Butter Substitutes to Cut Fat or Dairy

Use Fruit Purees, Oil, or Greek Yogurt Instead of Butter

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Butter Substitute. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Looking for a good butter substitute to use in baked and cooked recipes? There are plenty of things that you can use as a substitute, but first, it helps to understand your goals. Some reasons for replacing butter:

  • Reduce Fat: You want to reduce or eliminate the fat from butter, but still get a good, tasty result. In this case, you are looking for a lower-fat or fat-free butter substitute.
  • Vegan: You want to eliminate all animal products from your diet. Using a product with vegetable fat is acceptable.
  • Dairy-Free: You want to eliminate dairy from your diet due to allergy, sensitivity, dietary restrictions or ethical considerations. Vegetable fat is acceptable.
  • Ran Out of Butter: You don't want to make a trip to the store. You'll use anything you have on hand that will give you acceptable results.
  • Cost-Saving: You want a substitute that costs less than butter, or uses ingredients you already have on hand.

Fruit Purees and Applesauce as Butter Substitutes

Reduce the fat contents in cakes, cookies, and muffins by replacing half of the butter called for in the recipe with unsweetened applesauce. If you want to go all the way, you can replace butter one-to-one for applesauce. This may change the consistency of your baked goods slightly, (making them softer and more cake-like), but the results should be more than satisfactory. 

Other fruits that can be substituted include, avocado, prune puree, pumpkin puree or mashed banana.

These all add nutrients, as well as moisture to baked goods. Pumpkin should be used in a ratio of 3/4 cup of pumpkin puree to every cup of butter in the recipe. Use about half as much mashed banana as butter called for in a recipe. You can use the same amount of avocado as butter. Keep in mind these substitutions will change the flavor and color of the recipe.

Use the one that seems like the best match for what you're making.

Benefits: Vegan, dairy-free, low-fat, cost-saving (if you make it with homegrown or extra fruit).

Using Oil as a Butter Substitute

Replace one cup of butter with 3/4 cup of vegetable oil. This substitute will work in both baked and cooked recipes.  Canola oil works well because it's not heavily-flavored. Olive oil can also be used, but may change the taste of the recipe some. Vegetable oils are a little higher in fat than butter, but they have less saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol.

Benefits: Vegan, dairy-free, cost-saving

Coconut Oil as a Butter Substitute

Coconut oil can be substituted for butter, in equal measure. Since it's solid at room temperature, it can also be used as a spread (though it'll taste different than butter). When you use it in recipes, you can treat it just as you would butter - melting it, beating it with sugar, etc. It has become popular in healthy-eating circles, as it has more of the type of fats that are believed to be beneficial (for now). A drawback is that it might be more expensive than butter or oil, and it still contains fat.

Benefits: Vegan, dairy-free

Greek Yogurt as a Butter Substitute

Buy a big container of Greek yogurt, and use it instead of butter when you're baking, or need a spread for your toast.

Use half a cup of Greek yogurt instead of butter in a baking recipe. Spread it on baked good and toast instead of butter.

Benefits: low-fat, compared with butter

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