14 Substitutes for Butter

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Need a butter substitute for your recipe? No problem! Here’s a list of alternatives. It may be surprising to see beans, avocados, and applesauce as replacements, but they work!

Various substitutes for butter including avocado, apple sauce, oil, and beans.

These days, baking creativity abounds for many reasons: health concerns, not enough butter on hand, allergies, and taste variations, to name a handful. Many home bakers might think that all is lost without their favorite types of butter, but that’s far from true.

Depending on the type of recipe and your dietary restrictions, various healthier dairy, and plant-based alternatives can be used in your favorite baking recipes.

Best butter substitutes

When a recipe calls for butter, here are some common substitutes and things to know about each that can help achieve the creamy taste and texture you enjoy.

Margarine

A stick of margarine on a white plate.

Margarine is a good plant-based fat to swap for butter or use together. It’s typically made from hydrogenated palm oil, which gives it a higher melting point, making cookies spread less than all butter, but it’s not as flavorful. I use equal parts of butter and margarine in my Soft sugar cookies.

The moisture in the butter creates steam, giving a nice dome shape and sweet flavor. Margarine is also great for savory applications like mashed potatoes, paired with plant-based milk to make it dairy-free but still have a rich flavor.

When substituting: Use as a 1:1 replacement for butter. This will give thicker cookies with less spread. It can be used in a pie crust for a super flaky texture.

Shortening

A stick on all-vegetable shortening with a few slices removed.

Bakers often grab shortening as a butter substitute for cookies. The difference between butter vs. shortening is simple. Shortening is made from plant-based fats. typically soybean, cottonseed oil, and palm oil to make it solid at room temperature. This gives a higher melting point, so cookies don’t spread as much.

Shortening works well for soft and thick snickerdoodle cookies that use equal parts butter and shortening. Shortening is 100 percent fat, compared to butter, around 80%. This means less water for gluten-formation, for more tender and crumbly cookies.

When substituting: Use as a 1:1 replacement for butter. This will give taller cookies with less spread. In cookies and pie crust, you can substitute 50% of the butter with shortening for a more balanced flavor and texture.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt in a wooden bowl with a spoon on top.

Greek yogurt is a dairy-based nutritional powerhouse that is excellent for eating as is, yet even better adding to baked recipes, like lemon yogurt cake or even homemade pancakes. In 8 ounces of whole milk Greek yogurt, there are 20 grams of protein, 190 calories, and 9 grams of fat (6 grams saturated).

There are even nonfat options so that you only get a dose of protein. However, the whole milk version will give the softest baked goods since fat is still added. It works well to add moisture and structure for quick bread and cakes.

When substituting: For every 8 ounces (1 cup) of butter, replace with ½ cup of Greek yogurt.

Nut Butters

Peanut butter in a small white bowl.

Nuts are tiny but mighty in that they naturally pack protein and fat. Skip the hydrogenated fat versions loaded with sugar, and look at the label for simply peanuts and salt as the ingredients. It works well in more dense products like cookies and bars.

Nut butter, like homemade peanut butter, is typically 50% fat compared to butter at 80%, so it needs some additional fat incorporated. Different types of nuts like peanuts, almonds, cashew, and macadamia will add their characteristic flavor, which is best for cookies, bars, cakes, brownies, muffins, and quick bread.

When substituting: A 1:1 replacement for butter can be used. Combine equal parts nut butter with oil before adding to a recipe. For example, mix ½ cup nut butter with ½ cup melted coconut oil until smooth.

Olive Oil

Olive oil in a clear glass jar.

There are so many types of cooking oils, but olive oil is a favorite because of its naturally rich taste and healthy unsaturated fat profile. Due to its savory and sometimes spicy flavor, olive oil isn’t always the best option for sweeter baked goods, so it’s best used in focaccia bread, certain muffins, pot pies, or pie crusts and biscuits.

When substituting: Choose a light olive oil for a more neutral taste or extra-virgin olive oil for a more robust flavor. For every 1 cup of butter, ¾ cup of oil should be used.

Bananas

Several peeled bananas in a bowl.

Mashed banana is a great substitute for butter and even oil for quick bread like muffins, loaves, cakes, and cupcakes. It’s also sweet, so you can reduce some added sugar. I like to add them to banana chocolate chip muffins and, of course, banana bread. The only con is it will have a strong flavor.

