any of the butter substitutes below.
Margarine is like melted butter. One major difference between these two is their origins. Margarine comes from vegetable oils. Ergo, it's a dairy-free substitute.
It's one of the best alternatives for baking cookies since margarine is better at retaining their shapes than butter. Not to mention how easy it is to spread and mold.
It consists of 80% fat and 20% water, so it's almost identical to butter, except that margarine uses unsaturated fat.
The only downside is that it's not as flavorful as butter, considering it doesn't come from milk. Use it as a butter substitute for baking in a 1:1 ratio.
Best for cookies and cakes.
Try it on this Brown Butter Cookies recipe.
2. Coconut Oil
Even though we label it "oil," coconut oil has a consistency similar to butter. It also contains fat which helps tenderize our baked goods.
Coconut oil is one of the healthiest butter substitutes in baking. However, coconut oil may add a tropical taste to your products.
Nonetheless, you can either go for refined or virgin coconut oil, both of which have a more neutral taste.
Pro-Tip: Store coconut oil at room temperature for a soft but not melted consistency.
Use it as a butter replacement in a 1:1 ratio.
Best for cakes, brownies, and cupcakes.
Applesauce is one the best butter substitutes in baking based on fruits. It's a popular vegan option for substituting butter, eggs, and sugar in recipes.
It's low in fat content, high in water content, and adds a sweet flavor to your goodies. You can use store-bought applesauce, but you can also make it at home by mashing apples to make a puree.
However, since it's a fruit puree, applesauce may change the overall texture of your goodies because of the low-fat content.
Additionally, applesauce can be extremely sweet, so you must compensate for the extra sweetness by reducing the portions of other sweet ingredients in the recipe, like sugar.
The consistency of applesauce can also be unpredictable. While you can use it as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio, I suggest starting with a ½:1 ratio and adding more applesauce to the mix until you reach the same texture as butter.
Remember that applesauce will add an apple flavor to your bake, so use it only on recipes where the flavor blends well with other ingredients.
Best for soft cookies, cakes, muffins, and pancakes.
Here's an Apple Cobbler recipe to test it on.
Do you want to add butter to your recipe but are lactose intolerant? Try ghee. This is the same as butter, except it doesn't contain milk or lactose.
Of course, that also means the richness it adds to your goodies drops dramatically. Don't worry. Its nutty flavor is a nice compromise.
Also, remember that milk and milk fats are what moisturize your dough when you use butter, but since these are absent in ghee, so is the moist texture.
This may cause your bake to be crumbly and dry, but you can compensate for it by increasing the proportions of other liquid ingredients in the recipe.
You can use a 1:1 ratio when substituting butter with ghee but don't forget to add water or milk.
Best for bread, cookies, biscuits, and pancakes.
5. Vegetable Oil or Olive Oil
As I've mentioned, margarine comes from vegetable oils. Ergo, the good old vegetable oil should also work as a butter substitute in baking.
Vegetable oil has a neutral taste, making it an ideal alternative for sweet and savory baked goods. Nonetheless, the distinct flavor of olive oil is better for biscuits, bread, and dark chocolate.
The only problem I see with these substitutes is they don't enhance the richness of your baked goods, nor are they the healthiest alternatives.
Replace every cup of butter in the recipe with ¾ cup of vegetable or olive oil.
Best for cakes, biscuits, bread, and chocolate baked goods.
Do you want to see how good it blends with chocolate? Check out this Ultimate Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake recipe and taste what I mean.
6. Pumpkin Puree
Got some extra pumpkins from Halloween? Make pumpkin puree! This butter substitute in baking contains many antioxidants and vitamins that boost the immune system.
Aside from its nutritional content, pumpkin puree adds a nice sweet flavor to your baked goods. What I love about this is it doesn't go bad rather quickly.
So, if you made too much, transfer it to an airtight container and let it sit in the freezer until you need a butter substitute again.
However, remember that pumpkin puree is denser than butter, so you should only use around ¾ cup for every cup of butter in the recipe.
Also, don't be surprised if your baked goods turn out to be more orange-ish in color than usual. That's just a side effect of using pumpkins.
Best for quick bread, cakes, muffins, and pancakes.
7. Mashed Bananas
If you want to keep riding the health train, here's another healthy substitute: mashed banana. Bananas are highly nutritious fruits, and you don't have to add anything else when using them as a butter alternative.
Surprisingly, bananas are 75% water, so they significantly increase the moisture content of your dough or batter.
They're also naturally sweet but sometimes a little too sweet. So, you may want to reduce the proportions of other sweet ingredients in your recipe.
