The Best Butter Substitutes for Baking and Cooking

No butter? No problem. Here are the best butter substitutes you may already have in your kitchen. 

Sticks of butter on counter
Photo: Scott Little/Dotdash Meredith

We all know that butter is a staple ingredient that serves a variety of purposes in the kitchen, from creating a tender texture in cakes and cookies to adding richness and flavor to creamy soups and sauces. But what do you do if you're out of butter — or if you just want to try baking or cooking with something else? Fortunately, it's easy to replace butter with ingredients you probably have on hand.

Best Butter Substitute For Baking

Oil, Butter, and Shortening

The best butter substitute for baking depends on what you have on hand, what you're baking, and your flavor and texture preferences. Here's what you need to know about butter alternatives for baking and how to use them:

Margarine and Plant-Based Butter

Margarine and plant-based butters are creamy spreads derived from vegetable and nut oils. Some margarines may also include milk products. Developed as butter alternatives, these are likely the most accurate substitutes. They work well in just about any baking recipe that requires butter, such as cookies, cakes, biscuits, and more. In most recipes, you can use a 1:1 ratio to swap butter and margarine or plant-based butter (if the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1 cup margarine or plant-based butter).

Learn more: Is Butter or Margarine Better for Baking?


If you love moist and tender baked goods, consider using oil as a butter alternative. Which kind you use (and how much) depends entirely on the flavor and texture you're after.

A good rule of thumb for this substitution: Replace about ¾ of the butter in a recipe with olive, canola, or vegetable oil (if the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use ¾ cup oil). If the recipe calls for melted butter, though, you can swap the ingredients in equal amounts — there's no need to adjust your ratios.

  • Vegetable and Canola Oils: These are some of the most common butter substitutes. These budget-friendly options usually don't taste like much, so you don't have to worry about them affecting the flavor of your finished product.
  • Olive Oil: Olive oil produces light baked goods with subtle notes of fruit. Unless you're baking something extremely mild, olive oil is unlikely to overpower other flavors. Make sure to use a high-quality bottle — if you don't want to toss it into your salad or drizzle it over bread, you probably don't want it in your cakes and cookies.
  • Coconut Oil: Unlike other oils, you can use a 1:1 ratio when substituting coconut oil for butter (if the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use 1 cup of coconut oil). It lends a slight coconutty flavor to cookies, cakes, quick breads, muffins, and more.

Try these recipes: 25 Ways to Bake With Olive Oil Instead of Butter


Shortening also works well as a butter substitute. Though it lacks the rich flavor that butter has, shortening can make baked goods lighter and rise higher. Depending on what you're making, shortening might even be preferable to butter.

Shortening can be used as a one-to-one swap for butter (if the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use 1 cup of shortening).

Learn more: What Is Shortening?


Applesauce is a great way to lighten your baked goods, particularly breads and muffins. Opt for an unsweetened variety, as apples naturally contain a substantial amount of sugar. If you only have sweetened applesauce on hand, adjust the sugar in your recipe accordingly.

In most cases, you can substitute applesauce for butter using a 1:1 ratio (if the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use 1 cup of applesauce). However, use your best judgment: You may not have to change your measurements at all, but pay attention to how stiff or runny your batter or dough is — add more or less depending on how it feels.

Try these recipes: 14 Delicious Ways to Use a Jar of Applesauce


Sneak some fruit into your favorite breads, cakes, cookies and more with mashed bananas. They can result in rather dense baked goods, but that can be a good thing. They also add fruity flavor. In most cases, you won't have to adjust your ratios when substituting bananas for butter (if the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use 1 cup of mashed bananas). Of course, use your best judgment when mixing up your batters or doughs.

Try these recipes: 26 Best Banana Breads to Make the Most of Ripe Bananas

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt, another lighter butter alternative, creates incredibly soft and moist baked goods while adding welcome tanginess.

You can use a 1:1 ratio if your recipe calls for an amount less than 1 cup (if the recipe calls for ½ cup butter, use ½ cup yogurt). If the recipe calls for more than 1 cup, increase the flour in the recipe by about ¼ cup or reduce the liquid by about ¼ cup. This will prevent sogginess in your finished product.

Try these recipes: 15 Yogurt Cake Recipes for Super Moist Bakes

Best Butter Substitute For Cooking

If you're looking for the best butter substitute for sauteing or pan-frying, opt for your favorite flavorful oil like olive oil or avocado oil. Butter has a very low smoke point, so any oil you choose will work. Of course, if you're frying, choose an oil with a high smoke point (such as peanut or canola).

You can swap butter and oil using a 1:1 ratio (if your recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of butter, use 3 tablespoons of oil).

Another fun option? Mayonnaise! Try replacing butter with mayo when you make scrambled eggs, grilled cheese, or even mashed potatoes.

Best Butter Substitute For Sauces

Basic Bechamel Sauce

Recipes for sauces often call for butter toward the end of cooking to thicken things up a bit and for added richness. Heavy whipping cream, creme fraiche, or sour cream can work in its place. Add a little bit at a time until your sauce reaches the desired thickness.


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