What to Know About Butter Substitutes

Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on June 22, 2021

Nutritional Info

Serving Size 1 Tablespoon
Calories 100
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11 g
Saturated Fat 2 g
Trans Fat 2 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 132 mg
Potassium 0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 0 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Sugar 0 g
Protein 0 g

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

  • Vitamin C 0%
  • Iron 0%
  • Vitamin B6 0%
  • Magnesium 0%
  • Calcium 0%
  • Vitamin D 0%
  • Cobalamin 0%
  • Vitamin A 10%

There are many reasons you might want to replace butter in a recipe. Maybe you have lactose intolerance. Maybe you want to make your recipes a little healthier. Or maybe you don’t have any butter in your fridge at the moment. So, what can you substitute for butter in a recipe?

What Is Butter?

Traditional butter.Butter is made from concentrated fat from cow’s milk. Eighty percent of butter is milk fat, and the other 20% is water and non-fat milk solids. Sometimes salt is added to butter before it gets packaged.

Whipped butter. Regular butter can be whipped using nitrogen gas in order to add volume. Whipped butter is best for spreading and should not be used in recipes. The density is different and recipes won’t turn out the same.

Reduced-fat butter. This type of butter contains around 40% less milk fat. Fat from cow’s milk is replaced with water and gelatin. Since this type of butter has more water in it, you shouldn’t use it to replace regular butter in baked goods or for pan frying food.

Clarified butter. You can clarify butter at home by separating melted butter from the milk solids and water. When you melt butter in a pan, remove the frothy white part that separates on top. Then pour off the clear butter, leaving the milk solids at the bottom to be thrown away.

About Butter Alternatives

Margarine. This is made from vegetable oils. It has unsaturated fats, which help promote good cholesterol levels. 

Butter has more saturated fat, which is the less healthy fat. But some margarines have added trans fat to give them a thicker consistency, so read the label before you buy.

Coconut spread. Most of these are also mixed with vegetable oils. Coconut spread often melts and spreads easily. It may have a strong coconut taste. Even though coconuts are popular for having healthy fats, they also have saturated fat, so be sure to check the label.

Coconut cream. At home, you can whip refined coconut oil with a hand or stand mixer to make a butter substitute. Whipped coconut cream is a great alternative for making sweets like frosting.

Nut butters. You can mix cashew, peanut, or almond butter with sugar for a quick cookie base. Since it is thick and rich, nut butter often mimics the consistency of butter in baked goods.

Cacao butter. This butter substitute tastes like chocolate, so it’s best for recipes that already use chocolate as an ingredient. Cacao butter is 100% fat. Use less than you’d use in a recipe that calls for butter, since butter only has 80% fat content.

Avocado. With a creamy texture and mild taste, avocado is great for desserts. Make sure that your avocado is ripe and soft before using it for baking so there are no lumps. Avocado begins to brown quickly, so bake the batter right after mixing for the best results.

Aquafaba mayonnaise. The liquid from canned chickpeas can be whipped to make aquafaba, an alternative to egg whites. When you mix this substance with oil, it becomes a dairy-free mayonnaise and a great alternative to butter.

Pros of Butter Substitutes

Eat fewer calories. Since butter has a high fat content, using butter substitutes may save you calories in recipes. You don’t have to sacrifice flavor to make healthier choices when baking or cooking. Using butter substitutes may help you lose extra weight.

Avoid lactose and dairy. If you’re allergic to the protein in cow’s milk or you have lactose intolerance, you may need to skip butter as an ingredient. When you use butter substitutes, you can enjoy your favorite recipes without any discomfort afterward.

Get extra nutrients. If you choose ingredients like nut butters and avocado, you’re also getting the added nutrients from those foods. You gain protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Cons of Butter Substitutes

Making recipe adjustments. You may need to use more or less of the substitute, especially with baking. Butter alternatives might make your recipes look, feel, and taste different than if you’d used regular butter. Figuring out how to substitute butter and adjust the ratios takes some trial and error.

Overdoing it. Even if you skip the butter for a healthier option, still check the fat content and calories to make sure you don’t eat too much.

Show Sources


Consumer Reports: “The best healthy butter substitutes.”

Go Dairy Free: “How to Substitute Oil for Butter in Almost Any Recipe.”

Institute of Culinary Education: “Butter Alternatives.”

National Dairy Council: “Butter.”‌

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