14 Healthy Butter Substitutes for Cooking and Baking

Creamy, rich, and classic. There’s nothing like butter when it comes to baking and cooking. However, many people avoid butter for ethical or dietary reasons. Considering its high-fat content and the frequency of lactose intolerance, many people try to avoid consuming butter altogether. Whether you use butter as a spread, in cooking or baking, many butter substitutes are healthier and just as tasty. This article explores some of the healthier substitutes for butter.

What do people replace butter?

Butter is a milk product that is made by churning fresh or fermented cream. It contains approximately 80 percent fat, 15 percent water, and five percent protein. The protein acts as an emulsifier allowing water and fat to stay suspended in a single-phase solution. The unique mixtures of fats in butter enable it to remain solid at room temperature and melt at 90 degrees Fahrenheit.


Here are some of the most common reasons for replacing butter –

  • To reduce fat – Some people may want to reduce the fat content of a recipe without altering the taste.
  • Vegan diet – Some people do not eat animal products for ethical reasons and prefer to use plant-based produces.
  • Milk allergy – Though butter is low in proteins, it still contains a little amount of the milk protein casein, which can cause allergy (1).
  • Lactose intolerance – Butter contains very little lactose, but some people who are very sensitive to lactose need to avoid consuming butter.
  • If you run out of butter – Sometimes if you run out of butter while cooking or baking, you can use butter substitutes without compromising on taste.

Healthy butter substitutes

1. Coconut oil

Coconut is a popular butter substitute for the vegans. You can substitute it for butter in equal measure. You can melt it or beat it with sugar for cooking and baking. Coconut oil works well with chocolate-based recipes. Since coconut oil is stable at room temperature, you can also use it as a spread. However, it does have a distinctive taste, and it can alter the taste of the final product.

It is anti-inflammatory, antiviral, immune-boosting, and an antioxidant (2). Coconut oil is good for improving digestion and is excellent for hair and skin. Though it does not reduce the amount of fat in the diet, it contains healthier fats than butter.

2. Extra virgin olive oil

You can replace olive oil for butter in any recipe that requires cooking on the stovetop. You can use this oil while sautéing vegetables or meats. You can also swap olive oil for butter while making pancakes. Olive oil is not a suitable replacement for butter in baking.

You can replace one cup of butter with 3/4th cup of olive oil in your recipes. The strong nutty flavor of olive oil is good for making savory dishes like pumpkin bread. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats, which lower blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease (3). It also improves blood sugar control. Olive oil is calorie-dense, so you should use it in moderation.

3. Shea butter

Shea butter comes from the nuts of the shea tree. It is solid at a warm temperature and has an ivory color. You can use it as a replacement for butter when cooking. You can stir fry with it or can add a spoon to a smoothie. It has a great taste and can add flavor to any dish. You can also use this vegan-friendly butter to make pancakes and toast. Always use unrefined shea butter for cooking. It has a characteristic smoky, nutty smell.

Shea butter is rich in antioxidants, which is great for anti-aging (4). It also contains essential fatty acids and vitamin E, which is excellent for skin, hair, and nails. Shea butter can go rancid pretty quickly, so do not purchase shea butter that smells unusual or is discolored.

4. Avocado

Avocado is a nutritious replacement for butter. Mashed avocado makes a nice spread. You can spread it on toast, added it to eggs, and also use it in smoothies. You can easily use it to replace butter in baking.

Avocados replace the saturated fat of butter with monounsaturated fats. They are rich in vitamins C, E, and B6,  niacin, folate, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and potassium. Avocados also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants, which are beneficial for the eyes and brain (5). For baking, you can substitute one cup of pureed avocado with one cup of butter. Reduce the oven temperature by 25 percent and increase the baking time.

5. Cocoa butter

Cocoa butter is pure fat derived from cacao beans, and it has the flavor and aroma of cocoa and can be used in place of regular butter in baking. This vegan butter is extracted by letting the butter drip off roasted bans in a hot room. Cocoa butter stays solid when kept at room temperature and melts close to body temperature.  You can use it for any recipe that you want to melt in your mouth.

