What can I substitute for unsalted butter?

In this concise article, we will answer the question, “What can I substitute for unsalted butter?” with an in-depth analysis of salted butter, some specific substitutes for unsalted butter as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

What can I substitute for unsalted butter? 

Unsalted butter can be best substituted with margarine, vegetable shortening, coconut oil, salted butter and lard.

Global butter production, including butter oil, increased by about 17.5 % from 2007 to 2012 with an annual global production of about 10 million tonnes in 2012. This was mainly driven by increased production in India, while production in the EU, the second largest producer, remained relatively flat during this period (1).

Substitutes for unsalted butter:

The physical properties and microstructure of cakes are largely dependent on the cake ingredients. Therefore, understanding the function of ingredient combinations is essential for cake manufacturers in choosing the best cake formulation. The interactions of cake ingredients can be used as the key quality control of the cake (2).

Essentially, unsalted butter is beneficial withinside the kitchen, especially for pie crusts, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, and pound cakes.

Any alternative for unsalted butter will extrude the taste and texture of the baked good. 

If your butter is just too warm, no longer creamy, your fluffy cake will grow to be dense, heavy, and flat. Too cold, and you may end up with hard chunks of butter in your recipe.

Let’s briefly discuss the possible substitutes for unsalted butter:


Margarine is just like unsalted butter. However, it has a softer texture than unsalted butter. Melted margarine works excellent in recipes that require melted butter. Although, in recipes, that name for softened butter, substituting margarine can alternate the texture. 

For instance, cookies could be much less crisp, and it is going to unfold out more. In addition to that, desserts could be much less tender.

Margarine is made by partially hydrogenated soybean oil, has 79% fat, saturated fat and trans-fat content of 19.6% and 6.6% of total fat content, respectively. Margarine is water in oil emulsion with butter-like texture, adding salt, colorants and vitamins to provide sensory quality and nutritional value close to butter. The composition of margarine is similar to butter, but the mixture of oils, milk solid, water, salt and functionality of different margarine are various. Margarine may contain an emulsifier to aid the dispersion and stability of the water phase (2).


Precisely use the equal quantity of margarine as butter, simply be cautious as margarine is extra watery than butter so that you may want to lessen the quantity of liquid brought for your recipe.

Coconut oil:

Coconut oil can also be used as a substitute for unsalted butter.

Coconut oil is used for the manufacture of pastry products, for roasting, due to two main features: high degree of saturation and good stability. In terms of physical properties coconut oil is hard, consistent but fragile at low temperatures, having the melting temperature below 30°C. Its high content of acids with short chain length helps to increase the rate of metabolism, helping in weight loss, improve the level of good cholesterol, HDL. When coconut oil is consumed regularly, it has beneficial effects on the gastrointestinal tract. Experimental research showed that coconut oil in moderate proportions, namely 10%, has a positive influence on the rheological properties of dough (6).

Using coconut oil in place of stable fat like butter brings about a cake that is a good deal greater, wealthier and flavorful than angel meals or sheet cake. This is self-made goodness that you cannot normally locate everywhere else. Make sure your elements are at room temperature while you begin getting ready for this recipe.

In case you are making cookies, it does now no longer end up as skinny as while you operate unsalted butter. Coconut oil adjusts the feel amongst all different substitutes for unsalted butter. Also, it provides moisture.

Coconut oil can replace butter in baking at a 1:1 ratio.

Salted Butter:

Butter is an animal fat made from churning milk or cream, contains 80–81% butter fat, 16–18% water and 1–1.5% curd (protein, lactose and minerals) and 0–1.5% salt. Butter is popular to use in cake products because of its sensory properties, nutrients value and naturalness of consumers’ mind. The creaming properties of butter are relatively poor and it may require the supplement with an emulsifier in order to get the best qualities (2).

An easy-to-make substitution for unsalted butter is salted butter. There is no need to increase or decrease the quantity. Salted butter has a longer shelf life than unsalted butter

This substitution is simple to do. You can use salted butter every day and use much less or no salt introduced to the recipe. To do this, alternate the unsalted butter required withinside the recipe with the same amount of salted butter. 

Afterwards, regulate the salt’s amount withinside the recipe to account for the more salt withinside the butter with the aid of lessening the recipe’s salt with the aid of using 1/4 tsp for each half cup of butter used.

