olive oil

Let’s chat about fat. Whether you’re making a stir-fry or a birthday cake, fat plays an essential role in the flavor and texture of your dish. You can’t skip the fat, but in most cases, you can substitute. If you’re halfway through cooking before you realize that your olive oil container is empty, don’t panic. Here’s everything you need to know to substitute butter for oil in baking or cooking. 

In all cases, butter and oil should be substituted with a 1:1 ratio. Melting the butter before measuring can help you get an accurate measurement. There are a few factors you need to consider when substituting butter for oil.

melting butter

Substitute butter for oil in cooking

Before substituting butter for oil, consider your cooking method. Butter has a lower heat tolerance than most oils. Butter contains milk solids in addition to fat, and those solids can burn at a high temperature. If you’re planning to pan-sear or use another high-heat technique, try clarifying your butter before cooking. This process removes milk solids to create clarified butter, also known as ghee, which won’t burn as easily. 

In addition to fat, butter has some water content. In sautéing, this will generate steam. The presence of water leads to a softer texture, which may be desirable in some instances, but less so in others. No one likes a soggy stir fry. 

Luckily, there’s an easy solution. To sauté vegetables in butter, just let the water cook away before adding the vegetables. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, and allow it to bubble and steam for about a minute before adding your vegetables. Watch carefully to make sure the butter isn’t browning. 

Butter substitute for baking

When it comes to baking, substituting butter for oil is simple. Most cake mixes call for oil, but butter will bring in amazing flavor. To substitute butter for oil in baking just melt the butter, measure it, let it cool, and add it as you would the oil. Compared to oil, butter will create a cake with a firmer, cakeier texture.

Can You Use Butter Instead of Vegetable Oil?

This is the fun part. You’re allowed to choose the fat in your recipe based solely on flavor. The milk solids in butter create a flavor that’s hard to beat. It brings a little extra deliciousness to almost any recipe. If you don’t eat dairy, or you’re just looking for a different flavor, you can also substitute oil for butter in most recipes, but it’s important to keep flavor in mind. 

Olive oil and canola oil are the most popular oils in American kitchens, but there’s a wide variety to consider for cooking and baking. Think beyond canola oil, which can have a slightly bitter flavor. Avocado, sesame, and grapeseed oil are all good options for baking. Olive oil can make rich delicious cakes, but it has a strong flavor. That can be a good thing, but if you’re choosing olive oil be sure that you want to feature that flavor in your cake.

Check out our guide to cooking oils for more ideas for butter substitutions.