Cocoa butter is rich in antioxidant compounds, including oleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid. The polyphenolic components of cocoa butter, help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (6).

6. Unsweetened applesauce

Applesauce is a healthy substitute for butter in recipes for cakes and bread. You can also add it to your oatmeal and chia pudding. It lowers the number of calories consumed and adds fiber and vitamin C to your food. Applesauce is high in pectin, which aids digestion.

In baking recipes replace half the butter with applesauce. For example, if the method needs one cup of butter, use only ½ cup butter and add ½ cup applesauce. This method will lower the fat content in your dish, make it moist and tasty, and increase the amount of vitamin and minerals.

7. Greek yogurt

Full-fat Greek yogurt makes a great butter alternative as it has a creamy texture, which gives a velvety feel to baked goods. It may add a tangy flavor to your dish. Greek yogurt is rich in protein and low in calories. It also contains calcium, vitamin B12, and potassium.

You can substitute Greek yogurt for butter in equal measure. If you feel the batter too wet, you can add a bit of flour. You can also replace just half the amount of the butter required in the recipe with yogurt.

8. Hummus

Hummus is a dip that is made by blending chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic. You can spread it on to a wrap, pita bread or make a sandwich with it. You can also add it to sautéd vegetables and eggs. Not only is it low in calories, but it is also rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals.   Hummus also a great source of fiber, which improves digestion.

9. Pumpkin puree

Pumpkin puree may remind you of thanksgiving deserts but can be a nutritious substitute for butter all through the year. You can use it to make bread, coffee, cakes, and muffins. You can also add it to yogurt. It is rich in nutritional fiber, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin E. Pumpkinalso contains carotenoids which lower the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and hardening of the arteries. Use ¾ cups of pumpkin puree as a substitute for one cup of butter in your recipe.

10. Nut butters

Nut butters like peanut butter, cashew butter, and almond butter are a good substitute for butter in vegan baking. They make an excellent topping for a bagel or a muffin. You can spread them on a toast or even sauté vegetables with them.

Nut butters contain vitamin E, vitamin B6, folic acid, niacin, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and copper. They keep you full, which help in weight loss. They also contain antioxidants, which help to keep you healthy. Nut butters contain healthy fats that reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

11. Mashed banana

You can use Mashed bananas instead of butter while baking. Mashed bananas provide extra nutrients, and lower the calorie and fat content of the dish. For cookies, cakes, muffins and quick bread, add bananas in the ration of 1:1. If you feel the batter is too dense, you can add some more banana.

12. Pureed black beans

Pureed black beans can be used to replace butter in most baked dishes. Legumes keep deserts soft, moist, and chewy. They add fiber and protein to the dish and help cut back on calories. Baking with pureed black beans doesn’t compromise the taste.

13. Chicken stock, vegetable broth

Chicken stock, vegetable stock, and even bone broth can be used to sauté vegetables instead of butter. They keep the food soft and moist and also add an excellent flavor to the dish.  It reduces the calorie content of the recipe. The additional benefit is the added nutrition from the chicken or the vegetable stock.


14. Nutritional yeast

Nutritional yeast is grown specifically to be used as a food product. The yeast cells are killed during the manufacturing of this yeast. You can use it in cooking as it has a cheesy, nutty or savory flavor.

This popular food product is often used in vegan cooking. You can use nutritional yeast as a thickener for soups and sauces, or add it as a cheese flavoring in vegan sauces. You can also sprinkle nutritional yeast over popcorn or pasta. It is a complete protein and is rich in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. It helps in gene regulation, metabolism, growth, and immunity.

Final thoughts

There are many reasons why people opt to use butter substitutes for cooking and baking. These include ethical reasons, including a vegan diet, and health reasons like milk allergy and lactose intolerance. Some people also use these substitutes to lower the calorie content of these dishes. Butter substitutes help to increase the nutritional value of the food and lower fat content. However, one must use these options cautiously and make sure you do not overuse them.


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