How to Substitute Butter for Oil (And Vice Versa)

Learn how and when you can swap one ingredient for the other. 

Stick of butter with a few slices cut on a white platter
Photo: Meredith

Butter and oil are staple ingredients that every baker and cook should keep in their arsenal at all times. They can serve similar purposes, but they're not always interchangeable. Can you substitute butter for oil? Yes! Here's what you need to know about when and how to swap one for the other:

How to Substitute Butter for Oil While Baking

Oil, Butter, and Shortening

Substituting butter for oil (and vice versa) isn't always as simple as using one instead of the other. Follow these step-by-step instructions for successful substitution every time:

Replacing Oil With Butter

It couldn't be easier to substitute butter for oil using a 1:1 ratio. This should work with olive, canola, vegetable, and coconut oils. Simply melt and cool the butter to room temperature, then continue with your recipe (if the recipe calls for ½ cup oil, use ½ cup melted and cooled butter).

Replacing Butter With Oil

What about substituting oil for butter? Depending on the type of oil, it can add complex flavor and welcome moisture to your baked goods. A good rule of thumb is to replace about 3/4 of the butter in a recipe with olive, canola, or vegetable oil (if the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use ¾ cup oil). You can use a 1:1 ratio when it comes to coconut oil.

However, there are a couple things you should consider before replacing butter with oil in baking:

  • In many recipes (particularly certain cakes), butter is required because it adds structure. When you cream butter and sugar for a cake, you're whipping up lots of tiny air pockets that work with baking powder or soda to create a fluffy-yet-sturdy texture. If you were to use exclusively oil, the cake would turn out much denser than you may have intended.
  • If you're unsure, it's safest to use a 50/50 combination of butter and oil instead of replacing the butter completely. This way you'll get the added moisture from the oil without sacrificing the structural integrity that butter provides.


How to Substitute Butter for Oil While Cooking

Morel mushrooms being sautéed with butter
Kevin Miyazaki/Meredith

You can absolutely substitute butter for oil (and vice versa) when you're cooking. But, since butter contains water and milk solids, it's not always as simple as you'd think. Keep these tips in mind when you're cooking with butter instead of oil:

  • Sauteing or pan-frying? Let the butter bubble, melt, and settle on low heat before adding other ingredients. This allows the fat to get hot enough while cooking out some of the moisture.
  • Don't try to stir-fry using regular butter instead of oil, as it won't stand up to the high heat. Try clarified butter or ghee instead.
  • For high-heat roasting, opt for clarified butter or ghee.


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