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15 Best Butter Substitutes For Your Recipes

When you’re out of butter, or need an alternative for health or diet reasons, what can you use? There are a number of things you can use as a butter substitute in your recipes. Many items, you may already have in your fridge or pantry.

The Best Butter Substitutes

What Is Butter?

Butter is made from cow’s milk for most mass grocery store production. But it can be made from other milk such as buffalo, sheep, and goat milk. Butter is made by churning the the milk or cream to separate the fat solids from the liquid. The fat solids are scraped from the liquid, resulting in butter. Most butter contains about 80% fat. Butter in the United States must be pasteurized, meaning that it is put through a heating process to kill any bacteria that may be present in the milk or cream. You can also find salted and unsalted butter. Unsalted is often used for baking while salted butter is generally used for most other cooking.

What Do We Use Butter For?

You use butter all the time in cooking and recipes. You may use it for frying, topping you toast or veggies, stirring into sauces, or adding it to baked goods like pies and cookies.

While we all know that butter adds flavor to our foods, it also has other roles. Especially in baking. Butter makes baked goods more tender and creates leavening, helping baked goods rise.

Butter creates a very specific taste and texture, but what happens if you don’t have butter on hand or need an alternative of other reasons? No worries, there are many things that you can use as a substitute for butter in your recipes.

Best Butter Substitutes


Use unsweetened applesauce in baked goods as a butter substitute. it’s great for muffins and breads, but may result in a denser product.


Buttermilk can be used as a replacement for butter, just use half of the amount of butter that is called for in the recipe. Buttermilk is a great swap for baked goods and adds moisture and tang to the end product.

Canola or Vegetable Oil

These oils are flavorless and can easily be used in place of butter in equal proportion for baked goods like cakes and cookies. This is not recommended for pastry-style recipes. Both oils can also be used in place of butter for frying or sauteing.

Canned Pumpkin Puree

Use about 3/4 of the amount of butter called for and use this as a swap in your baked goods. It adds moisture, but you’ll also notice the flavor, so be sure to use it in recipes that will complement the taste.

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil is a great vegan and dairy free butter substitute and can be used to replace butter in both solid and liquid form. If you want to minimize the flavor that is often noticeable when using coconut oil, use refined coconut oil as this has a less obvious flavor.


Some people may think this is the same as real butter but it’s not. However, it is developed to mimic butter so it can be used in place of butter in most cooking and baking situations.

Mashed Banana

Mashed banana can be used in place of butter in recipes for baked goods. Over-ripe bananas work best as a butter substitute. This works best in muffins, breads, and cookies, and usually has a more dense final product. Keep in mind that mashed banana does add a noticeable flavor.


Ghee is basically butter with the milk solids removed. This can be used in place of butter for frying, sauteing, adding to sauces, potatoes, and casseroles, and used in recipes for baked goods.

Mashed Avocado

Mashed avocado can be swapped for butter in equal proportion in baked goods, but you’ll need to reduce the cooking temp by 25 degrees, and the cook time may require a few extra minutes. Keep in mind that this may result in a chewier product.


Mayonnaise is great to use in place of butter for frying, adding to mashed potatoes, and even as a spread.

Nut Butters

Nut butters have a high fat content and they are vegan friendly. You can use these in equal proportion in recipes for baked goods that call for melted butter.

Olive Oil

Olive oil can be used as a butter replacement in baking recipes that call for melted butter, but you’ll want to use about 3/4 of the called for amount. You can also use olive oil in place of butter for pan frying and sautéing.

Vegan Butter

Vegan butter is developed for vegan diets can can be used in equal proportion as regular butter for cooking and baking.

Vegetable Shortening

Vegetable shortening can be used as a butter substitute in most baked goods in equal proportion. Your end product may even be a bit lighter and fluffier. Shortening can also be used for pan frying and sauteing. Shortening does lack that buttery flavor but you can use a shortening such as Crisco Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening.


If you have this in the fridge, go ahead and grab it! Full fat yogurt can be used in place of butter in equal proportion for baked goods. For recipes that call for a large amount, you can use greek yogurt which will work better because of it’s lower moisture content.

How To Choose The Best Butter Substitute

If you’re looking for a butter substitute for stovetop cooking, consider the method. If you are pan frying or sauteing, any oil will work. If you have ghee, that works too, and it has a high smoke point so you can cook your food without burning it.

If you’re baking, the recipe really determines the type of substitute you want to use, and how that substitute will affect the end product. Applesauce, canola or vegetable oil, and coconut oil are the best substitutes and you are likely to have these already in your home. However, if you are choosing something based on dietary issues, you can purchase vegan butter or margarine to take the place of real butter.

Number One Butter Substitute Pick

For baking, we will choose canola or vegetable oil as the best substitute for butter because it is relatively flavorless and very versatile. For stovetop cooking or savory dishes, we’re choosing ghee when it’s available, but olive oil is a close second.

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Heidi Deal
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