Do I need to add salt if I use salted butter?

There is equal to 1/4 teaspoon salt in half of the cup of salted butter so that you can alter your recipe for that reason and the taste could be comparable.

Vegetable Shortening:

Vegetable shortening can also be used as a replacement for unsalted butter.

Shortening is made of 100% fats from refined vegetable oils with blending of two or more partially hydrogenated oils. They appear in a semisolid state and both the solid and liquid fractions in a shortening are important in bread making. The liquid matter in shortening has a lubrication effect on bread by providing a moister mouthfeel felt from mouth surfaces during chewing, tenderizes the crumb of the cooled bread to provide a tender and well-aerated bakery product by enabling the lubrication of gluten particles as it breaks the continuity of the protein and starch structure and tenderizes the crust by counteracting the tendency of moisture migration from the center of the loaf to the drier surface region which causes leathery consistency during storage. The tenderness of loaves can prolong the shelf life of bread in terms of firmness (3).

Vegetable shortening is most likely favoured because it preserves the consistency of the completed product while baking. So, replace it with unsalted butter for the degree. When substituting it, the cookies’ texture will alternate relying on whether it’s miles crispy or chewy. 

Vegetable shortening will alternate the flavour due to the fact shortening isn’t always as wealthy in comparison to butter. Instead, vegetable shortening permits the opposite substances to face out.


Lard is honestly rendered red meat fats that are a not unusual place substitute for plenty of old-fashioned recipes. This is a replacement that is probably tougher to return through than the alternative fats, however, it may be very useful and preserve it to your list. It is used for baking, grilling, and frying.

Lard is a pork fat in both its rendered and unrendered form. It is obtained from any part of the pig where there is a large amount of adipose tissue. It can then be transformed by thermal treatment to fats with various aspects. Lard has been the shortening of choice in bread making because it possesses several unique characteristics compared to other fats. It is used to be in plentiful supply; readily available from local hog abattoirs at low cost. Also, because of its low solids content at dough imparting excellent shortening characteristics to the bread or other baked food (4). 

It is rich in vitamin D. Lard is one of the great reasserts of vitamin D. Lard is a superb supply of fat that maintains a healthful heart. Low vitamin D status has been associated with obesity and characteristics of metabolic syndrome (5).

This product could make a distinction and an extraordinary effect on your recipe, however, it genuinely relies upon what you are making. 

You can use lard to make pie crusts, so one can emerge as high-quality and flaky. Lard is regularly used instead for that sort of recipe.

Which lard is best?

Leaf lard is more suitable for baking and cooking. It is also a terrific shortening and produces biscuits and pastries which might be a great deal extra smooth and flaky than the ones made of simple butter.

Other FAQs about Butter that you may be interested in.

How to make almond butter without a food processor?

Can you add butter to spaghetti sauce?

Can real butter go bad in the fridge?


In this article, various substitutes of unsalted butter are described. Also, their benefits and shortcomings are mentioned briefly.


  1. Bergmann, Dennis, Declan O’Connor, and Andreas Thümmel. An analysis of price and volatility transmission in butter, palm oil and crude oil markets. Agri Food Econ, 2016, 4, 1-23.
  2. Pancharoen, Suworanee, Bootsrapa Leelawat, and Suteera Vattanakul. Using texture properties for clustering butter cake from various ratios of ingredient combination. J Food Measure Character, 2019, 13, 34-42.
  3. Chin, Nyuk Ling, et al. Palm oil shortening effects on baking performance of white bread. J Food Proc Eng, 2010, 33, 413-433.
  4. Makanjuola, Olakunle Moses, and Adetokunbo Oluwole ADEPEGBA. Evaluation Of Quality Attributes Of Bread Produced From Bleached Palm-Oil, Margarine And Lard. IOSR J Environ Sci Toxicol Food Technol, 2020, 14, 46-53.
  5. Kubant, R., et al. A comparison of effects of lard and hydrogenated vegetable shortening on the development of high-fat diet-induced obesity in rats. Nutr diab, 2015, 5, e188-e188.
  6. Canja, Cristina, et al. A Study on the advisability of the use of coconut oil in bakery products. Forest Wood Ind Agri Food Eng Ser, 2015, 8, 83.