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March 9, 2018

7 Healthy Substitutes for Butter in Cooking

Butter may be delicious, but half a cup of butter adds more than 800 calories to your food. If you want to live a healthier lifestyle, reduce your risk of heart disease, or experiment with new flavors and recipe ingredients, there are many ways to eliminate butter entirely from your cooking. Here are some of the best healthy substitutes for butter in cooking and baking. Let’s see how to use them for the best results.

substitutes for butter in cooking
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

#1. Applesauce

Applesauce is one of the best substitutes for butter in cooking and baking. This ingredient dramatically reduces fat and calories. You can replace half the amount of butter in your recipe with an equal amount of applesauce to reduce fat. If you want to, you can replace all of the butter with applesauce.

With baked goods like bread, the end result will be more moist and denser. Applesauce tends to work best in oil-based baked goods like cake and muffins.

Don’t try to replace butter with applesauce in cookies or any recipe that should be crisp. It will always produce more humid results than butter or oil. If you use sweetened applesauce, make sure you adjust the amount of sugar you add to the recipe.

#2. Olive Oil

Olive oil has about the same amount of calories as butter. However, it’s a rich source of monounsaturated fats. These healthy fats are associated with lower cholesterol levels and a lower risk of heart disease. The Institute of Medicine even recommends using monounsaturated fats as much as possible

The main downside is that olive oil is one of the more complex substitutes for butter in cooking. In general, you can substitute 3/4 of the specified amount of butter with olive oil. If you need 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter, use 6 tablespoons of olive oil.

In general, olive oil works as well as butter in brownies and quick bread. On the other hand, it isn’t a good choice if you need to cream butter with sugar for a light texture in baked goods.

health benefits of lipoic acid
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

#3. Avocado

While it may seem like a non-traditional choice, avocado works just like applesauce when replacing butter in baked goods. Substitute half or all of the butter in your favorite recipe with freshly mashed avocado. You will get a lower calorie count and a moister, softer finished product.

Replacing just two tablespoons of butter with avocado results in 150 fewer calories. It also eliminates cholesterol, sodium, and most fat. Unlike butter, avocado is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that helps lower cholesterol levels.

When baking with avocado, be sure to reduce your oven temperature by about 25%. At the same time, you should increase your cooking time to prevent cakes from caving in or rising in the middle.

#4. Buttermilk

Buttermilk is a great substitute for butter that adds a slightly tangy flavor. This ingredient leads to tender, moist, and flavorful baked goods. You can substitute 1/2 cup of buttermilk for every 1 cup of butter required in your recipe.

If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk. Afterward, allow it to sit for 5 minutes.

#5. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is one of the best healthy substitutes for butter in cooking and baking. It is high in calcium, protein, and healthy bacteria. This type of yogurt, which is strained to remove the whey for a thicker consistency, keeps baked goods moist without unhealthy fat. You will notice Greek yogurt adds a rich, tangy flavor to baked goods similar to buttermilk.

To replace butter with Greek yogurt, substitute plain Greek yogurt at a 1:1 ratio. Because Greek yogurt adds moisture to your recipe, it’s best to keep Greek yogurt substitutions under one cup. If your recipe needs more than 1 cup of butter, increase the amount of flour or only substitute a portion of the butter with Greek yogurt.

#6. Prune Puree

Replacing butter with prune puree eliminates most of the fat and cuts the calories in half while boosting the fiber content of your baked goods. It also adds a slightly fruity flavor to your recipe. For this feature alone, the prune puree works great with brownies or recipes with chocolate or cinnamon.

Keep in mind that using prune puree will darken your food noticeably. It can also have a high sugar content, depending on the brand, if you don’t make your own.

Prune puree is also one of the easiest substitutes for butter in cooking. Just replace the butter with an equal amount of pureed prunes. You can use store bought prune baby food or make your own puree by blending 1 cup of pitted prunes with 6 tablespoons of very hot water.

substitutes for butter in cooking
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

#7. Coconut Oil

What’s better than a butter substitute with plenty of nutrients and great flavor? Unlike other substitutions, coconut oil can be used at the same temperature that the recipe calls for such as softened butter or melted butter. This is because coconut oil at room temperature is very soft but melts or solidifies easily. Coconut oil is one of the most versatile substitutes for butter in cooking, whether you’re baking, sauteeing or broiling.

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing butter with coconut oil. Note that this ingredient can add a strong coconut flavor to your food. This can be a great thing in some recipes like Thai cooking or baked goods. However, the flavor can be reduced by only replacing half of the called-for butter with coconut oil. If the recipe calls for melted butter, you can use melted coconut oil, for example.

Final Word

Substituting butter with a healthier ingredient isn’t difficult. Moreover, it doesn’t need to impact the flavor much if you don’t want it to. Once you try a recipe made with Greek yogurt or applesauce, though, you may find it’s an improvement.

What are your favorite healthy substitutes for butter in cooking? Are there any that you don’t like at all? Leave a comment and share your recipe substitution tips!


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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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