Butter is a leavening agent. It provides texture and flavor to baked goods. Baking, in basic terms, is a process based on mixing several functional ingredients that are added to the dough to act as thickeners, leavening agents, stabilizers, sweeteners, and softeners. The balance of all components, as well as their nature (that is, what exact ingredient you use in the dough), ultimately determines the texture and taste of the finished product.
The choice of a butter substitute depends on the recipe itself, the ingredients in the dish, and what you have at hand. Butter is rich in animal fats and introduces air to the dough so that its texture becomes light and moist and the flavor tastier and rich. The most favorable and popular butter alternative, I would say, is the usage of the other dairy product: cream, sour cream, plain yogurt, kefir, etc.
Basically, any other fat-rich product can play the role of a softener: vegetable oil (sunflower, olive, peanut, and coconut), egg yolks, and even lard. However, cooks have even learned to replace butter with fruit and vegetable purees. This substitution will preserve the juiciness of the dough and add a fruity flavor to its taste.
What to substitute for butter in shortbread pastry
To maintain that characteristic crumbly structure in shortbread cookies and pie crusts, the butter substitute of your choice should definitely contain a high level of fat.
- Coconut oil is a great option for desserts since it has a bright specific aroma that can change the flavor of the dough. I do not recommend you to use it for savory tarts, meat pies, or salty/cheesy cookies. However, you can choose refined oil where the taste won’t be so pronounced. Substitute coconut oil for butter on a 1:1 basis.
- Unrefined vegetable oil (olive, sunflower, etc.) is a good alternative to butter for savory pastry. Refined vegetable oil is a better option for sweet cookies and dessert crusts. You only need to use ¾ of the amount of oil for the amount of butter listed in the recipe.
For example, a recipe requires 1 stick of butter for the dough. 1 stick of butter is ½ cup or 8 tablespoons. So, ¾ of this amount is 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
- The fruit has a high-fat content, so it can easily replace butter. Grind the pulp of the fruit into the puree in a blender. Add half of the amount of avocado puree instead of the stated butter amount. The only flaw I can see in this butter substitute is that it can add some green to the color of the crust.
- Sour cream, Greek/plain yogurt, and, especially, cottage/farmer’s cheese are good butter alternatives. They help you to replicate that crumbly texture. As for the cottage cheese, you better blend it before combining it with other dough ingredients.
What to use instead of butter in muffins and cupcakes
There are two perfect butter substitutes that you can use for the dough of muffins and cupcakes. The first one is vegetable oil. The principles for substituting it for butter are the same as with the shortbread pastry where you need to use only ¾ of the amount of oil compared to the amount of butter in the recipe. And, of course, our second option is fruit or vegetable puree.
Here is the list of some peculiarities with using fruit puree in baking that can help you make your mind on what option is best for your recipes:
- Keep in mind that you need the same amount of fruit and vegetable puree as the amount of butter to use for muffins.
- Banana puree makes the dough heavy, dense, and moist. Replace only half of the butter required by the recipe with it and the other half with sour cream or yogurt (for example).
- When using avocado puree, add a little cocoa to the dough so that the baked muffins have a beautiful color.
- A perfect option for chocolate muffins or brownies is using prune puree instead of butter. It enhances the flavor of chocolate-filled baked goods.
- Those who like moist airy muffins should try replacing butter with vegetable puree from squash, zucchini, or pumpkin. You can use them fresh, ground with a blender until smooth, and also after any preliminary heat treatment, for example, baked in the oven.
What to use instead of butter for cake layers
When you are trying to find a great substitute for butter for baking cake layers, above all you need to decide what texture you want to have: crumbly, dense, moist, airy, or spongy, etc. Here are some examples of how the chosen ingredient can influence the texture:
- With banana puree, sponge cakes will become dense;
- To make the cake layers crumbly, you better use cottage cheese as a butter alternative;
- Heavy cream and sour cream will help you bake delicate cakes with an exquisite taste;
- If you want the layers for a cake to be spongy and moist, then your better option is to use pumpkin/butternut, zucchini, or squash puree (use baked in the oven or steamed vegetables);
- If you are making Chiffon cake, then refined sunflower oil is your best butter substitution.
I hope that you found the information that you were looking for and got a great option to make a last-minute ingredient swap for butter. As always, I would highly appreciate it if you shared my post with your friends or gave it a star review!