How To Replace Butter In All Your Favourite Sweet And Savoury Recipes

You won’t believe it’s not butter with these simple swaps!

Knife slicing through slab of butter.

Butter is not a carb. Photo, iStock.

Whether you’re avoiding dairy, adopting a more plant-based lifestyle, or are simply trying to save yourself a trip to the store, there are several butter-less options that make good stand-ins for the real deal. Here’s what you need to know if you’re substituting butter in a sweet or savoury recipe.

Why do recipes include butter?

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Butter is a dairy-based fat. As an oil-in-water emulsion, butter is solid when chilled, but it becomes spreadable at room temperature, and it melts when heated. In baked goods, butter coats the other ingredients, which creates a tender texture, adds moisture and lends an indulgent, rich taste.

How to substitute butter in baked goods

In recipes calling for melted butter like muffins, quick breads, or pancakes, try substituting an equal amount of vegetable oil or melted coconut oil. Vegetable-based oils add moisture and tenderness. And coconut oil, while dairy-free, is also solid at room temperature, so it will act similarly to butter. Choose a refined coconut oil, as its flavour is far less intense than virgin varieties.

For pastries, like pie crusts, biscuits and squares, you can swap in an equal amount of a vegetable-based shortening or a non-dairy butter substitute, like Earth Balance, without compromising flakiness. (However, the results may be less flavourful.)

Cricket powder works in banana bread. Photo: banana bread loaf.

Try coconut oil in your banana bread. Photo, Erik Putz.

How to use fruit purées to reduce fat

To reduce fat in muffins, waffles and cookies, try subbing half of the butter with a neutral-tasting vegetable oil, such as canola or grapeseed oil — or a vegan butter — and the other half with a fruit purée, like applesauce.

However, note that cookies made with fruit purée will have a cakier texture than those made with only butter or shortening.

How to replace butter in savoury dishes

For sautéeing or searing vegetables, meat and fish, use a neutral-flavoured oil (like canola, sunflower, and grapeseed) or refined coconut oil. For richer dishes, such as creamy mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese where dairy plays a starring role, stick to butter, or opt for a fully vegan version of these creamy, indulgent meals.

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