Blog Nutrition Healthy Eating 18 Healthy Alternatives To Butter for Every Cooking Need

18 Healthy Alternatives To Butter for Every Cooking Need

Butter tastes great. Rich, creamy, and utterly decadent, cooking with it guarantees a depth of flavor that’s hard to match. Even when you use it as a spread, it elevates simple bread to a delightful treat.

But there’s the matter of health to consider. Common butter contains high levels of saturated fats which, in excess, can contribute to health issues (6). People who are monitoring their cholesterol or are on a heart-healthy diet need to limit it or look for alternatives.

Butter is a dairy product, which makes it off-limits for some of those with milk protein allergies. And for vegans, it’s a no-go. Thankfully, there are plenty of healthy alternatives to butter that can be used in cooking and baking, as well as to spread on toast or bread.

Here’s a list of 18 healthy alternatives to butter for every cooking need.

Is Butter a Healthy Option?

Butter can be a healthy option if:

  • It is consumed in moderation: Consuming large amounts of common butter may contribute to health issues due to its high saturated fat content (6). However, using a small amount as part of a balanced diet provides some beneficial nutrients and flavor.
  • It comes from grass-fed cows: Butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows is higher in beneficial unsaturated fatty acids (21) which may help decrease inflammation and promote heart health (20).
  • It is used in place of unhealthy alternatives: When used as a substitute for trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils, butter is a healthier option for most.
  • You opt for the unsalted version: Consuming too much salt is linked to high blood pressure and other health issues (11). Choosing unsalted butter or limiting your intake of salted butter helps reduce sodium consumption.
  • You are not sensitive to dairy: For those who do not have a dairy allergy and are not vegan, butter can provide essential nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as calcium.

However, it’s important to note that the American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to no more than 6% of total daily calories. This means that for a 2000 calorie diet, the recommended daily limit of saturated fat is about 11-13 grams (22).

Unfortunately, many of us consume more than this, especially in the form of ultra processed and fast foods. So even though butter can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation, it’s wise to be mindful of portion sizes and choose healthier alternatives when possible.

What Is The Healthiest Alternative to Butter?

Olive Oil is a healthy alternative to butter. Rich in monounsaturated fats, it has several advantages over its dairy counterpart. 

Not only does it contain beneficial antioxidants that are known to have anti-inflammatory properties, but olive oil may also contribute to heart health by improving cholesterol levels, especially when used in place of more saturated fats like butter (10). It’s a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke (9) (12).

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Olive oil can be used in a variety of cooking methods, from sautéing and grilling to baking, often providing a richer, more nuanced flavor profile compared to butter. It is particularly effective as a substitute in savory dishes and salad dressings, enhancing the taste without overshadowing other ingredients.

However, when considering olive oil as an alternative to butter, it’s ideal to choose high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) for the most health benefits. EVOO is made from pure, cold-pressed olives, whereas other olive oils are more processed and contain a mix of cold-pressed and processed oils from various sources.

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What Can I Use Instead of Butter In Different Types of Cooking?

While olive oil is a popular and versatile alternative to butter, there are many other options for different types of cooking. Here are healthy alternatives for butter, categorized by their best use cases:

Healthy Alternatives to Butter for Baking


Applesauce is a flavorful, moist, and healthy alternative to butter in baking. It is made by cooking down apples into a sauce, sometimes with added sugar or spices. 

Applesauce acts as a healthier substitute because it significantly reduces the calorie and fat content in recipes, making it ideal for those who are calorie-conscious. 

When substituting in baking, use a 1:1 ratio but remember to reduce the amount of liquid elsewhere in the recipe to compensate for the extra moisture. One downside is that it may not be suitable for every type of baked good, as it can slightly alter the texture, making it denser.

Mashed Bananas

Mashed Bananas can add moisture and natural sweetness to baked goods, much like applesauce. Made simply by mashing ripe bananas, they introduce additional vitamins and minerals, making them a healthier and lighter alternative to butter. 

Use mashed bananas in a 1:1 ratio when substituting for butter. However, they can impart a strong banana flavor, which might not be desired in all recipes.

Greek Yogurt

Greek Yogurt offers a protein-rich substitution in baking, adding moisture without a lot of extra fat. Greek yogurt is made by straining whey and other liquids from milk curds, resulting in a thicker texture (1). 

For substituting butter, use ½ cup of Greek yogurt for 1 cup of butter and adjust the liquids accordingly. This substitution not only decreases the fat content but also adds protein. The downside is that it might not work as well in recipes that require a high fat content to achieve the right texture.

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healthy alternative to butter  

Pumpkin Puree

Pumpkin Puree is similar to applesauce and mashed bananas in its use. It provides moisture and a touch of sweetness, perfect for muffins and bread. Made from cooked and mashed pumpkin, this puree is low in calories and rich in nutrients, making it a healthier and lighter choice. 

Use it in a 1:1 ratio when replacing butter. Be mindful of its distinct flavor, which could impact the taste of the finished product.


