What do coconut oil, avocados, applesauce, and pumpkin puree have in common? They all work as butter replacements in baking. Of course, butter is a key ingredient in many traditional recipes; it helps leaven, provides stability, creates fluffy or flaky texture, and lends a rich flavour. However, there are many instances where you may need to replace that churned brick, whether for health reasons, personal diet choices, or allergy/intolerance.
So, how exactly does avocado function as a butter replacement? In today’s Tutorial Tuesday, we’re showing you how and when to use 9 common butter replacements to help you get the results you’re after. Whether you simply want to make a healthy exchange, lower caloric content, or keep your vegan friends happy, we have you covered! We’ve also included links to some of our favourite recipes using these replacements.
Word to the wise, it’s important to note that several of these substitutes have their own distinctive flavours and/or traits which could substantially alter the results you’re after; certain substitutes may add more moisture or change the texture or sweetness of a recipe. Read the notes to make an informed choice as to which one may work best for your particular needs. Not all of these work in every situation.
Coconut Oil- this is my number 1 choice because it easily mimics butter in many recipes. Coconut oil is hard to semi-solid at room temperature like butter; however, coconut oil tends to melt faster and may liquefy if it’s worked too long, or if you live in a particularly warm climate. Coconut oil is best used when it’s softened, not liquid, especially if it’s being used for frosting. Another downside is its flavour. If you’re not fond of the taste, opt for refined coconut oil which has little to no taste. Though, in some instances, the flavour of unrefined coconut oil can complement a recipe, especially with tropical fruits like pineapple. For more information, here is our guide to baking with coconut oil.
Vegetable Oil –Vegetable oils like avocado or olive oil contain healthy fats and can be used in many recipes that call for butter. However, because vegetable oils are liquid, they won’t work in recipes that call for any “creaming” or “piping”. As well, some oils have more flavour than others (olive oil, for example), and could alter the final taste of your recipe. Opt for a neutral tasting oil like avocado or canola oil if you want to avoid competing flavours. Olive oil can work well with recipes that contain nuts, chocolate, or savory herbs. For more information, here is our guide to baking with olive oil.
Ratio: ~ 3:4 (e.g. ¾ cup of olive oil replaces 1 cup of butter). However, if you want to make a 1:1 conversion, simply reduce the liquid measures in your recipes or add more dry ingredients. Best for: cakes, muffins, breads and sweet breads, cookies (biscotti), quick breads and some pastries (tarts shell and pie crust) although they will not be as flakey (try these vegan pie crusts).
Applesauce or Apple Butter – If you want to reduce fat and sugar content in a recipe, applesauce or apple butter may be your best friend. They lend both natural sweetness, fiber, and moisture to your baked goods. However, because applesauce and apple butter have natural and varied water contents, it may be necessary to reduce the liquids in your recipe or add more flour if need be.
Ratio: 1:1, but decrease liquids if necessary. Best for: muffins, cakes, quick breads, brownies
Mashed bananas- like applesauce, if you want to reduce fat and sugar content in a recipe, mashed bananas are great. Again, because they naturally contain water, it may be necessary to adjust the liquids in your recipe or add more flour. It’s also worth noting that unlike applesauce, bananas have a distinctive flavour which remains after baking; if you’re not fond of it, look to another replacement.
Ratio: 1:1, decrease liquids if need be. Best for: cakes, muffins, quick breads, “healthy” cookies, and brownies, especially when you want a banana flavour
Ripe Mashed Avocado- due to their colour, avocados work best in chocolate recipes. They contain less natural water than other fruit-based replacements and can even stand up to being piped or frosted! Avocados also provide healthy fats and fiber to your recipes.
Ratio: 1:1 Best for: chocolate cakes, chocolate frostings, chocolate cookies, and brownies. It can even be used as a tart filling, or in chocolate puddings or mousse.
Nut butters- Nut butters are full of healthy fats, fiber and flavour. They work best in recipes where you want to highlight their taste, or complement another one, such as chocolate. Opt for natural nut butters instead of hydrogenated “creamed” ones. However, natural nut butters have a liquid oil component to them so they won’t work that well for creaming or piping. The other downside is that they can make your baked goods dense or crumbly.
Ratio: 1:1 Best for: cookies, brownies
Pumpkin puree- pumpkin is full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and can be used in a similar way as applesauce, bananas or avocados. It’s flavour and colour can be somewhat disguised in most recipes, but works really well with chocolate.
Ratio: 3:4 adjust any liquids if need be. Best for: cakes, muffins, quick breads
Sweet Potato Puree– Like pumpkin, sweet potato is full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and can be used in a similar way. It contains less moisture than pumpkin and works particularly well in piped chocolate frostings!
Ratio: 3:4 again, be mindful of the moisture content and adjust any liquids if need be When to use: cakes, muffins, quick bread, chocolate frostings.
Full Fat Plain Yogurt- plain yogurt can add both richness and a tangy flavour to your baked goods as well as reduce the caloric load. Yogurt can add moisture, but tends to make baked goods more dense. As such, it’s not an ideal replacement, especially if you need to eliminate dairy in a recipe. However, I have found full fat dairy-free yogurts can work quite well.
Ratio: ~1:1, adjust liquids if need be. Best for: brownies, muffins, quick breads
Vegan Butter products- If your goal is simply to avoid dairy, vegan and dairy-free butter alternatives can be fail proof choices. Try to avoid products containing palm oil or hydrogenated fats (margarine, for example). Some vegan butters may contain added salt, so you may need to adjust the salt in your recipe. I love baking with this brand when the need arises, although it can be a pricey.
Ratio: 1:1 When to use: cakes, muffins, quick breads, pastry and tarts, frostings, cookies, brownies, crisps, crumbles (pretty much anywhere butter is used)
Did you try any of these butter alternatives in your recipes? If so, don’t forget to share your creations with us by tagging @baked-theblog and #bakedtheblog and we’ll share our favourites!