When substituting: Use equal parts of mashed banana for butter. Use ¾ cup of mashed banana for 1 cup of oil. Keep an eye on bake time, the extra sugar may brown the baked goods quicker.

Black Beans

Black beans in a clear glass jar.

Adding a bean puree to cut fat in baked goods provides fiber, protein, and other vitamins and minerals. Most types of beans can be used, like cannellini beans for a yellow cake and black beans are great for chocolate cakes and brownies.

The beans should be blended first to create a smooth puree. If needed, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time to make it easier to process. You can add oil (1 to 4 tablespoons) like melted coconut oil or vegetable oil to 15.5-ounces of beans and process for a creamier fat replacer.

When substituting: Bean puree can be replaced 100% for butter and yield a more cake-like texture, which is suitable for cakes, muffins, and quick bread.

Avocado

Cut open avocado and avocado oil in glass.

Avocados or avocado oil works well as a butter substitute for baking. After pureeing, use the exact ratio you would use with butter–It offers more vitamins and fiber, with health benefits, too. One Hass avocado tends to yield ¾ of a cup.

With avocado oil containing omega-3s and vitamin E, you must be a little more careful of the liquid-to-solid ratio. Avocados’ neutral flavor and creamy texture work well for darker-colored muffins, quick bread, brownie, and cookies.

When substituting: I use the same amount of avocado compared with the amount of butter called for in a recipe. With avocado oil, I use ⅞ cup to equal 1 cup of butter.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil in a jar and on a spoon.

Coconut oil is a popular choice, mainly because it cools as a solid, turns to liquid when warm, as butter does, and will help maintain thickness and viscosity in recipes like gluten-free cornbread muffins. Something to note with coconut oil is the taste. There isn’t too much difference (if any) in small amounts, but in recipes that require a lot of butter, more significant amounts of coconut oil may change the taste.

When substituting: Choosing refined coconut oil will yield a more neutral-tasting product than unrefined. I generally use the same amount of oil as the amount of butter called for in any one recipe.

Applesauce

Apple sauce puree in a white ramekin.

Applesauce replaces butter in recipes and adds additional natural sweetness if you want to reduce refined sugar when making zucchini bread. The cooked and pureed apples add structure and moisture to baked goods, plus extra fiber that helps bind water, keeping it in the baked product. Choose the unsweetened version to keep the calorie load at a minimum.

When substituting: You can replace 100% of the butter with applesauce. However, using fat from yogurt, nutter butter, or alternative oil can help prevent cakes, muffins, and quick bread from tasting too dry.

Pumpkin Puree

Bright orange pumpkin puree in a white ramekin.

It couldn’t be a more perfect match than using pumpkin puree to replace butter, especially for those seasonal fall and winter baking recipes like pumpkin bread. Each serving will pack more fiber and nutrients like beta-carotene, potassium, and vitamin K in each muffin, quick bread, or coffee cake slice.

When substituting: Homemade pumpkin puree can replace butter by 100%, as well as any oil, adding its orange color and sweet, earthy, and creamy flavor to the baked good.

Other Substitutions

Alternatively, you can also use the following as a replacement for butter:

  • Prune Puree – This substitute is best used when making brownies and cakes. Use ¾ cup puree for every 1 cup of butter.
  • A mixture of Applesauce and Buttermilk – The mixture, consisting of homemade buttermilk, tastes similar to butter in baked goods, and it works well with most recipes except pie crust.
  • Mayonnaise Homemade mayonnaise consists of oil and egg yolks. This ingredient adds moisture and richness to the baking good.  

The role of butter in baking

Of course, I love cooking with butter. Its high-fat content (around 80%, the rest mainly water and milk solids) makes it the near-unparalleled darling of baked goods–for dense, flaky, spongy cookies, cakes, pastries, and other things. Overall, certain items are best with butter, like pie crust, shortbread cookies, and puff pastries, as butter makes up the main ingredients, meaning fat content could be crucial for the recipe’s success.

