Have you ever been in the middle of making a recipe and discovered you were out of something? Or practicing “mise en place” (as we should all do), and found that you’re out of an ingredient? And there isn’t time enough to run to the grocery store? Those are the situations in which we rely on substituting an ingredient. But what to substitute is vitally important.
With the fat in a recipe- especially in baking- the wrong substitute can completely ruin a recipe. Today we’re going to look at which ways to substitute fats: oils, butter, lard, shortening, etc. I’ll also run over what NOT to do!
Substituting solid fat for oil and vice versa, or olive oil for vegetable oil, and many other topics are a source of great debate among chefs and bakers. Is there a substitute you swear by? Something people do you think is completely wrong?
(I have a thing about people using margarine in cookies…ick!)
1 C. butter= 1 C. shortening plus 2 Tbsp. water
1 C. butter= 7/8 C. vegetable oil
1 C. butter = 7/8 C. lardButter (salted):
1 stick salted = 1 stick unsalted plus 3/8 tsp. salt (can vary from brand to brand; this is average)
1 C. butter= 1 C. shortening plus 1/2 tsp. salt plus 2 Tbsp. water
1 C. butter= 7/8 C. vegetable oil plus 1/2 tsp. salt
1 C. butter= 7/8 C. lard plus 1/2 tsp. salt
Shortening or butter (same amount)
1 C. lard= 7/8 C. vegetable oil
1 C. olive oil= 1 C. canola oil or vegetable oil (might be slight taste difference)
Butter can sometimes be used- this is a “hot topic” among those who get passionate about such things. I’ll leave this up to personal preference and the experts.
Unsalted butter (same amount)
1 C. shortening= 1 C. margarine, but subtract 1/2 tsp. salt from recipe
1 C. shortening= 1 C. minus 2 Tbsp. lard
Vegetable oil, for baking
1 C. oil= 1 C. applesauce
1 C. oil= 1 C. fruit puree
1 C. oil= 1 & 1/4 C. melted unsalted butter, but you need to subtract 2 oz. of liquid from elsewhere in the recipe (example, reduce milk by 2 oz.).
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 C. oil= 1 C. lard
1 C. oil= 1 C. vegetable shortening
General butter-to-oil conversion ratio:
Butter = Olive Oil
1 tsp. = ¾ tsp.
1 Tbsp. = 2-¼ tsp.
2 Tbsp. = 1-½ Tbsp.
¼ C. = 3 Tbsp.
½ C. = ¼ C. plus 2 Tbsp.
⅔ C. = ½ C.
¾ C. = ½ C. plus 1 Tbsp.
1 C. = ¾ C.
2 C. = 1-½ C.
***Many of the above substitutes are vegetable oil. Other types of oil can also be substituted. See the ‘Liquid Fats: Oils’ post for information on the many, many types of oils and which are interchangeable.
The above substitutes require some other knowledge. As I said in the intro, substituting the wrong thing can ruin a recipe. The following guidelines are general baking knowledge/tips to help guide you.
• If you’re making a recipe that requires the creaming/fluffing together of the softened butter and sugar (such as cheesecake or cookies), do NOT substitute oil. The incorporation of air is vital for the proper texture of the final product.
• If making pie crusts, do not use oil in place of the butter, shortening, or lard. The latter three can be substituted.
• Avoid substituting oils for solid fats when baking cookies, cakes, and pastries; it will make the dish greasy and dense. If you must do so, substitute 3 parts oil for every 4 parts solid fat and consider increasing the amount of sugar and eggs in the recipe.
• Using shortening in place of butter will make cookies crunchier and breads crusts softer.
• If you’re making cakes or muffins (or frying something), this is the ideal place to substitute oil for butter.
• Substituting olive oil for vegetable oil in baking is done by some…if you wish to attempt this, make sure you get neutral or “late harvest” oil flavors. Strong olive oil flavor does not come across well in baked goods (obviously).
• Using margarine as a substitute is an option, but keep in mind that it will make bread crusts tougher, cookies softer, and cookies more difficult to shape. I, personally, wish margarine would “un-exist.”
Reducing the amount of fat in a recipe will affect the final product. Baked goods will have a denser texture. To correct for this, try increasing the sugar in the recipe and/or beating the egg whites and folding them into the batter. Also try using a softer flour, like pastry or cake flour. (Thanks to the “Cook’s Thesaurus” for that tip!)
If you want to try reducing fat, try substitutes such as applesauce, pureed prunes, fruit puree, apple butter, ricotta cheese, bananas, avocado puree, or (obviously) reducing the amount of fat. As fat is a vital part of recipes, look up the tips for particular substitutes before you use them.