When you are baking, often recipes stress how important it is to have the right ingredients, and a lot of the time this is true.
However, oftentimes certain ingredients in baking can be substituted for an ingredient that serves the same purpose as it.
For example, many alternate flours can be used instead of plain flour, or you can use a different type of sweetener than sugar.
When baking a lot of recipes require butter, however, butter can be incredibly expensive and is also not the easiest ingredient for everyone to have access to.
It is also pretty easy to run out of butter when you think you have more than you actually do, and a lot of recipes can need a surprising amount of butter to work properly.
This is when you need to start considering how to substitute the butter.
The main role butter plays in baking is as the fat of what you are baking, this will drastically impact the flavor and texture of your cake, so you are not really able to just exclude it.
It is also worth noting what type of butter the recipe you are using is asking for, for example, do you need melted butter, if so you will need a substitute which has the same consistency, or if it uses salted butter, you will need a substitute that will be able to recreate this saltiness.
So this is why it is good to know a variety of different ways to substitute butter as different situations and recipes will call for different substitutions.
That is why this list includes plenty of different methods of substituting butter, that way there will hopefully be a substitution which both fits the scenario you need the butter for, as well as uses ingredients which you already own.
So if you are in the middle of a baking project, and you have just realized that you need butter which you do not have, keep reading for the solution you are looking for!
The Best Butter Substitutes For Baking
If you do not use butter, it is likely that you use margarine instead, and you can use it in baking since it will essentially do the same thing as butter since it is a fat with a similar consistency.
Since margarine is usually made with vegetable oils, it will not taste as good as butter, and the texture might be slightly different, but overall this will still work and is a passable substitute!
2. Coconut Oil
The best thing about coconut oil as a butter replacement is that you can control its consistency like you can with butter, for example, you can melt it if you need to, and it can also be a creamy solid like butter.
Depending on the type of coconut oil (see also ‘7 Substitutes For Coconut Oil‘) you use, it could impart some flavor, but if you use a refined coconut oil this will not be a problem.
Coconut oil can be used in equal proportions to butter, so you do not need to worry about conversions either.
3. Olive Oil Or Vegetable Oil
These oils will do a great job at being the fat needed in baking and will ensure that your dishes are moist as well as tender.
The type of oil used depends on what you are baking.
Whichever you choose, 1 cup of butter is about ¾ cup of oil because of the density.
Vegetable is better for sweeter bakes since it has a more neutral flavor, while olive oil is best with savory bakes like bread or biscuits as the savory flavor is complimented by the olive oil.
Olive oil also works surprisingly well with chocolate flavored bakes, so keep that in mind too!
Similarly to margarine, shortening is occasionally used as a butter substitute in some houses.
You can even get butter flavored shortening, so if this is what you use, this will be great for baking too!
Since it has less water content than butter, it is often recommended to add a little more than you would with just butter, but overall this should work fine in baking!
5. Pumpkin Purée
If you have a tin of pumpkin purée, surprisingly this also works well as a butter substitute if you just use ¾ of what you would for butter, and it also works great as a sweetener.
The main issue with this substitute is that it can add quite a bit of taste, and it also adds a distinctive color.
You can also not control the consistency of this substitute either.
This is another substitute where you will use ¾ the amount you can also use this to lighten up the amount of butter in a recipe instead of outright replacing it!
It will add a flavor and sweetness so keep this in mind. But this is a great substitute since most people already own it.
7. Mashed Bananas
This is another great substitute which most people already own, and this makes sense since so many baked goods use banana already.
Just take into account that this will add a distinct banana flavor, so if you do not like this, avoid substituting with this, however the banana is also sometimes complimentary.
This is clarified butter without the milk solids, so it is a great dairy free substitute, however because of the lack of milk fats, the baked goods will be more dry and crumblier.
It can be used equally to butter, but there are some situations where it just won’t work.
9. Greek Yogurt
This is a great nutritious option as it adds protein and will keep bakes nice and moist.
