8 Substitutes for Butter in Cookies and Other Baked Goods

Got a craving but out of butter? Try a substitute for butter in cookies and beyond!

When it comes to baking cookies, cakes and even pastries, the creamy goodness of butter provides a rich flavor that’s tough to beat. (That’s precisely why the team at the Taste of Home Test Kitchen uses butter to test most recipes.) But when the munchies come calling, and the butter dish is empty, consider these common butter substitutes.

Margarine

Margarine is possibly the most-used butter substitute for baking cookies, cakes, doughnuts or just about anything else for that matter. Margarine can be used in the equal amount of butter a recipe calls for. Margarine actually helps cookies keep their shape slightly better than butter, so if the shape of your cookies is really important to you, consider this butter substitute. Here’s the actual difference between butter and margarine.

Shortening

Like margarine, shortening is a smart butter substitute when baking (here’s the difference between all three). It can be used in the same amount as butter called for in a recipe, but unlike margarine, it lacks flavor (and water), so bakers will often add a bit more. (But if you have buttered-flavored shortening, you’re golden!) The lack of water also means extra tender and soft baked goods.

Olive & Vegetable Oil

You might be out of butter but you likely have a bottle of oil on hand, so grab that bad boy and bake up some treats. Oils work best for muffins and quick breads, but you can use them for cookies as well. Try ¾ cup olive or vegetable oil for every cup of butter called for.

Coconut Oil

When you’re out of butter, swap in coconut oil in equal amounts for nearly any baked good. Not only does coconut oil give sweets a little tropical flair, but it’s a great butter substitute for cakes, brownies, quick breads, muffins, corn bread and yeast breads. It’s one of few butter substitutes that makes cookies crunchy. If you don’t want too much coconut flavor, use refined coconut oil.

Pumpkin Puree

If you love pumpkin, swap it in for the butter in your treats. Multiply the amount of butter in a recipe by ¾, and you’ll know how much pumpkin puree to use. (In other words, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, you’d use ¾ cup of pumpkin in its place.) It’s both a fat and a sweetener for quick breads, cakes, cupcakes, bars and cookies. Remember that pumpkin will change the color of your cookies (hope you like orange!) and yield a dense product.

Applesauce

Applesauce is a longtime healthy butter substitute for anyone looking to lighten up cookies, quick breads and other baked goods. Whether you’re watching your weight or not, grab a jar of applesauce the next time you’ve got a craving. Start by replacing half of a recipe’s butter with the applesauce, and you should be enjoying chewy, sweet cookies and other treats in no time.

Greek Yogurt

Creamy…yummy…low-fat…it’s Greek yogurt! Try it in equal amounts of butter when baking cakes and cookies for ultra-soft snacks with less fat. Depending on the brand of yogurt, your cookies may have more or less of a tangy flavor.

Bananas

Fix your cookie craving with a mashed banana. Your cookies will be a bit dense and, of course, offer a slight banana flavor, but this is a smart, healthy option when you’re out of butter. Bananas are also great butter substitutes for cakes, cupcakes, muffins and quick breads. In general, one banana is equal to a stick of butter so replace the butter in equal amounts of mashed banana.

Whether salted or unsalted, butter can’t be beat when it comes to baking cookies and other treats. But the next time you have a snack attack and don’t have any butter around the house, grab a glass of milk and bake up a batch of yumminess with a no-fuss butter substitute.

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Mark Hagen
The former owner of his own catering business, Mark’s been part of the Taste of Home team for the past 20 years. His work has also appeared in Quick Cooking, Light & Tasty and Country Woman magazines as well as in various Pillsbury and Betty Crocker cookbooks. When he’s not spending time in the kitchen with his Westie, Rocco, he’s working in his yard, doing stand-up comedy or devouring a platter of nachos. (Most likely the latter.)