A butter substitute is useful in both cooking and baking, so I found the best replacements for butter (and no one will be any the wiser)! Butter is a key ingredient so don't go without it, find the right alternative so you can enjoy all your delicious recipes without missing a beat! Whether cooking a tasty meal or whipping up some delicious baked goods, these easy butter substitutes will help you get the job done!
Best Butter Substitutes
While there are many versatile foods, few are equally as delicious on their own as they are when added to other ingredients. Butter is the best, whether spread on a piece of toast for breakfast or the base for a decadent chocolate chip cookie.
However, sometimes using butter isn't an option for one reason or another. If that's the case, you don't have to sacrifice flavor or texture in your favorite recipes- just try using one of these easy butter substitutes!
- Best Butter Substitutes
- What is Butter?
- Best Butter Substitutes for Baking
- 1. Homemade Butter (or Heavy Cream)
- How to Make Butter
- 2. Margarine
- 3. Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil)
- 4. Olive Oil
- 4. Coconut Oil
- 5. Shortening
- 6. Applesauce (unsweetened)
- 7. Mashed Banana (and other fruits)
- 8. Mashed Avocado
- 9. Mashed Pumpkin (or Sweet Potato)
- 10. Buttermilk
- 11. Sour Cream
- 12. Plain Greek Yogurt
- 13. Nut Butters
- 14. Seed Butters
- 15. Silken Tofu
- 16. Dairy-Free Butters
- Table 1: Butter Substitutes in Baking
- The Best Butter Substitutes for Cooking
- Table 2: Butter Substitutes In Cooking
- 📋 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
What is Butter?
Ah, butter. Nothing quite beats the rich, delicious taste of creamy butter! Even though butter is one of the most beloved foods around the world, you may be unfamiliar with how it's made.
Butter is a dairy product. It is made from churning (or heavily mixing) heavy cream. As a result of being made from cream, butter has a high fat content that is perfect for many recipes.
The Difference Between Butter and Other Fats
Compared to other fats used in cooking, like oil, butter has a higher water content. This is important to understand when looking for a substitute.
Butter is about 80% fat and 20% water. On the other hand, oils (vegetable, canola, olive, coconut, etc.) are 100% fat with zero water content.
While the water content does not impact some recipes, it does impact the overall texture and consistency of baked goods. Therefore, it is helpful to keep it in mind when looking for a substitute.
Best Butter Substitutes for Baking
Butter is a key ingredient in many baking recipes. Therefore, you can’t simply leave it out. If you are out of butter though or prefer a non-dairy alternative, you can easily swap it out for any of the ingredients in the section below.
1. Homemade Butter (or Heavy Cream)
A quick homemade butter will give you the best result in any dish. If you don’t want to take time to whip it up, though, you can use plain heavy cream as a substitute in soups, stews, or sauces that need a rich flavor.
If you do have the time, whipping up some made-from-scratch butter isn't as hard as it seems. If you've got some heavy cream on hand, you can have butter ready in no time!
How to Make Butter
When you run out of butter and you still want that real butter taste, consider making your own! To make butter at home all you need is a food processor or standing mixer (like a KitchenAid) and heavy cream.
Yup, just one ingredient (plus salt if you'd like)!
You can use as much heavy cream as you would like, but 2 cups is a good starting point. 2 cups of heavy cream will yield ½ cup of butter.
- Pour 2 cups of heavy cream into a food processor or mixer.
- Mix the cream on high until it turns into butter (you will know when it is done. Just keep mixing it until it resembles something you would spread on toast).
- Strain off the liquid (buttermilk) and rinse in cool water.
- Add a pinch of salt if you would like and mix in.
Your easy DIY butter can be used in the same way as store-bought butter! If you don't have heavy cream, you can't make butter - but you can try all of the amazing substitutes below!
How To Store Homemade Butter
Once you have homemade butter, remove it from the mixer and put it in a container with a lid. You can use the butter right away or store it in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
Margarine can be used as a butter substitute in most baking and cooking recipes. It's available in sticks and tubs, making it easy to measure and use in recipes (it is also non-dairy)!
To substitute margarine for butter, use a 1:1 ratio and follow these simple steps:
How To Use Margarine In Place Of Butter
- Choose the right margarine: Look for a margarine with a fat content of at least 80%, similar to the fat content in butter. Avoid low-fat or fat-free margarine, as these will not provide the same results.
- Softened: If the recipe calls for softened butter, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before using it. This will ensure a smooth and even texture when incorporating it into your recipe. Do not microwave the margarine to soften it, as this may cause it to melt or become too soft.
