6 Simple Butter Substitutes for the Adventurous Baker

Oils, creams, and purées... oh my!

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Spring is in the air! It's the season of cream pies, berry cobbler, and sweet, sweet corn bread. However, all that baking means lots and lots of butter consumption. Surely, there's got to be a more nutritious way to enjoy these delicacies.

Well, never fear, fellow baking enthusiasts; of course there is! After exploring some nifty alternatives to common recipe ingredients, we're now rounding up some substitutes for that ubiquitous yellow block of dairy.

Applesauce

When baking, it's best to use unsweetened applesauce.

This tasty side dish is a culinary jack-of-all-trades. Some quick online searches reveal it to be a popular substitute not only for butter, but also for sugar and oil.

Applesauce is a popular substitute not only for butter, but also for sugar and oil.

Popular advice dictates that applesauce works best in cake recipes, where it keeps your treat nice and moist. It's best to use unsweetened applesauce so that the added sugar won't overpower everything else in your recipe.

Most sources recommend substituting only half of the butter in a given recipe. For those who are loath to include any butter at all, you can still replace it entirely, but the final result may be denser than you're used to. Hey, at least it has fewer calories!

Avocado

This creamy green alternative is vegan-friendly.

You may not realize it, but avocado has a lot of similarities to butter. They both contain a lot of fat, have similar creamy consistencies, and offer relatively subtle flavors. Unlike applesauce, though, avocado results in a soft and chewy treat, making it ideal for cookies.

Like applesauce, alternative recipes often suggest replacing half of the butter quotient with mashed or puréed avocado. With some experimentation, though, vegans—and fans of lower, healthier calories—should feel comfortable swapping out all the dairy for this creamy green.

Oil

Olives

Olive and canola oils are ideal substitutes for melted butter.

We've provided you some tips on how to choose the right oil for cooking, but when it comes to baking there are really just two staples: olive and canola.

Depending on the recipe, there are a variety of tips and tricks for using oil as a butter substitute. Olive oil devotees suggest that one cup of butter can be swapped out for ¾ of a cup of oil. Some canola recipe hacks suggest that half a cup of butter can be swapped out for half a cup of oil.

Regardless, it seems that oil is best suited for recipes that require melted butter. Either way, you'll probably want to do some experimenting before finalizing your modified recipe... especially since this alternative is not likely to be lower in calories than butter.

That said, most oil has less saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, so pick the tradeoff that best suits your personal diet.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt: It's more than just a snack!

This option will really appeal to the fitness nuts who just can't say no to a cookie. Protein, baby! Plus, this creamy, slightly tart alternative is ideal for folks who like baked goods but don't have a huge sweet tooth. If you don't like your first batch of brownies, play around with the proportions and any extra sweeteners you might want to add in.

Initially, it's worth mentioning that Greek yogurt is one of the few substitutes we found that isn't one-to-one. For every cup of butter, most bakers use only half a cup of Greek yogurt. As a dairy product, it's somewhat denser, but results in a delicious velvety texture.

Plus, not only is Greek yogurt a useful substitute for butter, it's also a great alternative to sour cream. Taco Tuesday!

Margarine

Margarine is a poor substitute for butter. Just avoid it.

Just wanted to see if you were paying attention; this isn't one of the six substitutes. Seriously, don't bake with margarine—what's wrong with you?

In all seriousness, margarine is a poor substitute for butter because a) it contains more trans fat (which is the most unhealthy of the fats) and b) imparts a distinct, some would say, unsavory flavor to baked goods. Some may disagree, but we find margarine—as well as butter "products" like I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!—to be inadequate in pretty much any circumstance.

Coconut Oil… and Milk… Cream...

Whether it's in oil, milk, or cream form, coconut is a rich substitute for butter.

Yeah, yeah, I know: We already mentioned oil. Even so, people are going nuts about coconut oil as a not-too-sweet, all-natural, vegan-friendly alternative to butter. And it's not just a cooking staple! It can be used for everything from moisturizers to hair treatments.

For people like myself, there's only one problem with coconut oil: the taste. When it comes to baking, the oil shouldn't be overpowering, and coconut has a very distinct flavor. It may be a good idea to try some different flavor pairings, since some baked goods can actually benefit from the subtle hints of this tropical seednut.

Really, there's a coconut product for every recipe: The oil is great for when you need melted butter; coconut milk is useful for when you need a little more consistency; and coconut cream is the go-to option for really smooth, decadent goodies.

Prune/Black Bean Purée

Prunes

Prunes look pretty before they're dried, but you'll want to purée them for baking.

No, we're not making this up. Numerous sources recommend using prune purée as a butter alternative, particularly for darker baked goods like brownies, dark chocolate cake, or anything with cinnamon. In fact, you can also use black bean purée for similar purposes.

Prune purée is best with darker baked goods like brownies and chocolate cake.

There's also no denying you've got a health benefit here, too: Compared to butter, there are fewer calories and less fat in prunes, plus you've got the added perk of... well, a healthy colon... With black beans you're getting similar benefits (plus protein).

For those with gumption (and a food processor), you make can make your own prune purée. Otherwise, just get it in baby food form and substitute it for butter, one-to-one.

If the thought of prune pie or bean purée is too much for you, consider pumpkin butter as an alternative to the alternative.


Sometimes it's hard to beat the real thing.

These are not the only alternatives to butter. There are other substitutes that are just as affordable, diet-friendly, and planet-conscious, so don’t be afraid to experiment with your own ingredients. If you find anything you absolutely love, share it in the comments section. And most importantly, bon appétit!

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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