Butter is a staple ingredient in many recipes but is not always the healthiest option. If your doctor constantly reminds you to watch your cholesterol, you should investigate some replacement options for those buttery recipes. Fortunately, several butter substitutes can provide the rich, creamy flavor and texture you need in your recipe.
Why use a butter substitute?
There are several reasons you may need a butter substitute in your recipe. Maybe you’ve simply run out of butter, and it’s too late to run to the store. Or perhaps you’re lactose intolerant or are hosting a dinner party with a lactose-intolerant guest. Finding a dairy-free butter swap is crucial in these situations. Or maybe you’re trying to cut back on the cholesterol and fat in your diet. Although it’s true that not all fat is bad, and healthy fats are an important part of a well-rounded diet, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. In all of these cases, you’ll need a good butter substitute.
1. Olive Oil
Olive oil is an exceptional butter substitute, especially for sautéing and frying. The natural consistency of olive oil is similar to room temperature or melted butter, and it imparts a rich, savory flavor to dishes. Olive oil is also a healthier option than pure butter, as it’s high in monounsaturated fats, which can help lower cholesterol levels. When substituting olive oil for butter, use a 3:4 ratio, or ¾ cup of olive oil for every cup of butter called for in a recipe. Using olive oil as your butter swap is ideal for savory dishes such as pasta dishes, roasted vegetables, and mashed potatoes. Olive oil doesn’t work quite as well for finishing sauces or pureed soups. Heavy cream might serve as a better butter replacement for that rich flavor.
2. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is another popular butter substitute, especially in baking. It has a rich, sweet flavor and a texture similar to butter, making it a solid choice for cookies, cakes, flaky pie crusts, and other baked goods. Although olive oil and coconut oil have almost the same number of calories and grams of fat, they aren’t quite the same when it comes to health. Coconut oil tends to be higher in saturated fat, so it should be used in moderation. When using coconut oil as a butter substitute, stick with a 1:1 ratio, meaning you’ll use the same amount of coconut oil as the amount of butter called for in the recipe.
Avocado is a smart go-to when in need of a healthier butter substitute. Using avocado can dramatically cut the fat in a recipe and add a dose of vitamins and minerals (as well as a rich, nutty flavor). One note is that avocado doesn’t melt like butter does, so it won’t mix with your dry ingredients in the same way. To compensate for this, include a little more of the wet ingredients than your recipe calls for. When substituting avocado for butter, use a 1:1 ratio, and ensure that the avocado is thoroughly mashed or pureed before adding it. Avocado shines when used to whip up chocolate cake or brownies.
4. Nut Butters
Nut butters, such as cashew or almond butter, can be a fantastic substitute for butter, especially in baked treats or as a spread on toast. Even peanut butter works here, which everyone has in their pantry. These vegan butters have the same spreadability and texture as traditional butter, making them a great substitute for recipes that call for a creamy ingredient. Beyond that, nut butters tend to be a healthier option as well. Although their fat content is similar, nut butters are higher in monounsaturated fats, also known as the good kind of fat. Nut butters are helpful for your waistline, too. Just like avocado, you’ll use a 1:1 ratio when replacing butter with nut butters.
Applesauce is one of the best butter substitutes, especially when moisture and sweetness are critical to the recipe. It adds the flavor and texture you need without adding calories or fat, and it’s also an excellent option for people who are vegan or lactose intolerant. Use applesauce in a 1:1 ratio in your baking recipes and quick breads, and try to include only unsweetened applesauce or your batter may turn out too sweet (or too apple-y).
Ghee is a type of clarified butter commonly used in Indian cuisine. What exactly does this mean? The clarification process slowly removes all the water from the butter, making ghee extra rich and tasty. Since this process removes the milk solids, it has less lactose, making it a good option for anyone with lactose intolerance. This dairy product is perfect for sautéing, frying, and roasting, and it’s also handy in recipes like rice pilaf, curries, and roasted vegetables (although you can use it in almost any recipe that calls for butter). Simply replace the butter with ghee in a 1:1 ratio.
7. Pumpkin Puree
Pumpkin puree is a delicious plant-based butter substitute that adds both moisture and a sweet, nutty flavor to recipes. It’s also an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants, thanks to the beta carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E in pumpkins. Not only are you swapping your butter with a lower-fat option, but you’re also packing a nutritional punch with pumpkin puree. Pumpkin puree works best in recipes that require a bit of moisture, such as cakes, muffins, and bread. Like olive oil, you should use it in a 3:4 ratio to butter — meaning for every cup of butter that the recipe calls for, you should use ¾ cup of pumpkin puree.
8. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a versatile butter and buttermilk substitute that works well in savory and sweet dishes. It’s a top-notch source of protein and calcium and boasts a tangy flavor and creamy texture that may contribute to an overall denser final recipe. Use Greek yogurt as a butter swap for only up to one cup of Greek yogurt — after that, stick with a stick of butter, if possible. Otherwise, Greek yogurt tends to dominate the flavor and texture of the dish. Greek yogurt is perfect for recipes like dips, salad dressings, and baked goods like muffins and cakes.
9. Safflower Oil
Safflower oil is another great option for those looking for a good substitute for butter. It has a mild, neutral flavor and a high smoke point, making it ideal for high-heat cooking methods like frying and baking. Additionally, safflower oil is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, so it’s a healthier option than butter for those watching their saturated fat intake. Although olive oil may be slightly healthier than safflower oil (thanks to its high antioxidant content), the two oils are comparable. Like olive oil, you’ll substitute ¾ cup of safflower oil for every cup of butter your recipe calls for. Safflower oil is perfect for baked goods such as cakes, chocolate chip cookies, muffins, and savory dishes like stir-fries and roasted vegetables.
No butter? No problem.
And there you have it — nine of the best substitutes for both cooking and baking with butter. Whether you’re serving someone with a lactose intolerance, ran out of butter, or are simply trying to drop your cholesterol a bit, replacing the butter in a recipe with a slightly healthier option is always a good idea. With these options in your pantry or fridge, you’ll be all set to create a butter-free recipe you’ll come back to over and over again.