Why Use Alternatives for Butter?Few ingredients are more well-known and utilized within the sphere of food and baking than butter. However, for the 30 to 50 million Americans who are lactose intolerant, or even for those who are generally health conscious, butter has been a longtime foe. Butter is the dairy product that results as a separation from churning milk or cheese. It is essentially a highly concentrated form of fluid milk. Regular butter contains up to 80% butterfat and can be chilled and used as a solid, or melted and used as a liquid. Derived from animals, butter generally has higher levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, and when consumed in high amounts, butter has been thought to increase levels of cholesterol. That being said, recent studies have alternately shown that certain types of butter (including grass-fed and Ghee) can be healthy alternatives to traditional butter. As with everything, moderation is key and the inner workings of a healthy diet. Although studies have been generally mixed concerning the respective health benefits and downsides of butter, many people remain interested in substitutes for butter.
Substitutes for ButterWhen deciding to substitute an ingredient for butter, it's important to consider what you will be using it for. The most ideal butter substitutes vary based on the intended use and will yield much more satisfactory results when a proper butter substitute is used. For example, when baking quick breads, muffins, or cookies, butter can serve as a mechanism for retaining moisture or creating density. Alternatively, when butter is used for pie crust, it helps to create a much sought-after flaky crust. When used as a topping or a spread, butter is generally used to provide a creamy and rich flavor to our breads, pastries, and potatoes. Due to the unique and versatile nature of butter and its respective uses, it is always advisable to substitute with an alternative that can provide those same characteristics to the dish you're eating or serving. A good phrase to remember is that not all substitutes are created equal. While keeping that in mind, some of the most commonly used substitutes include coconut oil, coconut butter, olive oil, safflower oil, nut butter, applesauce, yogurt, and dairy free butter.
Coconut oil, olive oil, safflower oil, and coconut butter are some of the most used butter alternatives. Depending on temperature, coconut oil can be both a solid and a liquid. This versatility is exceedingly helpful depending on the intended use. Coconut oil can add a different texture and flavor when used in place of butter.
How to Substitute Butter with Oil?
- When baking with coconut oil, it is generally substituted for other fats on a 1:1 basis.
- If a recipe calls for ½ cup butter, you can use ½ cup coconut oil. When using coconut oil in place of butter for pie crusts, it is important to use solid, room temperature coconut oil to create a flakier crust. In addition to its versatility, coconut oil is packed full of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) instead of the average saturated fats.
- Olive oil is another alternative to butter, touting around 120 calories per tablespoon, 14 grams of total fat, and 0 grams of cholesterol. In terms of conversion, ½ cup of butter can be replaced by ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Assuming we're talking about baking, butter can NOT be substituted equally for oil.
Butter is 80-82% fat, while oil is 100% fat. Butter also contains about 18% water (which evaporates into steam, lightening and leavening your baking) as well as 2% milk solids, which brown and contribute flavor to baking. None of these properties are replaced when substituted for oil.
If you want to substitute oil for butter, it seems like the only responsible way to do it in a baking recipe would be to weigh the required amount of butter (in grams), and replace 80% of that with a solid fat like coconut oil, 18% with water, and 2% with something that will brown like dry soy milk powder. Keeping those proportions right would provide more faithful results than a 1 for 1 swap with oil (or, God forbid, applesauce!)
As for simulating a buttery flavor and not getting watery, like for veggies, toast etc - I put a very light tasting olive oil, salt, and a few drops of butter extract in a spray bottle. Voila. It really tastes like butter. I didn't even know they make "butter extract" but yeah, its made like other extracts, and it created from butter. (McCormick's, and it isn't even expensive) - it's with all the other ones like Vanilla.