- Creaming method: If your recipe involves creaming the butter with sugar, use the same method with margarine.
- Melting margarine: If your recipe calls for melted butter, melt the margarine using the same method. Be cautious when microwaving, as margarine can melt more quickly than butter. Check it frequently to avoid overheating.
- Cooking with margarine: Margarine can be used for sautéing, frying, or making sauces.
*Note that margarine may have a slightly different taste and texture than butter, and some brands may contain more water content, which could affect the outcome of your recipe.
Always pay attention to the specific instructions in your recipe and adjust the margarine usage accordingly.
3. Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil)
Like butter, vegetable oil is also used as the primary fat in baked goods. Therefore, it is one of the easiest and best substitutes for butter (in baking and cooking).
While oil provides a similar fat content to the recipe, it does not provide the water content that butter does. Therefore, oil-based baked goods will be a bit denser than if made with butter.
Use ¾ of the amount of oil when replacing butter (¾ cup oil for 1 cup butter) in any recipe.
*If you have some butter on hand, but not enough for a recipe, you can also do a 50/50 split (½ cup oil + ½ cup butter for 1 cup butter).
4. Olive Oil
Olive oil works the same way as vegetable oil when used as a butter substitute. One thing to remember about olive oil is that the flavor is more distinct than vegetable oil. Therefore, it will add a savory element to your baked goods.
Use ¾ the amount of olive oil in place of 1 serving of butter (¾ cup olive oil for 1 cup of butter).
However, the liquid nature of olive oil may change the texture of some recipes, so it is essential to keep that in mind when making substitutions.
- Choose the right olive oil: For baking, use light or extra light olive oil to minimize the strong flavors. For cooking, you can use regular or extra virgin olive oil, depending on your taste preference.
- Baking with olive oil: Olive oil works well in recipes that call for melted butter, such as muffins, quick breads, and some cakes.
- Salad dressings and dips: Olive oil is an excellent substitute for melted butter in salad dressings, marinades, and dips. Its distinct flavor can enhance the taste of various dishes.
4. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is another tasty option for a high-fat substitute. The overall structure of coconut oil is slightly different than other oils though. Therefore, it can be used in a 1:1 exchange.
Due to its distinct flavor, coconut oil is best suited for sweet recipes.
Use 1 cup of coconut oil for 1 cup of butter in most recipes. Always measure the coconut oil in its solid form unless you are using it in place of melted butter. Here are a few tips:
- Soften the coconut oil: If your recipe requires softened butter, allow the coconut oil to soften at room temperature. Do not microwave coconut oil to soften it, as it melts quickly and can become too liquid.
- Creaming method: If your recipe involves creaming butter and sugar, use the same method with coconut oil.
- Melting coconut oil: If your recipe calls for melted butter, melt the coconut oil using a double boiler or microwave it in short intervals, checking and frequently stirring to avoid overheating.
Shortening is a solid fat made from hydrogenated vegetable oil and can be used as a butter substitute in baking. It has a higher melting point than butter, which can affect the texture of the final product.
Shortening can be used as a 1:1 substitute for butter in baking, but may not provide the same flavor.
To use shortening as a butter substitute, follow these steps:
- Softened butter: If your recipe requires softened butter, allow the shortening to soften at room temperature for about 15-30 minutes before using it. Do not microwave the shortening to soften it, as this may cause it to melt or become too soft.
- Creaming method: If your recipe involves creaming butter and sugar, use the same method with shortening in place of the butter, it works perfectly well.
- Melting shortening: If your recipe calls for melted butter, melt the shortening using a double boiler or microwave it in short intervals, checking and stirring frequently to avoid overheating.
- Cooking with shortening: Shortening can be used for frying and sautéing, but it may not provide the same flavor as butter.
*If desired, you can add a little extra salt or flavoring to compensate for the loss of butter flavor. Experiment with shortening in different recipes and adjust the amount used to achieve the desired results.
6. Applesauce (unsweetened)
Applesauce is a popular substitute for butter when you want to lower the fat content in a recipe. It acts as a binder and helps add moisture.
However, the lack of fat in applesauce creates a denser final baked good. Therefore, it is best used in recipes like zucchini bread, banana bread, or cookies. If aren’t looking for a low-fat substitute, then a higher-fat alternative will offer you a consistency that is closer to the original recipe.
Use half the amount of applesauce your recipe calls for (½ cup of applesauce for every 1 cup of butter).
