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What Are the Best Substitutes for Butter?

Slab of Butter on Parchment Paper

Butter is a common spread and baking ingredient.

Yet despite its popularity, some people avoid butter for
various reasons.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to enjoy foods without
it.

This article explores the various ingredients that can be used
as butter alternatives.

Reasons Why You Might Need to Replace Butter

There are a few reasons why you may need to find a substitute
for butter in
your diet.

Milk Allergy

While butter is very low in protein, it still contains a small
amount of
casein
, which is a protein in milk that can be allergenic
(1).

If you have a milk allergy, it’s important to be cautious of
your butter intake. You may need to avoid it completely if your
allergy is severe.

Lactose Intolerance

People with lactose intolerance tend to tolerate the small
amounts of lactose in
butter
without adverse reactions (2).

However, some are more sensitive to lactose than others and may
have to avoid butter for this reason.

Health Reasons

Some individuals avoid butter because it’s high in saturated
fat
, which was previously believed to cause heart disease.
However, new studies have shown that this isn’t the case
(3, 4, 5).

That being said, some studies suggest that the saturated fats
in butter may raise cholesterol more than the saturated fats in
other dairy products, such as cream (6).

Also, butter is high in fat and therefore high in calories.
People who are trying to reduce calories may want to cut back
on butter for this reason.

Others choose to limit their butter intake because it isn’t
very nutritious when compared to its high number of calories
per serving (7).



Bottom Line: Some people may need to avoid
butter due to milk allergies or lactose intolerance, while
others avoid it for personal health reasons.

Butter’s Purpose in Baking

Girl Sitting at a Table with Eight Blocks of Butter

Butter is used in baking as a leavening agent, meaning it
introduces air into baked goods and makes them light and
fluffy.

Additionally, butter contributes to the flaky, moist texture of
baked goods, as well as their rich and tasty flavors.

Without these properties, baked goods might be flat, dry and
flavorless.

The good news is that there are plenty of delicious butter
alternatives that can serve the same purposes in baking.

Bottom Line: Butter functions as a leavening
agent in baked goods, and it also provides texture and
flavor.

Fats and Oils That Can Replace Butter in Baking

The following fats and oils have properties that are comparable
to butter, making them great substitutes.

Ghee

Ghee on a Wooden Spoon

Ghee is a type of clarified butter with an
aromatic and nutty taste.

In baked goods where a strong, buttery flavor is desirable, it
can replace butter at a 1-to-1 ratio.

Substituting ghee for butter works best with items that are
baked at high temperatures and served warm, such as breads and
cookies.

However, it provides more moisture than butter does, so you may
need to alter the amount of liquid and flour added to recipes
when using ghee.

Coconut Oil

A Jar of Coconut Oil and a Teaspoon


Coconut oil
can also replace butter in baking at a 1-to-1
ratio.

The one downfall is that it may slightly change the flavor,
with some types of coconut oil affecting taste more than
others.

Unrefined coconut oil tends to taste more “coconut-like” than
refined coconut oil. It works great for recipes that require
tropical or rich chocolate flavors.

If coconut is not the flavor you’re looking for, you can use a
more refined brand of coconut oil or a different substitute.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil in a Glass Bottle and Three Green Olives and Leaves

In most recipes, olive
oil
can be substituted for butter at a 3-to-4 ratio.

For example, if the recipe calls for one cup of butter, you
will replace it with 3/4 cups of olive oil.

Since olive oil is a liquid, it’s not a proper butter
substitute in recipes that need the fat to remain solid or that
require a lot of creaming, such as frosting and angel food
cake.

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Olive oil’s strong flavor works well in recipes that have a
fruity, nutty or savory quality, such as pumpkin bread or
muffins.

Bottom Line: Ghee, coconut oil and olive oil
have properties that are comparable to butter, which make
them appropriate baking substitutes.

Other Substitutes for Butter in Baking

Four Bananas and an Avocado

Most of the foods listed below can function as butter in
recipes at a 1-to-1 ratio.

However, many of them have a higher water content than butter
does, which may increase the moistness of baked goods.

To maintain the texture and mouthfeel of the original recipe,
you may want to reduce the amount of other liquids in the
recipe. Adding extra flour can also help.

Replacing butter with foods is often a matter of trial and
error. It may work well in some recipes, but not others.

This is especially true when it comes to taste. Many butter
substitutes have unique flavors, which may or may not work
depending on what flavor you are looking for.

In general, the following foods work best as butter
replacements in cakes, muffins, cookies, brownies and quick
breads:

  • Applesauce: Applesauce significantly reduces
    the amount of calories and fat in baked goods. Yet it does
    add sweetness, so you may want to reduce the amount of sugar
    added to recipes when using applesauce.
  • Avocados:
    Avocados
    add nutrients and healthy fats to recipes. Use
    dark-colored ingredients like chocolate to cover up the green
    tint that may result from using avocados.
  • Mashed bananas: Using mashed bananas
    provides extra nutrients and decreases the calorie and fat
    content. Add banana to batters slowly, until the desired
    consistency is reached.
  • Greek yogurt: Using Greek yogurt increases
    the protein in recipes and replaces sweetness with a tangy
    flavor. Full-fat yogurt is best for keeping baked goods
    creamy and tender.
  • Nut butters: Nut butters infuse baked goods
    with a nutty taste and tend to make them more dense and
    heavy.
  • Pumpkin puree: This is a nutrient-rich
    butter replacement. Use 3/4 the amount of pumpkin puree when
    substituting for butter.

Bottom Line: Several foods make great butter
substitutes. Some of them may change the flavor and
consistency of baked goods, which is important to keep in
mind when making changes to recipes.

Substitutes for Butter as Spread

Slice of Bread with Peanut Butter

Butter is widely used as a spread for bread, crackers and other
food items.

If you don’t eat butter, you can still enjoy spreads on your
foods.

The following foods have consistencies that are ideal for
spreads, in addition to being tasty and nutritious:

  • Olive oil: Combine some olive oil with basil
    and pepper for a zesty spread.
  • Nut butter: Peanut and almond butter can
    easily be spread on toast or crackers.
  • Cheese: Try cottage cheese, cream cheese or
    ricotta.
  • Avocado: Lightly spread a tablespoon or two
    of ripe avocado over toast.
  • Hummus: Hummus works great for spreading and
    dipping.

Bottom Line: There are a variety of healthy
foods that can replace butter’s function as a spread for
bread, crackers and other food items.

What NOT to Replace Butter With

The two most important ingredients to avoid when finding a
butter substitute are margarine
and vegetable oil.

Both of these products are highly processed and often include
inflammatory trans
fats
(8, 9, 10).

Baked goods aren’t that healthy in the first place, but it’s
still important to keep the quality of the ingredients in mind
when you treat yourself.

Additionally, vegetable oil doesn’t provide much when it comes
to flavor and texture.

Bottom Line: To maintain the quality and
flavor of baked goods, you should never use margarine or
vegetable oil as a butter alternative.

Take Home Message

There are plenty of delicious and healthy foods that can
replace butter in baking and as a spread.

When baking, experiment with various alternatives to see which
provide the desired consistency and flavor for your recipes.

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