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What can I substitute for 1 cup of butter in baking recipes (e.g. cookies, muffins, cakes, etc.)?

I'm looking for something that has less saturated fat (and also doesn't have trans fat).

Update: Since baking is less forgiving than cooking (i.e. if you don't use the exact amount of each ingredient the recipe might fail), could you please also include the amount you would need to use to replace 1 cup of butter?

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See also: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/2323/… –  hobodave Aug 28 '10 at 0:08
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13 Answers 13

You can always use coconut milk. For 1cup butter use 1/2 cup coconut milk. The cookies will be fluffier and sweeter from the natural sugar.

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Hello Ashtote. We don't do nutrition and health advice on our site. I left your proposal to use coconut milk, but removed the claims that it is healthy. –  rumtscho Nov 11 '13 at 12:12
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Earth Balance (see this site) has excellent non-dairy, no trans fat butter sticks (1-1 substitute for butter). I've personally baked with them dozens of times and they work wonderfully for everything from pie crusts to cookies and muffins.

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There are a lot of considerations to make when substituting for butter since it plays several roles that depend on the baked good.

  • Creaming solid butter with sugar is essential for the texture of a cake, because that's where you make all the little pockets that air will blow up later. Anything that you can similarly beat might substitute well. Personally I'm considering experimenting with bananas in recipes like this.

  • Baked goods that use baking soda and don't require creaming are good candidates for having their butter replaced, especially if they just require melted butter. This is where I'd be experimenting with yogurt or bananas or whatever else sounds interesting.

  • The way the fat melts determines how much a cookie spreads as it cooks. A fat with a higher melting temp would make taller cookies, while using melted butter would make flatter cookies. Oil would be a good substitute in recipes requiring melted butter, just remember that butter is 10-20% water.

  • In pie crusts, pastries, and biscuits, you build up layers of dough and butter when you roll and knead them, and this is what creates a flaky dough. Lots of recipes use part butter and part lard for their different melting points to balance flakiness and tenderness. Using any fat-free substitute would probably be disastrous but I haven't experimented. This is the one place where I really wouldn't consider using bananas, because you need fat to separate the layers.

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I use Star Balance non-dairy butter. It comes out tasting the same.

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Smart Balance, maybe? Star Balance doesn't seem to exist. But there's already an answer saying Smart Balance with more information. –  Jefromi Aug 23 '13 at 21:41
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Any oil is the best solution I tried it and it tasted perfect

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1 banana can substitue for 1 stick of butter. I recently tried this for a banana bread recipe & it worked great. Added extra banana flavor & eliminated a lot of fat & calories. I recommend using a fresh banana (not too ripe) so the texture is still firm.

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You can use coconut oil instead of butter or in addition to butter. It will flavor the cookies or cake with a very mild flavor of coconut....use the organic brand of coconut oil.

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I use fat free Greek yogurt. I found it as a recommendation when I was looking up Greek yogurt and everything I have made with it came out as good or better than with butter. Use the same amount

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I typically hate naming specific brand names but Smart Balance is a decent butter substitute for baking and is used in a 1:1 ratio.

Unfortunately, there will always be a texture difference because different fats react differently to heat, specifically how fast it melts. Shortening, for example, melts between 115 and 117, meaning it melts pretty fast compared to butter, which melts between 90 and 95. The faster it melts, the flatter your cookie is likely to be.

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Based on the ingredients, this is basically just margarine. Still a fine answer (no trans fat etc) but I personally wouldn't be too excited about using it over butter. –  Jefromi Aug 23 '13 at 21:42
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In muffins and quick breads, I have found that you can actually substitute apple sauce for oil or melted butter. This has worked very well for me!

Use the same amount of apple sauce that you would oil/butter, if not a bit extra.

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I do the same, but I tend to leave in some oil (1/4 to 1/2 of the original amount). You can also use mashed bananas. –  Joe Aug 28 '10 at 5:11
    
Is this a 1:1 replacement? I.e. do you use 1 cup of applesauce for 1 cup of butter? –  Senseful Aug 28 '10 at 8:01
    
Yes, I do a 1:1 replacement. For some recipes, I've found that I like to use a little extra apple sauce. –  JustRightMenus Aug 28 '10 at 12:54
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You can also use yogurt or sour cream in a 1:1 replacement in muffins and quick breads. –  Rebekah Aug 29 '10 at 13:55
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Lard has less saturated fat than butter, and it's great in pie crusts. I can't speak to its other baking applications because I stick to butter for cookies and muffins and such, but experimenting with less butter when combined with lard to produce the total fat called for in such recipes might be worthwhile. Also, About.com has an article on dairy-free baking that you might find useful. It discusses when to use oil and when to use margarine (and when margarine is called for, there are some decent alternatives to traditional margarine on the market); the article has other great tips for baking, as well.

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A way to reduce the use of butter is to make a spread combining butter and canola oil.

1/2 cup butter (softened) 1/2 cup canola oil

Blend until combined, store in a covered dish in the fridge. Use like butter for baking or as a spread.

It has ~ half the saturated fat as butter and negligible amounts of trans fats. Provides mono-unsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids.

A compromise though and not what you asked. I have found this to be a decent compromise.

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Just use vegetable or canola oil. You'll likely need to adjust your measurement a bit, you typically would use less oil than the equivalent amount of butter. You may need to add a bit more water to compensate for the water present in butter (nearly 20% of butter is water).

Also note that the finished good will be textured differently. Cookies will tend to be flatter because you cannot cream the sugar into the oil as you can with butter.

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Any idea how much less oil to use? 10% 20%? Or how much water to add? Or would both cancel each other out? In other words: 1 cup of butter should be replaced with 80% (of a cup) of oil and 20% (of a cup) of water? –  Senseful Aug 28 '10 at 8:06
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@eagle: That would be sufficient, strictly speaking, but you may not need to do it at all. I would start with 80/20 and see how it works. It all comes down to what you're baking. I don't frequently (ever) substitute oil for butter, because I love butter. :) –  hobodave Aug 28 '10 at 15:44
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