*If you have a little butter available, you can also use a 50/50 split of applesauce and butter (½ cup applesauce + ½ cup butter for 1 cup butter).
One more thing to keep in mind is that many applesauce recipes have additional sugar; therefore, aim to use unsweetened applesauce or leave out some of the sugar the recipe calls for.
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7. Mashed Banana (and other fruits)
Mashed bananas act in the same way that applesauce does. In addition to bananas, you can also use other fruits like prunes.
Overly ripe bananas (the ones that are going brown) work best, but any banana you have on hand will do. Like applesauce, this works best for quick breads and cookies since it will make a denser baked good.
Be mindful that bananas have a stronger natural flavor than applesauce; therefore, it will add a hint of banana to the final product. Here are a few tips on baking with applesauce:
- Choose ripe bananas: Use ripe or overripe bananas, as they are softer, sweeter, and easier to mash. The riper the banana, the stronger its flavor will be in the final product.
- Mash the bananas: Peel the bananas and mash them using a fork or potato masher until smooth. You can also use a blender or food processor for a smoother texture.
- Baking with mashed bananas: Mashed bananas work well in recipes that have a moist and tender crumb, such as muffins, cakes, and quick bread. However, they may not be suitable for recipes that require a crispy or flaky texture, like pie crusts or certain types of cookies.
- Adjust sugar content: As mashed bananas add natural sweetness to the recipe, you may need to reduce the sugar in the recipe to maintain the correct balance of sweetness.
Note on Mashed Fruit Substitutes
The great thing about fruit substitutes is that they are easy to find and use. One thing to note is that fruit substitutes will not result in a crispy outside.
If you like a chocolate chip cookie with a crispy outside and gooey center, opt to use oil as your butter substitute instead.
8. Mashed Avocado
Avocado is a great substitute for butter because it has similar fat content. This provides a rich and creamy base for any baked good.
Avocados also have a more neutral flavor profile than other fruits. It will take on the other flavors around it, especially chocolate!
Avocado can be used in an even 1:1 exchange for butter (1 cup avocado for 1 cup butter).
*For the best results, give the avocado a whirl in the food processor to make it super smooth.
9. Mashed Pumpkin (or Sweet Potato)
Starchy vegetables like pumpkin and sweet potato work in the same way as mashed fruit. They both help bind the ingredients in the same way butter does. They will also react the same way, with a denser baked good.
Pureed pumpkin and mashed sweet potatoes have strong flavors and colors that can impact the recipe. If using either of these, make sure the color and flavor will enrich the overall recipe.
Use ¾ the amount of pureed pumpkin or mashed sweet potato (¾ cup for 1 cup of butter).
*Use canned or homemade pumpkin or sweet potato puree. If using canned, choose a puree without added sugar or spices. Bake or steam the pumpkin or sweet potato for the homemade puree, then puree it in a food processor or blender until smooth.
Buttermilk is a super easy swap for butter. It adds a ton of moisture, and the tanginess is a nice addition to the flavor of many recipes. Even if you don’t have buttermilk in your fridge, you can make your own buttermilk in 15 minutes.
How To Make Buttermilk
To make your own buttermilk, just mix 1 cup of regular milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Let it sit until it curdles, then use it as buttermilk in any recipe.
Use half the amount of buttermilk that the recipe calls for (½ cup of buttermilk for 1 cup of butter).
Use milk, half & half, or heavy cream to make your buttermilk. For more options, you can read all about buttermilk substitutes here.
Buttermilk + Applesauce
If you have buttermilk and applesauce on hand, try a mixture of the two.
Use ¼ cup of buttermilk and ¼ cup of applesauce to equal 1 serving of butter (¼ cup buttermilk + ¼ cup applesauce = 1 cup of butter).
11. Sour Cream
Like buttermilk, sour cream can also be used to add moisture and tanginess to some recipes in place of butter. For the richest soups, stews, and sauces, use full-fat sour cream.
Also like buttermilk, half the amount of sour cream should be used in place of butter in a recipe (use ½ cup of sour cream for 1 cup of butter).
When baking, add the buttermilk or sour cream to the wet ingredients in your recipe, mixing it thoroughly. Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients as you normally would.
12. Plain Greek Yogurt
In addition to buttermilk, plain Greek Yogurt is another tasty alternative that offers a lot of moisture and a little tang. Due to the thicker texture, it adds a bit more of a velvety-rich texture than buttermilk, plus lots of protein!
For a recipe that calls for more than ½ a cup of butter, use half the amount of Greek Yogurt (½ cup of Greek yogurt for 1 cup of butter).
