Butter has to be one of my favorite fats to cook with, not because it is super healthy in a nutritional sense, but because it is just so delicious! Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit into everyone’s diet or lifestyle. Whether you are lactose-intolerant, vegan, looking to cut down on cholesterol, or perhaps just trying something new in the kitchen, there is a butter substitute out there that will work for you!
Here are some of my favorites:
- Macadamia oil
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Vegan butter
We researched over 40 different kinds of cooking fats and oils, so why are they my favorites as butter replacements? Let’s take a look.
Best All-Around Substitute For Butter: Ghee
The best all-around substitute for butter is ghee. It is a type of clarified butter used in Indian cuisine for centuries. It is made by slowly boiling butter on low heat until all the milk solids settle to the bottom, then it’s strained (here’s a recipe for it!)
Ghee can be heated to higher temperatures than regular butter without burning, making it ideal for cooking and baking. It also has a nutty, buttery flavor, making it perfect for adding depth to recipes.
Ghee can be substituted for butter in identical amounts called for in recipes. It may also be suitable for your paleo diet, as cooking eliminates all the lactose and dairy!
Best Raw Cooking Substitute For Butter: Macadamia Oil
Macadamia oil is an excellent substitute because of its rich buttery taste. It’s delicious in salads or other raw foods and is higher in monounsaturated fatty acids, which makes it a healthier choice than other cooking oils. Be sure to use cold-pressed macadamia oil as it retains its nutrients and flavor much more than any other kind of method of processing.
If you can’t find macadamia oil, cashew oil, or any other nut oils like pecan, walnut, and even pistachio are fun to try in raw cooking to play with the various flavor profiles.
Best Butter Substitute for Regular Cooking: Ghee
The smoke point of ghee sits at around 465 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a great substitute for butter in everyday cooking. Its rich flavor usually lends itself well to any recipe that calls for butter as the primary fat, though it may make the buttery and nutty taste a little more pronounced (there is a reason a good butter chicken curry is like a little slice of heaven)!
Alternatively, you can use any nut oil in your recipes; just double-check the smoke point and make sure you aren’t using too high of a heat for it. When in doubt, use avocado oil for the high smoke point!
Best Butter Substitute for High-Heat Cooking: Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is the best substitute for butter when cooking with high heat, as it has a really high smoke point of around 520 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, where butter cannot go in terms of heat, avocado oil can, as it is one of the highest-heat-friendly cooking oils available.
Butter Substitute that is Closest in Flavor: Ghee
The closest fat or oil in flavor to butter is ghee. Ghee is butter that has been clarified, meaning all the water, milk solids, and impurities have been removed. This leaves the oil with a delicious nutty flavor that can be used in baking or sautéing just like butter.
Best Neutral-Flavored Butter Substitute: Margarine
The best neutral-flavored alternative to butter is margarine. These two fats are similar in that they are both solid at room temperature, and you can use the same amount of one in a recipe as the other (I love a direct swap), but they are different in their flavor profiles. Butter has a much richer taste, while margarine can be very bland.
Best Budget-Friendly Butter Substitute: Margarine
The most budget-friendly replacement for butter is margarine. This spread became really popular in the 80s and 90s as a way to save money and also when the world was freaking out about cholesterol and saturated fat. It is made from a blend of various oils, such as vegetable, canola, etc., and the oils have been hydrogenated so they are solid at room temperature.
Hydrogenation is when hydrogen atoms are added to vegetable oil molecules to create a solid fat.
As vegetable oils are some of the cheapest cooking oils on the market, margarine is one of the most affordable butter-like spreads available.
Best Healthy Butter Substitute: Coconut Oil
The healthiest alternative for butter is coconut oil. It is solid at room temperature, so it can often be used similarly to butter when cooking or making pastries while also bringing extra nutrition to the table. Coconut oil contains healthy fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and is thought to help with weight loss, improve cholesterol levels, boost energy, and even fight skin issues like eczema.
Be aware that coconut oil and butter flavors are very different, and you will have a strong taste with unrefined coconut oil. If you do not want the taste, you could use refined coconut oil, but that would not be as healthy!
If you want to make coconut ghee, that is possible too!
Best Keto/Paleo/Whole30 Butter Substitute: Ghee
Ghee is an excellent alternative to butter for anyone on the keto or Whole30 diet. While paleo purists may disagree, ghee is technically paleo as the dairy has been removed from it when it was being made.
If you are iffy with using ghee on your paleo diet, then macadamia oil would be a good choice to cover your bases.
Best Plant-Based Butter Substitute: Vegan Butter
The best plant-based alternative to butter is vegan butter. Vegan butter is made from various oils and is free of cholesterol, lactose, and animal products. It’s also high in omega-3 fatty acids as well! It works just the same as regular butter, and when it comes to flavor, some brands taste more like the real deal than others, so be sure to shop around until you find one that works for you.
The two main types of butter are regular and plant-based. Regular butter is made from cream, while plant-based butter is made from various plant oils or nuts. You can find salted, unsalted, clarified, European, whipped, cultured, and spreadable butter within the animal-based butter category.
– Salted butter: This is the most commonly used type of butter, made from cream with added salt for flavor.
– Unsalted butter: Also known as “sweet cream” butter, this type is made from unsalted cream, has no added salt, and has a milder flavor than salted butter.
– Clarified butter: Clarified butter is produced by heating regular butter to separate the fat from the milk solids, and ghee is a form of clarified butter.
– European butter: European-style butters are made with cream with a higher fat content than American butter.
– Whipped butter: This butter has air beaten into it to give it a fluffier consistency.
– Cultured butter: Cultured butter is made with cream that’s been fermented and left to sit for 12-24 hours before churning. It has a slightly tangy flavor and creamy texture.
– Spreadable Butter: Spreadable butter is made with regular butter blended with vegetable or canola oil. It spreads easily at room temperature and doesn’t require refrigeration.