Avocado is rich in healthy fats and creates moist, dense baked goods. To substitute, mash the avocado until smooth and use in a 1:1 ratio for butter. 

This substitution is particularly good for cookies and brownies, adding nutritional value through its content of vitamins E and C, folate, potassium, and monounsaturated fat (2). The main downside is that it may slightly alter the flavor profile of the dish and the color.

Read more: 10 Reasons Why Ice Cream Is Bad for You: Discover the Truth and Healthy Alternatives

Butter Alternatives for Cooking and Sautéing

Olive Oil

Olive Oil is a heart-healthy alternative to butter, rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants (19). EVOO is made from cold-pressing whole olives. 

For sautéing and low-heat cooking, it’s an excellent choice. However, due to its lower smoke point compared to other oils, olive oil is not ideal for high-heat cooking. 

Substituting olive oil for butter can be done in a 1:1 ratio, but it’s essential to consider the type of dish and desired flavor profile.

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil is suitable for sautéing and frying at higher temperatures. Made from the flesh of coconuts, this oil is high in saturated fat but proponents highlight its medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) for potential health benefits (13) (18). 

Use coconut oil in a 1:1 ratio when substituting for butter, but be prepared for a slight coconut flavor in your dishes.

Avocado Oil

Avocado Oil is known for its high smoke point, making it suitable for frying and baking. It’s also rich in monounsaturated fats, which can contribute to heart health (3). 

Extracted from the fruit of the avocado, this oil can be used in a 1:1 ratio as a substitute for butter. While it’s a healthier option, the cost of avocado oil might be a downside for some, and its mild flavor might not be as enriching as butter in some recipes.

healthy alternative to butter  

For Spreads and Toppings


Hummus is a savory spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. It stands as a healthier alternative to butter due to its rich content of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, particularly those derived from tahini (sesame seed paste). 

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To substitute, use hummus in a 1:1 ratio for butter on toast, sandwiches, or as a veggie dip. However, its distinct savory and garlicky flavor makes it less versatile for sweet dishes or those not complemented by garlic.

Nut Butters (Almond, Cashew)

Nut butters are made by grinding roasted nuts into a paste, with options like almond and cashew being amongst the most popular. These butters can be healthier alternatives due to their content of unsaturated fats, proteins, and various vitamins and minerals.

Substitute nut butters for butter in a 1:1 ratio on bread, in smoothies, or as toppings for oatmeal. The downside? Their distinct nutty flavor might not pair well with all types of dishes, and those with nut allergies cannot enjoy these alternatives.

Pureed Cottage Cheese

Pureed Cottage Cheese is created by blending cottage cheese until smooth. It’s a protein-rich, lower-fat alternative to butter, offering calcium and several important nutrients. 

For spreads, use it directly in place of butter, adjusting the texture with a bit of milk or cream if necessary. While it can serve as a great alternative for spreads and fillings, its slightly lumpy texture and tangy taste before blending might not be ideal for every palate or dish.

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For Frostings and Creams

Coconut Cream

Coconut Cream is made by refrigerating coconut milk until the cream rises to the top and solidifies. It is then scooped out and whipped. A possibly healthier alternative to buttercream frosting, it provides medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), is lower in cholesterol, and is a non-dairy option. It is still high in saturated fat, however.

Substitute it in a 1:1 ratio for making whipped cream or frostings. The chief downside is its coconut flavor, which might not suit all dessert profiles.

Cashew Cream

Cashew Cream is produced by soaking cashews and then blending them until very smooth. Rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, it’s a versatile vegan alternative that can replace cream or butter-based frostings. 

Use roughly the same amount as you would butter or cream. Its mild, nutty flavor is a positive for many, but the need for a high-powered blender for a smooth texture and the cost of cashews are potential downsides.

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Greek Yogurt Frosting

Greek Yogurt Frosting is made by mixing Greek yogurt with powdered sugar and optional flavorings until smooth. It’s a healthier alternative, offering a reduction in fat and calories while adding protein. 

Substitute it in a 1:1 ratio for cream-based frostings. While it provides a tangy flavor and creamy texture, Greek yogurt frosting might not be as rich or stable as traditional buttercream, limiting its use in warmer conditions.

For Thickening and Creamy Textures

Silken Tofu

Silken Tofu is a smooth, creamy form of tofu that has not been pressed and retains a high water content. It’s made from soybeans that have been coagulated and then blended to form a silky, smooth texture. It serves as a healthier alternative to butter because it is low in calories and high in protein, offering a dairy-free option rich in calcium and iron. 

To substitute, blend silken tofu until smooth and use it in a 1:1 ratio for butter in creamy desserts and sauces. The main downside is its potential to alter the texture of the finished dish, making it slightly less rich than if butter were used.

Cannellini Beans

Cannellini Beans are white beans that, when cooked and pureed, provide a creamy texture ideal for thickening soups and sauces. This alternative is healthier due to its high fiber and protein content, with the added benefit of being low in fat and calories. 

