Butter Not! 7 Go-To Butter Substitutes for Baking

Maybe you avoid butter for dietary or ethical reasons; perhaps you simply don’t have any butter in the house. Either way, there’s good news: you can use a butter substitute for baking and still end up with delicious results!

Butter substitutes

No butter? No problem. Use one of these substitutes in baking.

Photo via CakeSpy

Here, we’ll delve into the world of butter alternatives for baking.

We’ll cover when to use each type of substitute and any warnings or considerations for each. 

Coconut oil instead of butter

1. Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a popular butter substitute, particularly for the vegans among us. It’s healthy, it’s readily available, and it yields delicious results when substituted in an equal amount to the butter called for in a recipe.

The tricky thing with coconut oil is that while it is firm when slightly cool, it becomes liquid when warmed. This can prove tricky, but usually not fatal, with recipes that require creamed butter. If making a cake frosting such as our vegan buttercream with coconut oil, make sure that the oil is quite firm before you start your preparations. 

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2. Fruit purée

In certain recipes, you can use an equal quantity of pureed soft fruit instead of butter. Applesauce is one of the most famous and versatile puréed fruits for dairy-free baking, and it can step in for part or all of the butter in most cake and quick bread recipes.

However, substituting applesauce can alter the finished texture of your project. This informative post from The Cupcake Project details the results of extensive testing for substituting applesauce for butter.

When it comes to frostings or fillings, it’s easy to substitute all sorts of pureed fruits for the butter in your recipe. For instance, did you know that you can make buttercream using banana or avocado? 

3. Lard 

Lard is an animal-based fat, so this option wouldn’t be appropriate for vegans. However, if you’re not vegan and simply need a dairy-free substitute, lard could fit the bill.

With a texture similar to vegetable shortening, lard can be used in equal amounts to substitute for butter in batters, doughs and pie pastry. It can even be used to make cake frostings! 

For many, the largest obstacle when it comes to lard is a mental one. The fact that it’s animal-derived doesn’t sit well with some people. Don’t be scared! Lard can bring a tender texture to your pie crusts and give your cookies and cakes a pleasant, well-rounded flavor (no bacon aftertaste, promise!). 

Vegan butter

4. Vegan butter

By “vegan butter,” we mean store-bought vegan butter substitutes, such as Earth Balance or Melt. Made using vegetable-based oils and sometimes soy, these butter substitutes are specially formulated to act like real butter in recipes.

The packaging will reveal more about the specific product, but in general, butter substitutes such as Earth Balance are fine to swap in equal quantities to butter in your baking recipes. 

Cookies with olive oil

Photo via CakeSpy

5. Olive oil 

In baking, olive oil can be a true friend when butter isn’t an option. Olive oil can impart a slightly nutty flavor to baked goods. While it might taste slightly foreign at first, you might start craving it after a while!

Usually, when using olive oil instead of soft (solid) butter in a recipe, you should slightly reduce the amount. That is, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, consider using ¾ cup of olive oil. If a recipe calls for melted butter, my personal experience tells me that substituting an equal amount of olive oil is usually fine. 

This conversion chart is a handy guide to proper measurements for butter substitution.

Note: Olive oil (as well as vegetable oils) are great as a butter alternative for batters and doughs, but they don’t shine when it comes to making buttery frostings. A vegetable-based shortening is a better pick for making the toppings!

6. Vegetable oil 

Other vegetable oils, including canola, vegetable and other plant-based oils, can be used as butter substitutes in your recipes. The conversion is the same as olive oil — slightly less oil than butter in most recipes.

Typically mild in flavor, vegetable oils won’t interfere with the flavor of your baked goods, but they often won’t add much in terms of flavor — their contribution is just moisture and fat. 

7. Vegetable shortening 

Vegetable-based oil that’s has been hydrogenated into a solid form is called vegetable shortening. It’s often used as a butter substitute in baking because the texture works well in virtually all of the places you would use butter — when creaming ingredients for cake and cookies, when making buttercream or when making pie pastry.

While vegetable shortening will impart a similar texture to butter, it won’t contribute much flavor: It’s virtually odorless and flavorless.  

Do you have another butter substitute we didn’t mention? Leave a comment and tell us about it! 

FREE PDF Guide: DIY Pantry Staples

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Store-Bought: 6 DIY Pantry Staples

Trying to eat fewer processed foods? Stock your pantry with homemade essentials like butter, confectioners’ sugar and more, with this FREE downloadable guide. Get My FREE Guide »

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