In recipes that call for ½ cup (or less) of butter, you can use an even 1:1 exchange of Greek yogurt (½ cup yogurt for ½ cup butter). Here are a few tips to try:
- Choose the right Greek yogurt: Use plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt with a regular fat content (not non-fat or low-fat) for the best results. This will provide a more similar consistency and mouthfeel to butter.
- Mix the Greek yogurt: Add the Greek yogurt to the wet ingredients in your recipe, mixing it thoroughly. Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients as you normally would.
- Baking with Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt works well in recipes that have a moist and tender crumb, such as muffins, cakes, and quick breads. However, it may not be suitable for recipes that require a crispy or flaky texture, like pie crusts or certain types of cookies.
13. Nut Butters
Almond butter, cashew butter, and even plain old peanut butter can all be used in place of traditional butte (depending on the recipe).
When choosing a nut butter, consider the flavor and how it will complement the other flavors in the recipe. Almond butter and cashew butter have milder tastes, while peanut butter is stronger.
Even though nut butter is high in fat, it also contains protein and carbs. Therefore, to get the best results as a substitute combine it with oil.
Mix a 50/50 split of nut butter with oil and use it as a 1:1 ratio for butter (½ cup nut butter + ½ cup oil for 1 cup butter).
This substitute will result in a denser baked good, so it is best suited for bread, muffins, and cookies. Here are a few tips:
- Choose the right nut butter: Use smooth, unsweetened nut butter for the best results. If you only have sweetened nut butter, you may need to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe to maintain the correct balance of sweetness. If using natural nut butter, make sure to stir it well before using it.
- Cooking with nut butters: Nut butters can be used in savory dishes as well, such as sauces, dips, dressings, and marinades. They can also be used as a spread on sandwiches or toast as a butter alternative.
14. Seed Butters
Seed butter, such as tahini (sesame seed butter) or pepita butter (pumpkin seed butter), can be used as a butter substitute in baking and cooking, adding a unique flavor, moisture, and healthy fats to your dishes. They work well in cookies, bars, smoothies, sauces, and spreads.
Use half the amount of seed butter in place of butter. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use ½ cup to 1 cup of seed butter.
*The same rules for using nut butter listed above will apply also to seed butter.
15. Silken Tofu
A good option for egg-free and dairy-free baking, silken tofu can be blended and used to replace half the butter in a recipe.
Silken tofu can be used as a butter substitute in baking, particularly in recipes like cakes, muffins, quick breads, and some cookies. It adds moisture, a smooth texture, and protein while reducing the fat content compared to using butter.
If the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use ½ cup to 1 cup of silken tofu. To use silken tofu as a butter substitute, follow these steps:
- Choose the right product: Use store-bought silken tofu, which has a smoother and softer texture compared to regular tofu. Make sure it is unflavored and unsweetened.
- Prepare the silken tofu: Drain the silken tofu and pat it dry with a paper towel. Place the tofu in a blender or food processor and blend until it reaches a smooth, creamy consistency, similar to that of yogurt or sour cream.
- Mix the silken tofu: Add the silken tofu to the wet ingredients in your recipe, mixing it thoroughly. Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients as you normally would.
- Adjust leavening agents: When using silken tofu as a butter substitute, you may need to slightly increase the amount of baking powder or baking soda in your recipe to help the baked goods rise properly.
16. Dairy-Free Butters
Dairy-free vegan butter, soy-based margarine, or plant-based spreads can be used as a butter substitute in baking and cooking, providing a similar texture, fat content, and flavor to traditional butter.
They work well in various recipes, including cookies, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, and savory dishes. You can use dairy-free butter as a 1:1 substitute for butter in most recipes.
To use dairy-free vegan butter, soy-based margarine, or plant-based spreads as a butter substitute, follow these steps:
- Choose the right product: Look for dairy-free vegan butter, soy-based margarine, or plant-based spreads suitable for baking and cooking. Ensure they have a similar fat content to butter (around 80% fat) for the best results. Some options include Earth Balance, Miyoko's Creamery, and Flora Plant Butter.
- Soften the substitute: If your recipe requires softened butter, allow the dairy-free vegan butter, soy-based margarine, or plant-based spread to come to room temperature for 15-30 minutes before use. Do not microwave the substitute to soften it, as this may cause it to separate or become too soft.
