4 Best Butter Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Butter substitutes are great if you want to avoid animal products, reduce fat, or add nutrients to your cooking, but still, want to enjoy the sweet treats of baking in the kitchen.


Butter is made by churning milk or cream until it separates into a solid (butter) and a liquid (buttermilk). Most commercial butter is made from cow’s milk, and less frequently from the milk of sheep or goats. When used in baking, the fat in butter helps to bind ingredients and emulsify sugars and adds a rich and delicious flavor.

Best Butter Substitutes

There are great butter substitutes available if you are looking to replace butter to reduce your fat intake or to eliminate animal products from your diet. Some of these alternatives may alter the taste of your recipe slightly, so experiment until you find the best replacements for your cooking needs.


Margarine is made from fats not derived from dairy products, and in the US, it is usually made from vegetable oils, making it a great option for animal-free diets. You can replace butter with an equal measure of margarine and expect a similar flavor in your cookies. However, cookies may not hold their shape quite as well when margarine is used and could spread on the pan, ending up thinner and crunchier.

slab of butter being cut with a knife

Vegetable Shortening

Shortening is 100% fat, so it will work a little differently than butter, which also has water and trace amounts of lactose in it. Cookies made with shortening will bake up fluffy and hold their shape, even if you don’t refrigerate the dough. Without the savory flavors of butter, they may taste overly sweet, so consider using a little less sugar and an extra dash of salt.

Cooking Oils

Plenty of cookie recipes call for vegetable oil instead of butter. Liquid oil, when beaten with eggs, makes for wonderfully soft and chewy cookies. Without eggs, the recipe may need some adjustment, so vegans may want to try other options.

Fruit Purees and Seeds

If you want to make cookies with significantly reduced fats, try fruit purees instead. Pumpkin puree, applesauce, carrots, and bananas give cookies structure and great flavor. Bloomed chia seeds, oats, and everyone’s favorite – chocolate – can all help to bind the baking ingredients. Excluding fats will always result in a dense, flavor-packed cookie, and can even be enjoyed raw.

About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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