7 Go-To Butter Substitutes for Dairy-Free Baking

Whether you avoid butter for dietary reasons or simply ran out of your stash, here's some good news: there are plenty of substitutes you can use in its place and still end up with delicious results.

Good to Know

Because you're changing the makeup of a recipe by substituting butter with another ingredient, the results will never be identical to the butter-containing counterpart. Some recipes might require a bit of experimentation with different substitutes until you find what works best.

1. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a popular butter substitute, especially for vegans. It's healthy, readily available and yields delicious results.

How to Use It

When the recipe calls for butter, substitute an equal amount of coconut oil in its place.

Special Considerations

Coconut oil can be a little tricky to work with — while it's firm when slightly cool, it liquifies when warmed. Make sure the oil is the correct consistency needed for your recipe.

Pro Tip

If you're making cake frosting, such as vegan buttercream with coconut oil , the oil should be firm.

2. Fruit Purée

In certain recipes, you can use puréed soft fruit instead of butter. Applesauce is one of the most popular and versatile puréed fruits for dairy-free baking, and it can step in for most cake and quick bread recipes.

How to Use It

Use puréed fruit as a one-to-one replacement for butter.

When to Use It

It's easy to substitute puréed fruits of all kinds in frostings or cake fillings.

Special Considerations

Substituting puréed fruit can alter the finished texture of your baked goods. For example, cakes might be denser and cookies might be chewier. Try it out and see what works best for your tastes.

3. Lard 

Lard is an animal-based fat, so this option isn't viable for vegans.

How to Use It

With a texture similar to vegetable shortening, lard can be used in equal amounts to substitute for butter.

When to Use It

Use it in batters, doughs, pie pastry and cake frostings.

Special Considerations

For many, the largest obstacle when it comes to lard is mental: the fact that it's animal-derived doesn't sit well with some. But lard can bring a tender texture to pie crusts and give cookies and cakes a pleasant, well-rounded flavor.

4. Vegan Butter

Store-bought vegan butter substitutes, such as Earth Balance or Melt, are made using vegetable-based oils and sometimes soy.

How to Use It

In general, vegan butter substitutes are fine to swap in equal quantities to butter in your baking recipes. 

When to Use It

These butter substitutes are specially formulated to act like real butter, so you can use them interchangeably.

5. Olive Oil 

In baking, olive oil can be a true friend when butter isn't an option. 

How to Use It

Typically, when using olive oil instead of solid butter in a recipe, you should slightly reduce the amount. That is, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, consider using ¾ cup of olive oil. If a recipe calls for melted butter, substituting an equal amount of olive oil is usually fine. 

Pro Tip

This  conversion chart  is a handy guide to proper measurements for butter substitution.

When to Use It

Olive oils are great as a butter alternative for batters and doughs, but they don't work well when making buttery frostings.

Special Considerations

Olive oil can change the taste of your baked good, giving it a slightly nutty flavor.

6. Vegetable Oil 

Canola, vegetable and other plant-based oils can all be used as butter substitutes in your recipes.

How to Use It

The conversion is the same as olive oil — slightly less oil than butter in most recipes, and you can use a conversion chart as a guide.

When to Use It

As with olive oil, vegetable oils are good alternatives for batters and dough but shouldn't be used in buttery frosting.

Special Considerations

Typically mild in flavor, vegetable oils won't interfere with the taste of your baked goods — their contribution to the recipe revolves around moisture and fat. 

7. Vegetable Shortening 

Vegetable shortening is a vegetable-based oil that's been hydrogenated into a solid form.

How to Use It

Use as a one-to-one replacement for butter.

When to Use It

Vegetable shortening is often used as a butter substitute because the texture works well in virtually all of the situations you'd use butter — when creaming ingredients for cake and cookies, when making buttercream or when making pie pastry .

Special Considerations

While vegetable shortening will impart a similar texture to butter, it won't contribute much flavor — it's virtually odorless and flavorless.  


Find Your Next Recipe

Brush up on your vegan baking and make these butter-free recipes.

Imagine a cake that's perfectly moist, delightfully fluffy and packed with chocolate flavor. Now what if we told you that cake was made without any dairy or eggs? We wouldn't blame you for doubting us, but that's the reality of this to-die-for vegan chocolate cake recipe from Joshua John Russell, star of our super-popular Man About Cake series (and our new Man About Bake show).
I love baking in early spring. It welcomes the new season. It brings a sort of freshness to my recipe creating. I start using ingredients like lemons, berries, and rhubarb instead of pumpkin, cinnamon, and molasses. I'm over those flavors by the time spring comes and ready for something bright.
Ashley McLaughlin
Next, focus on ingredient substitutions as Joshua retrofits a favorite carrot cake recipe to make it vegan. From eggs to butter to sugar, you'll discover healthy vegan alternatives that do the job well, and taste good!

April 02, 2020
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7 Go-To Butter Substitutes for Dairy-Free Baking