How to Bake With Olive Oil If Butter's Scarce

What to do if you're out of butter and can't find it in stores right now? Use olive oil instead. I'll show you how.

Spiced Orange Olive Oil Cake
Photo: ChefJackie

Using olive oil in desserts is nothing new; traditional recipes for cakes and cookies using olive oil have been around for generations. However, if you want to swap in olive oil for some or all of the fats, like butter, lard, shortening, margarine, or other oils in your baking, there are a few rules of thumb to follow to guarantee success.

Benefits of Baking With Olive Oil

Using olive oil cuts down on "bad" cholesterol and saturated fat in your baking. It's considered a "good" fat, unlike butter. It also adds extra antioxidants (natural chemicals that help protect our cells) and vitamin E to your baked goods, giving your desserts a heart-healthy boost. The vitamin E may even help keep your muffins and breads fresher, longer (and add a bit of extra moisture, too).

What Kind of Olive Oil is Best for Baking?

Cookies and cakes baked with olive oil have a light and unique flavor. The fruity aroma of olive oil can also bring out other flavors commonly used in baked goods, like chocolate, nuts, spices, and fruit. However, you want to be careful not to let olive oil's flavor overpower everything else.

  • Choose a mild-flavored variety for more delicate cakes, muffins, and cookies; it will give your baked goods a fruity note without overpowering your dessert. For rich and dense desserts (think brownies), feel free to use a more intensely flavored variety.
  • Always use a good quality extra-virgin olive oil. The rule of thumb is that if you don't like the flavor for dipping bread or drizzled on salads, you won't like it in your baked goods.
  • Remember that olive oil is fragile and needs to be stored properly, for the best flavor and health benefits. Keep it in a cool, dark place (not over or near the oven), so it isn't exposed to heat and light, which can lead to an off-flavor and nutrition loss.

When to Substitute Olive Oil for Butter

Skillet Apple Brownies

Do use olive oil in recipes that calls for melted butter or other liquid fats (like these scrumptious Skillet Apple Brownies).

Don't use olive oil for recipes that call for creaming butter with sugar, like some cakes and cookies. The creaming process gives baked goods a light and airy texture that won't be the same if replaced by oil.

So, make your pound cake recipe with butter, but start experimenting with brownies, quick breads, and muffins.

Don't forget, you can also use olive oil to prepare your pans. If your recipe calls for buttering and flouring a cake or loaf pan, simply brush the pan with oil, dust with flour, and you're ready to go!

How to Substitute Olive Oil for Butter


When substituting olive oil for butter, the rule of thumb is to use 3 tablespoons oil for every 1/4 cup butter. Here's why: In addition to fat, butter is made of milk solids and water. So, if you try a 1:1 swap of olive oil for butter – your baked goods might turn out too greasy or goopy due to the extra fat and liquid.

For recipes that already call for oil, like Mom's Zucchini Bread, simply swap out the vegetable oil for your favorite olive oil.

Give This Recipe a Try

Spiced Orange Olive Oil Cake

"With just a touch of sweetness, this olive oil cake has a hint of orange zest and five-spice powder. If you don't eat it all the first day, cut it into cubes and layer with whipped cream and oranges, or toast and slather with honey." —Chef Jackie

Spiced Orange Olive Oil Cake


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