Table 1: Butter Substitutes in Baking
|Butter Substitute||Works Best In|
|Margarine||Cookies, cakes, pie crusts, savory dishes|
|Coconut Oil||Cookies, cakes, quick bread, pie crusts|
|Olive Oil||Cakes, quick bread, muffins, savory dishes|
|Vegetable Oil||Cakes, quick bread, muffins|
|Shortening||Cookies, pie crusts, frostings|
|Applesauce||Cakes, muffins, quick bread, pancakes|
|Greek Yogurt||Cakes, muffins, quick bread, pancakes|
|Mashed Banana||Cakes, muffins, quick bread, pancakes|
|Avocado||Cakes, muffins, quick bread, brownies|
|Nut Butters||Cookies, bars, smoothies, sauces, spreads|
|Seed Butter||Cookies, bars, smoothies, sauces, spreads|
|Pumpkin/Sweet Potato Puree||Cakes, muffins, quick bread, pancakes|
|Dairy-free Vegan Butter||Cookies, cakes, pie crusts, savory dishes|
|Soy-based Margarine||Cookies, cakes, pie crusts, savory dishes|
|Plant-based Spreads||Cookies, cakes, pie crusts, savory dishes|
|Buttermilk||Cakes, muffins, quick bread, pancakes|
|Sour Cream||Cakes, muffins, quick bread, pancakes|
|Silken Tofu||Cakes, muffins, quick bread, some cookies|
The Best Butter Substitutes for Cooking
Beyond baking, butter is used just as much in cooking. It is primarily used to sauté vegetables, cook meats, and add flavor. It can also be used to help create a roux when making a sauce or stew.
DIY Butter (or Heavy Cream)
Once again, a quick homemade butter is always going to be the only way to achieve the exact same flavor as the original recipe. Not to mention, once you pour off the buttermilk it's already softened and ready to be used right out of the mixer!
Overall, oil is the easiest and best cooking option to use as a butter replacement outside of homemade butter. Unlike baking, you can use any oil as a substitute for butter in a 1:1 exchange when cooking.
Keep in mind that certain oils have a noticeable flavor (like coconut) that will affect your recipe results.
Buttermilk & Greek Yogurt
In addition to oil, dairy substitutes are also good substitutes for butter in cooking. However, these are best used at the end of the cooking process.
Use both to add a rich and velvety texture to a sauce or soup. Greek Yogurt is also a great substitute for butter in mashed potatoes! For the best results, add buttermilk or Greek Yogurt after you have removed the pan from the heat.
On the other hand, if you need butter to mix ingredients for something like a casserole, buttermilk and Greek yogurt can be cooked into a casserole.
Begin by using ½ the amount of both these substitutes; add more if needed.
Table 2: Butter Substitutes In Cooking
|Butter Substitute||Works Best In|
|Margarine||Sautéing, stir-frying, sauces, savory dishes|
|Coconut oil||Sautéing, stir-frying, frying, sauces|
|Olive oil||Sautéing, stir-frying, sauces, salads, roasting|
|Vegetable oil||Sautéing, stir-frying, frying, sauces|
|Canola oil||Sautéing, stir-frying, frying, sauces|
|Ghee (clarified butter)||Sautéing, stir-frying, frying, Indian cuisine|
|Dairy-free vegan butter||Sautéing, stir-frying, sauces, savory dishes|
|Soy-based margarine||Sautéing, stir-frying, sauces, savory dishes|
|Plant-based spreads||Sautéing, stir-frying, sauces, savory dishes|
|Bacon fat||Sautéing, frying, savory dishes|
|Lard||Sautéing, frying, savory dishes|
|Schmaltz (chicken fat)||Sautéing, frying, savory dishes, Jewish cuisine|
|Nut oils||Salad dressings, drizzling, low-heat cooking|
|Seed oils||Salad dressings, drizzling, low-heat cooking|
We wish you the best with your recipe and hope you found the perfect substitute for butter! Let us know which substitute you tried in the comments below!
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Best Butter Substitute: Homemade Butter (+More Great Alternatives!)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 pinch salt (optional)
- Pour your heavy cream into a food processor or blender.2 cups heavy cream
- Mix the cream on high speed until it comes together into a butter consistency that is separated from the liquid buttermilk.1 pinch salt
- Strain the buttermilk from the butter, then rinse the butter in cool tap water to finish removing the buttermilk.
- Add the optional salt and mix it in. Transfer your homemade butter into a plastic storage container and use like store-bought.
- Yields ½ cup butter = 1 stick or 8 servings of 1 tablespoon each.
- Strain the liquid into a jar to save the 1 cup buttermilk that is also produced.
- Keep your DIY butter refrigerated between use.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!