Can you substitute vegetable oil for butter?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you substitute vegetable oil for butter?”, and how to substitute butter in cooking and baking?

Can you substitute vegetable oil for butter?

Yes, you can substitute vegetable oil for butter. It is best to use vegetable oil as an alternative to butter where butter is supposed to be used in melted form like muffins, quick bread, and for sauteing vegetables. 

Using vegetable oil as an alternative in recipes that call for softened butter is not recommended, especially in baking where creaming the butter with sugar is an important step to develop the crumb structure.

What are the main differences between vegetable oil and butter?

The main difference between vegetable oil and butter is their composition, which determines whether the lipid is solid or liquid at room temperature. Lipids include oils and fats, and most of the oils are liquids while fats are solid. 

This characteristic is mainly determined by the fatty acids present in the oils and fats.  Because oils contain more unsaturated fatty acids than saturated, they are liquid, while fats, such as butter, contain more saturated fatty acids and therefore are solid.

Other main differences are the compounds rather than fatty acids that determine the flavor and the nutritional properties of both oils and butter. Butter contains milk fat and low levels of branched-chain acids, oxo (keto) acids, hydroxy acids, and lactones, some of which are responsible for the characteristic flavor of butter (3).

Butter contains conjugated linolenic acid and other minor components (e.g. sphingolipids) with improved nutritional benefits.

The oils from the different vegetable sources vary in fatty acid composition. They consist mainly of triacylglycerols: palmitic (16:0), oleic (18:1), and linoleic (18:2) with other acids such as stearic (18:0) and linolenic (18:3) and tocopherols. 

Fat is an important ingredient in baking products in providing their texture properties. The functions of fat in cake making are to envelope the air cells while mixing the ingredients, to enrich protein particles and starches to disperse well in the batter, resulting in a soft texture and moist cake crumb (2).

These properties are not provided by oils, as they are liquid and cannot trap the air cells. 

What are the benefits of replacing butter for vegetable oil?

The benefits of replacing butter for vegetable oil are the avoidance of lactose, in the case of lactose intolerant individuals, the elimination of milk protein in the case of patients allergic to milk protein and the avoidance of an animal product in the case of vegan people. 

In addition, butter has several drawbacks, including its relatively expensive price compared to other spreads and its unhealthy nutritional profile. Butter is high in fat, saturated acids, cholesterol, and trans unsaturated acids, which can negatively impact one’s health (3).

Butter is high in saturated fats that have been associated with increasing the risk of heart diseases by increasing cholesterol levels in the blood (1).

Vegetable oils contain unsaturated fatty acids and their consumption can lower blood pressure, improve lipid levels, and reduce the estimated cardiovascular risk (4).

Other FAQs about Oils which you may be interested in.

Can I substitute sunflower oil for vegetable oil?

Can you put olive oil in the oven?

Does MCT oil go bad?

How to substitute vegetable oil for butter in baking?

To substitute vegetable oil for butter in baking, replace each cup of butter with ¾ cup of vegetable oil. This substitute works best for bread, loaves, and muffins. 

In the case of using olive oil to replace butter, it will impart a strong herbaceous flavor to the finished product. So use this substitute for herb bread or biscuits, not for cakes or cookies.

In a study, olive oil was used in the place of margarine for cake baking. The substitution of margarine by extra virgin olive oil increased batter density of cakes suggesting that less air was incorporated into the batter. 

This increase in density with extra virgin olive oil addition could be attributed to inferior ability of the extra virgin olive oil containing batter to entrap air in comparison to margarine containing batter. In addition , cakes prepared with extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin olive oil/margarine mixture showed higher hardness (5).


In this article, we answered the question “Can you substitute vegetable oil for butter?”, and how to substitute butter in cooking and baking?


  1. Aydar, Elif Feyza, Sena Tutuncu, and Beraat Ozcelik. Plant-based milk substitutes: Bioactive compounds, conventional and novel processes, bioavailability studies, and health effects. J Func Foods, 2020, 70, 103975. 
  2. Pancharoen, Ms Suworanee. Role Of Ingredient Combination On Butter Cake Qualities. Diss. Thammasat University, 2018. 
  3. Gunstone, Frank. Oils and fats in the food industry. John Wiley & Sons, 2009..
  4. Ganesan, Kumar, Kumeshini Sukalingam, and Baojun Xu. Impact of consumption and cooking manners of vegetable oils on cardiovascular diseases-A critical review. Trend Food Sci Technol, 2018, 71, 132-154.
  5. Matsakidou, Anthia, Georgios Blekas, and Adamantini Paraskevopoulou. Aroma and physical characteristics of cakes prepared by replacing margarine with extra virgin olive oil. LWT-Food Sci Technol, 2010, 43, 949-957.