Pureed cannellini beans can be used in a 1:1 ratio to replace butter in recipes requiring thickening. However, the downside is its potential to impact the flavor of the dish subtly and the need for additional seasoning to counter this.

General 1:1 Substitutes

Canola Oil

Canola Oil is derived from the seeds of the rapeseed plant, which for culinary purposes is bred to be low in erucic acid (as opposed to industrial-use rapeseed oil). Note that its use is not without caution. It undergoes a process of crushing, heating, and then further refinement. This oil is noted for its low saturated fat and high healthy fat content. Its neutral flavor profile makes it versatile for both baking and cooking. 

Canola oil can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio for butter; however, in baking, the texture of the final product might be slightly different. The key downside to consider is the refined nature of the oil, which some may prefer to avoid. Do your own research on this oil.

Ghee (Clarified Butter)

Ghee, or clarified butter, is made by simmering butter to separate the milk solids from the liquid fat, then removing the solids. While ghee is still derived from butter, making it richer in fat compared to other substitutes mentioned, it is lactose-free and has a high smoke point. This makes it suitable for people with lactose intolerance and for high-heat cooking. 

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Ghee can be used in a 1:1 substitution for butter, offering a nutty flavor to dishes. The downside is that, being almost pure fat, ghee is high in calories and should be used in moderation for those watching their saturated fat intake.

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What Is a Healthy Substitute for Butter If You Have High Cholesterol?

Replacing butter with healthier alternatives is a key step for people managing high cholesterol, given that butter is high in saturated fats, which might contribute to increased levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol (17). 

Some experts recommend using oils and spreads that are rich in unsaturated fats instead. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), using more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in place of saturated fats may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease (14) (16).

Here are some healthy substitutes for butter if you are looking for a healthy butter substitute that offers high cholesterol reduction:

  1. Olive Oil: Rich in monounsaturated fats, olive oil (EVOO) can help lower LDL cholesterol levels while maintaining HDL (good) cholesterol (5). It’s great for cooking or as a salad dressing.
  2. Avocado Oil: Like olive oil, avocado oil is high in monounsaturated fats (3). It has a higher smoke point than olive oil, making it suitable for high-heat cooking.
  3. Canola Oil: Low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat (4), canola oil is a heart-healthy option recommended by the AHA. It’s versatile for both baking and frying (8).
  4. Soft Margarine: Look for margarine spreads that are free of trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils. These products contain phytosterols that can help reduce LDL cholesterol (15).

Note that while these substitutes are healthier, they should still be used in moderation as part of a balanced diet aimed at managing cholesterol levels. Always consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian for personalized dietary advice.

For the most current guidelines and recommendations on managing high cholesterol with diet, the American Heart Association’s website is a reputable source: American Heart Association

healthy alternative to butter  


  • How Do Vegans Replace Butter?

Vegans have these butter alternatives for baking and cooking:

  • Vegan Butter: Many brands now offer vegan butter made from plant-based oils such as coconut, avocado, or sunflower oil.
  • Coconut Oil: This is a popular substitute for butter due to its high fat content and creamy texture. However, it has a strong coconut flavor that may not work in all dishes, and it is very high in saturated fat.
  • Applesauce: Unsweetened applesauce can be used in a 1:1 ratio to replace butter in baking. However, it might alter the texture slightly.
  • Banana: Similar to applesauce, mashed bananas can also be used as a substitute for butter in baking. It adds a slight banana flavor to the dish.
  • What Butter To Avoid?

Some types of butter that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol include:

  • Stick Butter: This type of butter is typically made from animal milk and contains the highest amounts of saturated fat.
  • Whipped Butter: While whipped butter may seem lighter due to its airy texture, it still contains the same amount of saturated fat as regular butter.
  • Spreadable Butter: Similar to whipped butter, spreadable butter is often marketed as a healthier option but still contains high levels of saturated fat.
  • Why Is Ghee Healthier Than Butter?

Ghee is more suitable for certain people than butter because the process of clarifying removes milk solids, making it lactose-free (7). 

It also has a higher smoke point, meaning it can withstand high cooking temperatures without burning or breaking down into harmful compounds (7).

However, for heart and general health, it is comparable to regular butter as it still has a similarly high saturated fat content.

  • Why Is Olive Oil Healthier Than Butter?

Olive oil (EVOO) is considered a healthier option than butter due to its high monounsaturated fat content, which can help lower LDL cholesterol levels, especially when it replaces saturated fat (like butter) in the diet. It also contains beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that may improve heart health (10). Additionally, olive oil is suitable for both cooking and as a dressing, providing versatility in the kitchen. 

The Bottom Line

Healthy alternatives to butter can offer numerous benefits for those looking to manage their cholesterol levels and improve overall health. 

Choosing oils high in unsaturated fats and trans fat-free margarine spreads can be an effective way to reduce consumption of saturated fats. However, it’s important to remember that these substitutes should be selected wisely and used in moderation as part of a balanced diet.


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


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