Mashed bananas will also give your baked goods a strong fruity flavor that may surprise some. I suggest you ensure first that the people you're serving like banana-flavored goodies.
You can use mashed bananas as a substitute for butter in baking in a 1:1 ratio.
Best for cakes, cookies, quick bread, and, of course, pancakes!
Try it on this Banana Pancakes recipe.
8. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is one of the most popular butter substitutes for baking. Aside from moisture, yogurt adds a tasty flavor to your recipe.
One of the best things about this substitute is you can freeze it for future use. You can even use it as an egg substitute in various recipes, so stock up on it!
Greek yogurt also adds protein, healthy fat, calcium, and many other vitamins to your goodie. However, despite the high water content, it makes baked goods denser.
Pro-Tip: Go for plain or Greek yogurt for a neutral taste. Avoid flavored yogurts, as they can alter the overall taste of your recipe.
You can replace butter in the recipe with Greek yogurt in a 1:1 ratio.
Best for quick bread, cakes, and waffles.
Buttermilk has a significantly lower fat content than butter, and yet it's very capable of tenderizing flour and giving baked goodies a soft texture.
Since it comes from milk, buttermilk will add rich flavor to your recipe. You can buy it in cartons in grocery stores nationwide, but you can also make it at home.
Just grab a cup of milk and add a tablespoon of citric ingredients like vinegar or lemon juice. If you go with vinegar, use white vinegar since it has the most neutral flavor.
This ensures you don't alter the flavor profile of your recipe. Remember that buttermilk is the liquid by-product of making butter, so don't expect too much from it.
Because it's liquid, you must use less of it so as not to end up with an extremely moist baked good. Use it as a substitute in a 1:½ ratio (1 cup of butter = ½ cup of buttermilk).
Best for cookies, pancakes, bread, and cakes.
Here's a Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins recipe to test it on.
10. Mashed Avocado
Fruit purees tend to make your baked goods denser than normal, but they add a lot of nutrients to your recipe, so I always make it a point to include them in my lists.
Among these butter substitutes in baking, one of my favorites is mashed avocado. It adds a unique flavor to your recipe and may take some time to get used to.
Nonetheless, mashed avocados infuse vitamins C, E, and K to your baked goods. It might even give your goodies a cool greenish hue.
But remember that mashed avocados contain a lot of moisture, so reduce the proportions of other liquid ingredients in your recipe.
Use avocado puree as a substitute for butter in a 1:1 ratio.
Best for chocolate-flavored baked goods.
11. Nut Butter
I have good news for you if you're a fan of nut-flavored baked goods. Nut butter works as a butter alternative in baking.
However, store-bought nut butter contains high levels of calories, fats, and sugar. So, I suggest you just make your own at home with macadamia, cashew, or almond nuts.
Peanut is your best option since it reduces the fat content to around 50% but retains its water content at 20%. The fat content is still relatively high, so don't always use this as a substitute.
Nonetheless, peanut does not contain hydrogenated fat, so it's a little healthier than store-bought nut butter.
Replace butter with nut butter in a 1:1 ratio. You can also add half a cup of coconut, olive, or vegetable oil to the mix for a soft texture.
Best for cookies.
Check out this Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies recipe.
12. Cheese or Cream Cheese
If dairy is not a problem, try substituting butter with cheese. No, not the solid cheese you see in blocks but the softer ones like ricotta or cottage cheese.
Take it a step further and go for cream cheese! Its consistency is very similar to butter, but you must ensure you don't go for cheese variants or brands that are too watery.
Also, check the label and look for the fat content before purchasing. Some cheese or cream cheese brands have lower fat content than butter.
This can make it more challenging to achieve a similar effect, like tenderizing gluten strands on the flour that softens your baked goods.
Go for the ones with the highest fat content to make them a suitable substitute for butter. Use it in a 1:1 ratio.
Best for toast, cakes, frosting, and muffins
The fat content is one of the most important parts of butter in baking. That's why substitutes like lard will work just as great in several recipes.
Lard is the fat that you get from animal meat. Ergo, you may want to avoid this substitute if you're following a plant-based diet.
Even though it's pure fat, lard has a lower saturated fat content than butter. However, I suggest using it in less sweet baked goods since it comes from meat.
Use ¾ cup of lard for every cup of butter called for in the recipe.
Best for savory pie crusts.
This substitute should work well with this Custard Pie recipe.
14. Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes have the same texture and consistency as butter, so they can work as a substitute in baking. However, potato is a starchy vegetable with a very low-fat content.
