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What Can I Substitute For Butter?

It’s no doubt that butter’s rich and creamy taste can be hard to replace. And it’s why we’ve been eating dairy food for centuries and still can’t get enough. Butter is also quite versatile and appears in many dishes around us. But sometimes, we can’t eat it or do away with it for certain reasons.

Of course, this shouldn’t give you the impression that there’s nothing to be done, as butter surprisingly has lots of replacement options. And with them comes a wave of opportunities to experience something fresh and unique. Before talking about these substitutes, let’s first explain why butter is so irresistible, and perhaps we shall have a broader idea of how these replacements can easily do their job.

What Can I Substitute for Butter (2)

Butter Nutrition Facts

What Can I Substitute for Butter

What Makes Butter So Good?

You may have eaten butter for years without knowing what it is, so if you’re one of such people, then that changes today. Butter is typically a combination of fat, milk, and proteins, and the reason is that it’s gotten from animal milk. Most butter varieties are derived from cow’s milk, but you’ll also find options made from goat, sheep, and even buffalo milk. The processing involves churning the milk so the solid separates, straining out these solids, draining them, and pressing them into a rigid block.

Butter is typically comprised of 80% milkfat, as is the recommended FDA standard for its product. However, the rest is mostly proteins and water, which explains why it’s considered high-fat food. It can also be kept at room temperature or in cold storage and burns quickly due to its low smoke point. But all these aren’t why we love butter so much.

Because it’s made mostly of milk fat, you experience a rich and creamy taste when butter is eaten. It’s why the ingredient is commonly added to anything you cook or bake and can even be eaten as it is. Butter is also as versatile as it is tasty and comes in many varieties, some of which include;

Sweet Cream Butter: Derived from pasteurized cream and can come salted or unsalted.

Cultured Butter: Churned from fermented milk, a tangy, somewhat sour flavor, with a slight blend of extra complexity.

Raw Butter: Made from raw, unpasteurized milk, short shelf life.

Clarified Butter: Pure butterfat, derived by simmering butter at low heat and skimming the oil-like solids after the water evaporates.

European-style butter: Butter with more butterfat than its American counterparts – at least 82%- giving it a richer flavor and texture.

Spreadable or Whipped Butter: Butter that’s soft at room temperature so that it can spread on bread.

Ghee: A nuttier, toastier version of clarified butter, synonymous with Indian cuisine.

Uses of Butter in Recipes

Butter is added to recipes as a fat source, resulting in a rich and creamy taste. It’s also a great way to infuse thickness to liquid recipes or a tasty drizzle over meat, fish, seafood, or vegetables. You can also use it as a base for stir-fries and sautés, as it contributes a good dose of browning and intense flavor in a short time.

In baking, it helps leaven the dough by letting air mix with the flour, resulting in more lightness and fluff. It also encourages flakiness and moisture, bringing forth tender baked goods with a rich flavor.

You’ll find butter in tons of dishes and recipes around you, some of which include;

Substitutes for Butter

So, if butter is so great, why would anyone need a substitute? Well, like most other ingredients out there, butter does come with its pros and cons. The pros, we already know, as we can attest to its rich and creamy flavor and versatile functions in baking and cooking. But the cons limit who can eat butter, which is why we should point them out.

In a nutshell, people will need a butter substitute if;

  • They have a milk allergy due to the presence of casein, the milk protein,
  • They’re lactose-intolerant and can’t consume foods made from dairy,
  • They’re vegans and don’t eat animal-sourced proteins,
  • They’re worried about butter’s high saturated fat content and potency to raise blood cholesterol, or
  • They’re on a low-calorie diet.

The following ingredients below can work as excellent butter substitutes in such cases.



If you’re making or frying a recipe, and discover you’re out of butter, then grab a tub of mayonnaise and use that instead. Mayonnaise offers as much richness and moisture as butter and will lift the flavor of your recipe. You can also use garlic bread or pot pies and expect a decent crumb with enough moisture. And it’s an excellent option to consider when next you’re making mashed potatoes. Use mayonnaise in equal amounts as butter for such dishes.



For those seeking the healthier alternative, the applesauce works perfectly in place of butter. It works best in baked goods, especially cupcakes, muffins, cakes, and quick bread. Applesauce is a good source of moisture and will help bind ingredients in the batter when added. But it also produces a denser result, so consider supporting with a bit of olive oil. You can use equal applesauce to replace butter but stick with the unsweetened varieties for a more neutral flavor.

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil

What behaves like butter but isn’t? The answer is coconut oil! It replicates all the good features of butter, including its room-temperature solid form, and melts just as easily. And it gives an added advantage of being super tasty, thanks to its nutty coconut flavor-though the refined option has a neutral taste. You can use equal coconut oil for butter in cooking and baking. But note that it creates a crumbly pie crust and crunchier cookies.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil

A bottle of your typical olive oil will work to replace butter in many situations. And because of its source, it’s a healthy alternative perfect for those watching their cholesterol levels. Olive oil works best as a substitute for melted butter, especially in cooking. And while its flavor may be somewhat more pronounced, it can also function in baking recipes in small amounts. Use equal measurements of olive oil for butter.

Nut or Seed Butter

Nut or Seed butter

If you don’t have a nut allergy, any tub of pure nut butter will work as a regular butter substitute. Almond, hazelnut, cashew nut, and peanut butter work great, but you can also consider seed varieties like sunflower butter. These types contribute healthy fats to the system and blend well in baked recipes. They’re also good for spreading and can help lift the flavor of vegan recipes like hummus or salads. But note that nut and seed butter will contribute their distinct flavor to your recipe. Once this is noted, you can use them in equal amounts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I use margarine instead of butter?

In some cases, yes. Margarine works as a butter substitute in recipes that require melted butter. But it won’t be a good option in cases like cakes and cookies, which call for the gentle texture of softened butter. If used, the cakes will be stiff, and the cookies will be less crisp and spread out more.

What can replace butter in baking?

Options like applesauce, mashed bananas, avocados, nut butter, Greek yogurt, pumpkin puree, and ghee can replace butter in baking. But note that each substitute comes with a distinct flavor that will influence the final taste of your dish. For instance, nut butter will contribute specific flavors to your cookies, and mashed avocados will give your cakes a grassy taste. Also, mashed fruits and applesauce will add more sweetness to the baked goods, while Greek yogurt will infuse a somewhat tangy taste to the final result.

Can I substitute oil for butter in a cake?

Yes, you can, but it helps to stick to a certain measurement. Adding oil to the batter will change the consistency, so it’s best not to use too much. Also, the flavor of the oil may surface in the final result, so take note. Regardless, you can swap every cup of butter with one cup of oil or reduce it by three tablespoons if you’re wary of fat levels. And oil works in cakes, cupcakes, rolls, muffins, and bread recipes.


Running out of butter may not be an issue, as you can always get a fresh batch at a later time. But in times when you can’t or have to take it off your diet, you’ll be glad to have these substitutes. Each option listed suits specific dietary and health needs, making this list an ultimate cheat sheet for solving the problem. So, refer to it the next time you find yourself in a jam for butter.

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