Overall, butter is a leavening agent. When sugar combines with butter (and its fat), the granules beat into the fat and aerate it, giving baked goods texture and flavor. However, animal fat is also high in calories, cholesterol, and saturated fats (7 grams per tablespoon). It is a dairy product, so it may have to be avoided for people with specific diets or health concerns like lactose intolerance or milk allergy.

Stick of butter sliced into multiple pieces on a cutting board

Frequently asked questions

Can you substitute butter for oil?

Yes, you can melt the butter and use it in a 1:1 substitution, especially for cooking. However, it contains between 13 to 19% water, which can impact baked goods. Don’t overmix; it can increase gluten formation for a tougher product. Alternatively, you can add ¾ of the amount of butter for oil to reduce the amount of water, but the tenderness may be reduced with less fat.

Can you use oil instead of butter on turkey?

Yes! Because oil has no water, it will make the turkey skin crispy. It won’t be as deep golden brown without milk solids.

What oil tastes the most like butter?

Nothing tastes exactly like butter. However, olive oil makes a good swap, it’s slightly fruit and mild. Avocado oil will have the most neutral flavor with a high smoke point. Macadamia nut oil or coconut oil will have a rich taste and hint of sweetness.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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45 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Barbara Hansen says

    It is frustrating to have all these alternatives for butter and yet no measurements are listed. How much applesauce would be a substitute for a stick of butter, for example?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You can replace all of the butter with applesauce in muffins and quick breads, but I would start with a 50% swap so that the baked good doesn’t taste too dry.

      • Svenja says

        Hi i want to make brownies and was wondering if i could substitute the butter with apple sauce? The problem is that i only have sweetened apple sauce, should i then reduce some of the sugar in the recipe?

    • heather says

      She tells you the replacement ratios in the last paragraph of each item. For example butter is replaced by an equal amount of applesauce.

  2. Erin says

    Hi,
    I wanted to make a German apple cake and was wondering what the best substitute would be? I’m wondering how substituting 100% applesauce for butter in cake recipes affect the taste or texture and how does substituting Greek yogurt for butter affect the taste or texture. Or is it possible to substitute for butter using both Greek yogurt and applesauce?
    Thanks,

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I think that to balance reducing the fat level but keeping the cake moist would benefit from using applesauce and full or low-fat PLAIN greek yogurt. I would start with 50-75% apple sauce and 25-50% yogurt. Some greek yogurts are very tart, I like FAGE brand, it’s creamy but not so tangy. Let me know how it goes!

  3. Rohit Gangwani says

    What do you mean when you say ”combine equal parts nut butter with oil while you use it” for nut butters. because you already said substituion ratio should be 1:1. Explain please.

      • Rohit Gangwani says

        I see. Would it be better if I put nut butter and oil in a mixer and mix the two together so that oil also takes good butter like structure and serve its purpose better in baking? Thanks so much!

      • Angela says

        Do I have to blend the nut butter with the oil? Cant i just add them in the recipe, for example I have a granola recipe with equal amounts of oats and flour, plus melted butter and sugar.. I have to mix all if them in a bowl. Can’t I just mix the nut butter and oil in the bowl with the rest of ingredients? Or it is a must to first incorporate the butter and oil on their own??

  4. Faustina says

    Hi would like to make sweet and savoury pastry, but don’t like butter or margarine, what is the best substitutes that I can use please thank you

  5. Daniella says

    I’m searching for a dairy free substitute for the topping to my apple crisp. I’d also like to avoid coconut oil on account of its high saturated fat content. I’ve unsuccessfully used sunflower oil as substitute for butter. Can you make any suggestions? Thanks.

  6. Pam says

    Thank you so very much for your comprehensive list of butter options for baked goods. My 85 year old mom recently had a stroke that’s left her paralyzed on her left side. This has caused me to critique my own eating habits. While I don’t often eat butter or anything dense in animal fat, periodically, i bake cakes which call for butter.

    Your list of butter alternatives makes me feel much better informed and confident in my ability to turn out flavorful, heart healthy baked goods!

  7. Lisa says

    can I use cannellini bean puree for chocolate chip cookies and if the recipe calls for a cup of butter, how much bean puree should I use instead of the butter?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yes, you can use cannellini bean puree. I think you should use at least 1/2 cup of butter in the recipe and try 1/2 cup of bean puree. It may be denser and less crisp in texture. I’d love to know how it turns out!

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