Ergo, it doesn't add much to the tenderness of your baked goods. Nonetheless, you can use it in recipes that don't require too much volume or an airy texture.
Mashed potatoes may also add a distinct flavor to your recipe. It's best for recipes that are more savory instead of sweet unless you're using sweet potato.
Use ¾ cup of mashed potatoes to replace 1 cup of butter in the recipe.
Best for bread, muffins, and pancakes.
How to Choose a Butter Substitute for Baking
You can't just choose one among these butter substitutes and use it in all baking recipes. You have to make sure it works for the specific recipe you're making.
To help with that, here are some considerations when choosing a substitute for butter in baking.
Fat and Water Content
The fat and water content are the most important things to consider when looking for a butter substitute. These play crucial roles in tenderizing and moisturizing your baked goods.
Ergo, try to look for a substitute with the closest fat and water content which is 80%/20%. Nonetheless, don't hesitate to compensate by increasing the portions of liquid ingredients if the water content is too low.
One thing I love about using butter in baking recipes is the rich flavor it adds to the baked goods without increasing their sweetness. That's something you must be mindful of when using a substitute.
While that's not a problem for some alternatives, others, like applesauce and mashed bananas, can cause your baked goods to be overwhelmingly sweet.
Remember to decrease the portions of sugar in the recipe to compensate for the extra sweetness these butter alternatives bring to the table.
Here's something many people overlook when using butter substitutes in baking; melting point. Butter melts at 35 degrees Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
This plays a crucial role in volumizing your baked goods (especially in cookies) as it allows the butter to create air pockets at the right moment during baking.
Try to determine the melting point of a substitute before using it to replace butter in the recipe. Sometimes, a higher melting temperature may improve the finished product, especially when baking cookies.
The last thing you must consider is the additional flavors a substitute brings to the recipe. This probably isn't a problem for milk-based substitutes.
However, for fruit purees like applesauce, mashed bananas, avocados, and pumpkin, you must ensure the extra flavor blends well with your other ingredients.
Butter Substitute (Baking) FAQs
Margarine, ghee, Greek yogurt, and coconut oil are some of the best butter substitutes you can use in baking, but remember to consult your recipe and ensure these alternatives' properties will benefit your baked goods.
You can use margarine to substitute butter in baking. It provides a softer texture to your baked goods, making it the perfect alternative for baking cookies, cakes, and muffins.
Fruit purees, Greek yogurt, and coconut oil are the healthiest butter substitutes in baking. They offer similar effects while reducing the risks brought by the fat content in butter. However, each of these substitutes will alter your recipe in one way or another, so be mindful of that as well.
Butter is still the best ingredient to use in baking. Its fat and water content provide nothing but benefits to baked goods, and its richness enhances the overall flavor profile of your recipe. The only exception is if you're making cookies since margarine will do a better job softening the final product.
Finding the Best Butter Substitute for Baking
Baking is a household activity we all enjoy, and because of that, we will inevitably face recipes that include butter.
When looking for a butter substitute (baking), you must determine why you're replacing it. This will lead you to an alternative that will work best for your recipe.
If you have other ingredients you want to replace, be it because you're trying to find a healthier alternative or are following a plant-based diet, visit Also The Crumbs, Please.
I'll lead you to the best substitutes for the most common and rarest ingredients we use in the kitchen.
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Butter Substitute in Baking
- Large pan
- Small container
Option 1 (Margarine)
- 1 cup margarine
Option 2 (Coconut Oil)
- 5 cups coconut milk
Option 3 (Applesauce)
- 2-3 apples
- ¼ cup water
Option 1 (Margarine)
- Use 1 cup of margarine to replace 1 cup of butter in the recipe.
Option 2 (Coconut Oil)
- Pour 5 cups of coconut milk into a large pan and let it simmer over low heat. (Don't set it to high heat, as this can overcook the coconut milk)
- Wait for the coconut oil to rise to the top as the coconut milk simmers.
- Turn the heat off and let the coconut milk cool down.
- Use a sieve to strain and separate the coconut oil from the coconut milk.
- Transfer the coconut oil to a small container.
- Use 1 cup of coconut oil to replace 1 cup of butter in the recipe.
- Store the remaining coconut oil in an airtight container. (Shelf-life: 6 to 9 months)
Option 3 (Applesauce)
- Peel the apples before placing them in the blender with ¼ cup of water.
- Process the apples for 1 to 3 minutes or until they become puree.
- Use the applesauce as a substitute for butter in a 1:1 ratio.
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