Wednesday, December 30, 2020
The Culinary Cook Articles A Guide for Butter Substitutes and Oils

A Guide for Butter Substitutes and Oils


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Butter Substitutes and Other Oils

It is inevitable in your cooking career that you will come across a situation that calls for butter substitutes. Sometimes you might be out of olive oil and need a good substitution Knowing what can and can not be substituted is an important skill to have on the fly whether you are a professional cook or an amateur cook.

substitute for butter
High-heat cooking has to factor in alternative oils

Picture this: It is your first opening shift at the new restaurant you work with and you have to come up with a soup of the day and you are all out of butter for the roux. You panic, unsure of what you can or cannot substitute that could jeopardize the end product.

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Or maybe you are hosting a dinner party and you have run out of olive oil for your salad. You want to make a good impression but also have never tried making a dressing with vegetable oil.

What do you do?

butter substitutes for baking
Butter substitutes for baking change texture

The first thing you want to do when determining which oil to substitute with what is relax. Your panic and doubt only serve to derail your rational problem-solving. Once you have taken a few deep breaths, it is time to make a decision. But first, you will want to understand the science behind your choices.

What Is Cooking Oil?

Oils are a type of fat that remain liquid at room temperature. Cooking oils are often refined from various plants, seeds, and vegetables. Fats such as butter and margarine and their substitutions are discussed here as well. Because of this, determining the type of oil to substitute comes down to several factors.

  • Smoke point
  • Flavor
  • Cost

coconut oil butter substitutes
Coconut oil is a solid fat, and can be substituted 1:1 with other solid fats

Smoke Points of Cooking Oils

When a cooking oil reaches a certain temperature, the fats begin to break down and it begins to smoke. This is called tie smoking point. The chemical composition of cooking oil changes once it reaches this point and much of the flavor is lost and instead imparts undesirable flavors. Because of this, when you are determining a substitute for cooking oil, you have to determine if it will be an acceptable choice.

The Smoke Points of Common Oils

Olive Oil: 437°F/225°C
Peanut Oil: 425°F/218°C
Lard: 370°F/188°C
Canola Oil: 425°F/218°C
Walnut Oil325-400°F/163-204°C
Butter, clarified (ghee): 400°F/204°C
Whole Butter: 260°F/127°C

Flavor and Cost of Cooking Oils

Another major point to consider is the flavor. As mentioned above, the temperature of the oil can affect flavor. If using a high-heat cooking method, be sure to substitute a cooking oil with a higher smoke point. If you have none on hand, consider reducing the heat or changing the cooking method, or perhaps mixing the desired cooking oil with the substitute if you have a bit remaining. If you are substituting salad dressing oil, then perhaps ask if you could live with a blander oil such as vegetable or canola.

Cost is another factor, but one that is minimized if you are not in a production kitchen or if deciding as a one-time substitution. Higher quality oils have better flavor profiles and will cost more. This is an important factor to consider if cost plays a big part in your dilemma.

butter substitutes for croissants
Most common butter substitutes are typically lard and shortening at a 1:1 ratio

Butter Substitutes

When you are looking to substitute any type of fat/oil in your recipe, it is important to understand that you cannot replace fat for something that is not fat. Substituting butter for oils or other fats is an acceptable replacement.

Can you Substitute Butter for Oil?

This question is asked a lot and the answer is yes. Butter has a desirable quality that imparts softness and richness, so substituting butter for any other fats will ensure your recipe remains consistent but will lose the flavors and qualities only butter can provide. When finding a butter substitutes for baking, using shortening or lard is your best option.

Butter Substitute Compromises

Many classical recipes depend on butter for a majority of their unique flavor. Croissants, for example, are known and expected to be made from 100% butter. However, many found in the grocery store or at coffee shops are made with shortening instead and very few people tend to notice. However, the flavor, softness and texture butter gives is quite difficult to replicate. Keep this in mind when you are substituting butter out for another fat.

Butter to Oil Conversion

Most recipes these days use volume rather than weight, which can add to the confusion. If using a recipe that asks for butter by weight, you can utilize a 1:1 ratio. I typically do this when melting butter and topping up with olive oil on my baking recipes to ensure the exact amount is used.

Solid Butter to Olive Oil Conversion: 75% (1 cup butter = 3/4 cups oil)
Liquid Butter to Olive Oil Conversion: 1:1 ratio
Solid Butter to Canola Oil Conversion: 75% (1 cup butter = 3/4 cups oil)
Liquid Butter to Canola Oil Conversion: 1:1 ratio
Butter to Lard Conversion: 1:1 ratio (1 cup butter = 1 cup lard)
Butter to Coconut Oil Conversion: 1:1 ratio (1 cup butter = 1 cup coconut oil)
Solid Butter to Vegetable Oil Conversion: 75% (1 cup butter = 3/4 cups oil)
Liquid Butter to Vegetable Oil Conversion: 1:1 ratio

Vegetable Oil Substitute

Typically, vegetable oil is a low-cost cooking oil designed for high-heat cooking and deep frying. Finding a substitute for vegetable oil is simple and should not be too complicated.

Can You Use Olive Oil Instead of Vegetable Oil?

Yes. Because the smoke points are similar with both olive oil and vegetable oil, olive oil makes an excellent alternative. However, as olive oil reaches its smoke point, it loses almost all of its flavor and can impart a bitter aftertaste. This is a subtle effect and should not interfere with your end result. On the flip side, olive oil has a powerful flavor which can impact the end result in a different way.

Substitutes for Vegetable Oil

  • Peanut Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Lard
  • Walnut Oil
  • Any liquid oils

olive oil substitutes
Replacing olive oil can be hard if its the focal point, but infused oils fill in nicely

Olive Oil Substitute

Finding a proper substitute for olive oil comes down to flavor. You can easily get away with using any other liquid oils you have around or melt butter and use in a 1:1 ratio. But what you can never do is replace the flavor. Because of this, you should expect to the same end product, but with a different underlying flavor.

The best oils to choose to retain flavors

  • Peanut Oil
  • Butter
  • Nut Oils (walnut, hazelnut)
  • Infused vegetable oils

Can You Substitute Olive Oil for Vegetable Oil?

Yes. In almost all instances, it is very easy to use vegetable oil as a substitute for olive oil. The only thing you are losing is flavor, which depending on how much it is at the forefront of your dish may or may not have a large impact on the flavor of the end product.

Coconut Oil Substitute

Coconut oil is primarily used for its health benefits and flavor. Because of the high cost of coconut oil, it is typically used as a part of the main flavor ingredients. It is best treated the same way as olive oil where finding the flavor is the most important goal.

The best oils to choose to retain flavors

  • Peanut Oil
  • Butter
  • Nut Oils (walnut, hazelnut)
  • Infused vegetable oils

Substitute for Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is a very distinctive and flavorful oil. If you are looking to replicate its flavor, the best thing to do is pick up raw sesame seeds and toast them in vegetable oil to infuse a bit of the flavor into the oil and incorporate both into the dish. You can use any oil to substitute sesame oil with if using strictly for replacement.

If you are low on sesame oil, try adding it at the end of cooking as it loses its flavor quickly when at high temperature. Then utilize cheaper or more readily available oil such as vegetable or peanut for a cooking medium.

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The Culinary Cook

Professional Chef & Blogger

With 15 years of experience working in restaurants, resorts, and a fully Red Seal Certified chef, The Culinary Cook shares tips, tricks, and recipes for everyone to enjoy.

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