How to Substitute Butter


Most of this information on how to substitute butter is from my book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook. However, I’ve also added product reviews and a few fun recipes that are here on the website.

Quick Ways to Substitute Butter

There isn’t one all-encompassing way to substitute butter, rather there are some options which are better for baking, some for cooking, and some for spreading. Following is my personal tested recommendations.

How to Substitute Butter for Dairy-Free Cooking, Baking and Spreading

Dairy-Free Margarine

Most non-dairy margarines work well in baking, cooking, and/or as spreads. Several non-hydrogenated brands are listed within our product lists, such as Earth Balance / Smart Balance, plus you can see the products we’ve reviewed below.

While margarine can substitute butter in a one for one ratio, it is most often noted that you may reduce the amount of vegetable shortening by up to 1/4 cup for every 1 cup of butter that a recipe calls for.  However, I have successfully used as little as 1/2 the amount called for on many occasions.

Cooking or Baking Oils

Oil is the most used butter replacement in my household. This can take some experimentation, but oil can be utilized for butter, even in baking. Obviously oil will work great anywhere butter is called for in sautéing or roasting. However, in baking much less oil is typically required, as it will yield a somewhat “oily” product if you use a 1:1 ratio. As a fat equivalent, they say that 7/8 cup vegetable oil equals 1 cup of butter. I don’t typically agree with this. I use 3/4 the amount or less.

My popular butter-free chocolate chip cookies use 1/2 cup of extra light olive oil rather than the 1 cup of butter called for in equivalent recipes. The results are gobbled up quickly and with many smiles. If a recipe specifically calls for melted butter, then you can replace it with the equivalent amount of oil.

Fruit Purees for Baking

Blend up that apple pulp or a handful of prunes and you have an excellent, healthy way to substitute butter when baking sweets and quick breads. In fact, pureed bananas, pineapple, and pears also give an excellent “fat” consistency to recipes with an added jolt of health and flavor. We have a few tips to help maximize your results:

  • Because the fruit will add more sweetness than butter, reduce the sugar in your recipes a touch.
  • Think of the flavor of your recipe to judge which fruit flavor will work best. For example, prune puree works particularly well in chocolate desserts, such as brownies; and pineapple can add a tropical flair to most quick breads.
  • Use 1/2 cup of pureed fruit in place of one cup of butter. You may need to add a tablespoon or two of vegetable shortening or oil back into the recipe to achieve the best results.
  • If you don’t have fresh fruit on hand, drained applesauce, strained baby food fruit, or a puree of water with any dried fruit (apples, apricots, peaches, etc.) will work in a pinch. See our Prune Puree recipe below for dried fruit help. Or, try a mixture of 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/2 cup vegetable oil as an excellent replacement for butter in cakes and quick breads.
  • You may choose to use a straight blender puree, or get a little fancy with one of the recipes below.

Here are a couple of quick recipes for making your own fruit puree for baking:

Nutritional Yeast for Flavor

Hold that butter! Loaded with B vitamins, many people love the taste of nutritional yeast on popcorn. Use a touch of olive oil on the popcorn for maximum “sticking” results. Nutritional Yeast is quickly growing in popularity. To find it, check the baking goods aisle and the bulk food section of mainstream and natural grocers.  If you can’t find it in store, it is readily available online.

Coconut Butter

Yes, those crazy coconuts are incredibly versatile! Coconut butter is the meat of the coconut ground into a paste, and shouldn’t be confused with coconut oil, which will melt more readily at room temperature.

You can easily purchase coconut butter online, but to make your own, toast unsweetened grated or shredded coconut over low heat in a frying pan until lightly browned, then whirl it (while still hot) in a blender until it has the consistency of a smooth paste.

Although straight coconut butter isn’t great for spreading, it can work well in cooking and baking.

Recipes: Homemade Buttery Spreads

Though these aren’t true “butter substitutes,” these buttery recipes are sure to inspire and delight:

Homemade Dairy-Free Butter Substitutes

You’ll find some more butter substitute recipes in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook.

Products: Butter Substitutes from the Store

Below are the products we’ve had a chance to taste-test and review here on Go Dairy Free (click on the image to view the full review):

Earth Balance Buttery Spreads - All dairy-free and vegan, soy-free options

Melt Organic Buttery Spread and Dairy-Free Butter Substitute

Earth Balance Organic Culinary Spreads - New Square Packaging Launched in 2014 (but product inside is still the same formulas!)

Earth Balance Buttery Sticks and Shortening Butter Substitutes for Dairy-Free Baking

For more butter substitute recipes and tips from my kitchen, see Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living.

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Senior Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.


  1. Hi I was curious whats a good butter/oil substitute for cooking and or baking? I have to avoid dairy products and cant use any form of dairy. Any suggestions? Thanks so much

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