It can also be used in equal proportions to butter, so you do not have to worry about conversions.
10. Prune Purée
This purée also works similarly to pumpkin purée, but it also comes with the same issues of having a distinct flavor and also not having any control over the texture.
Avocados are another great option, and they are easy to keep around as well, they need to be properly mashed before using though.
12. Nut Butters
These can often make cakes more delicious with their nutty flavor and this compliments the flavor of a lot of baked goods. Just make sure to be aware of nut allergies.
13. Dairy Free Butter
There are actually some recipes written with this type of butter in mind, and they work great if who you are baking for has a dairy allergy.
Hopefully this list has provided you with the substitutes you need to get your baking project going again.
Not all of these substitutes will work in every situation, and you should also try not to use a substitute which has a flavor which will overpower what you are baking, for example, if you are baking something with a relatively subtle flavor, using a more flavored substitute will impact the flavor.
Also make sure that what you are using as a substitute does not impact the dietary requirements of who you are feeding, e.g. nut butters making a food which is usually nut free, contain nuts.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does Butter Do In Baking?
There are lots of recipes which require creaming butter and sugar, this helps what you are making, especially cakes, be lighter and fluffier than it will be trapping more air in the butter.
Also, when you are mixing in butter to what you are baking, you will be making an emulsion with the fat content of the butter, with the water content of whatever else you are baking with, this emulsion is often necessary for your dish to have the desired outcome.
This emulsion of fat and water is what makes a dough made with butter stable.
This emulsion makes it, so you will be able to trap both carbon dioxide and steam inside your cake and this is a big part of what makes it rise.
The butter included in your baking is often responsible for giving a cake a lighter and more tender texture than it would have without.
If you are using melted butter instead of creaming it, the melted butter is used to retain any gases which are released while baking which helps it stay risen, but also makes it, so the cake stays moist.
If you are using a butter for baking something like a pie dough, the butter is what gives the case a delicious flaky texture and a buttery taste.
This is also what stops the pie crust from absorbing too much liquid or from being too tough.
The butter is essentially insulating the dry ingredients from taking in too much excess liquid.
Is Butter Bad For You?
Butter does have a high fat content as well as being high in calories.
The fat content is also high in saturated fats which are some of the less healthy fats and are often linked to heart disease.
This is why if you eat more butter than average, it is recommended to find more alternatives which do not have these same issues.
However, a lot of baking does not allow for substitutes from butter, this is why people generally recommend not eating too many baked goods as they do contain a lot of butter on top of other foods which should not be eaten in excess.
Unless you have been specifically advised by a doctor otherwise, consuming butter in controlled portions as part of a healthy balanced diet is not unhealthy as having some fat in our diet is required for our bodies to function properly.
But if your diet requires a lot of butter, it is advised to find healthier alternatives!
Which Butter Substitute Should You Use?
Since there are so many different options when it comes to butter substitutes, try and choose one which you already have, and will fit the context of what you are baking.
For example, match the texture and consistency of the butter needed as much as possible, like if you are using a substitute for melted butter, try and use a liquid with a similar consistency.
And if the baked goods you are making have a subtle flavor, use a substitute butter which has either a subtle or no flavor, or something with a complimentary flavor.
Also, if you are baking for someone with allergies, make sure the substitute will not affect this.
What Is The Best Butter To Use In Baking?
You will want to use an unsalted butter in most cases, since you will be able to add salt if needed, and a lot of baking requires adding salt, and you can not control how much salt is in your butter.
If you only have salted butter this is fine, but you may want to not add as much or any salt if the recipe asks for it.
How To Quickly Soften Butter?
The quickest way to soften butter is to put it in a low setting in a microwave safe bowl and put it in for 5 to 10 second blasts until it has reached the consistency you want.
This process will be easier if you cut the butter into smaller pieces since if you put it in a block, the outside will soften and even melt, before the inside even begins to soften.