Skip to Content

Can I Substitute Butter for Oil in Brownies?

There are only two things not to love about brownies. One is arguing about which is better, edge brownies vs. middle-cut brownies. And two is craving brownies and not having enough oil in the pantry to make them.

Personally, I’m a moderate when it comes to brownies — I love edge and middle-cut brownies equally. Go ahead and argue this point in the comments, while I get to the BIG question: Is it cool to substitute butter for oil in brownies?

Chocolate brownie squares on serving plate.
Source: Envato.

Can you substitute butter for oil in brownies?

Yes, you can substitute butter for oil in brownies. The replacement will change the texture and possibly the taste of your favorite chocolate snack.

Texture. Let’s tackle the textural issue first. I consulted with Chummys Bakery owner Hope Bell for a pro-baker’s opinion. Bell says that using butter in lieu of oil can lighten the texture of your brownies, so it’s more like cake.

Butter can result in a lighter, more cake-like texture in brownies, making them a great choice for those who prefer a less dense treat.

Hope Bell – Owner of the Chummys Bakery.

Here’s why that happens. Butter is primarily composed of fat (80%), milk solids (5%), and water (15%). The amount of water in your brownies impacts and thickens the flour, making it less airy and tender in texture. Because vegetable oil is only fat, this does not happen.

Whether the lighter texture improves your brownies or destroys them is a matter of personal preference. (I’m taking a moderate stance here too. They’re not better or worse, just different.)

Taste. If you use unsalted butter instead of oil, your brownies may taste richer. A salted butter may add some flavor complexity alongside that buttery richness.

How to make brownies with butter instead of oil

When you swap in butter for oil in a brownie recipe, you’ll measure out the same amount of butter as the recipe advises for the oil. So, if the recipe says 1/2 cup of oil, use 1/2 cup of butter. Note that 1 stick of butter equals 1/2 cup. There are tablespoon markers and 1/3 cup markers on a butter stick’s wrapper.

Once you’ve measure the butter, melt it slightly in saucepan over low heat or in the microwave, 15 seconds at a time. (If you overheat butter in the microwave, it splatters.) Let the melted butter cool slightly and then mix it into your batter as if it were the oil.

Are there other oil substitutes for brownies?

Why, yes, there are other oil substitutes for brownies and I have the best of them listed below. For more detail, see my post on substituting for vegetable oil in brownies.

  • Any other oil: You can swap in any oil for vegetable oil on a 1:1 ratio. Try canola, olive, or avocado.
  • Mashed banana: Use 3/4-cup mashed banana for each 1 cup of vegetable oil.
  • Applesauce: Use 3/4-cup applesauce for each 1 cup of vegetable oil. Reduce sugar slightly.
  • Vegetable puree: Use 3/4-cup vegetable puree for each 1 cup of vegetable oil.
  • Cornstarch: Use 1/2 cup of cornstarch and water for 1/2 cup of vegetable oil.
  • Plain yogurt: Use 3/4-cup yogurt or sour cream for each 1 cup of vegetable oil.
  • Shortening: Substitute shortening for oil on a 1:1 ratio.

FAQs on making brownies with butter

Is butter better for you than oil?

Butter contains saturated fat and cholesterol, two things that are linked to heart disease. So, no, butter is not better for you than oil.

Most vegetable oils are low in saturated fat and have no cholesterol. Note that coconut oil is 80% saturated fat.

Will my brownies taste different if I use butter?

Using butter instead of oil usually enhances the flavor of brownies by adding a rich, creamy element.

You have to be more careful about flavor changes when substituting other oils for vegetable oil. Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and sunflower oil will add flavor to your brownies. If you’re not ready to mess with your perfect brownie recipe, stick with light oils. Canola oil and avocado oils are good options.

Will my brownies look different when I substitute for oil?

Swapping butter for oil won’t change the appearance of your brownies significantly. Fruit or vegetable purees used in lieu of oil may change the color. If you decide to use mashed avocado instead of oil, for example, expect the green of the avocado to appear in your brownies.

How can I keep brownies from getting greasy?

Brownies made with butter can sometimes become extra sticky or greasy. This happens because the fat can separate from the batter and the grease ends up at the edges of your brownies.

You can avoid this by adding a little more milk to the batter. The milk acts as a binding agent to hold the ingredients together.

Is it better to make brownies with oil or butter?

There’s no definitive answer to whether it’s better to bake brownies with oil or butter. Oil delivers a classically chewy, decadent great. Butter creates a lighter, cakier result with a creamier flavor.

From a health perspective, cholesterol-free and dairy-free vegetable oil might have an advantage over butter.

Final thoughts

Can you make brownies with butter instead of oil? Yes, you can. Simply melt the butter then let it cool slightly before adding to your batter in the same measurement as the oil. If the recipe uses a lot of oil, add a tablespoon of milk to the batter to hold everything together. You might need to extend the cooking time also for 2 minutes.

Expect better flavor and a slight change in texture.

Give the butter substitution a shot and let me know how those brownies turn out — along with your argument for middle brownies vs. edge brownies ?.