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Top 9 Unsalted Butter Substitutes in Baking/Cooking

Butter! A critical ingredient in the kitchen. It can come from peanuts, cocoa, or even mango.

This article, however, focuses on unsalted butter substitutes for cooking. If you have been in a situation where you need to substitute, you should stick around to know your options.

15-Second Summary

  1. Unsalted butter does not contain salt, hence it doesn’t affect the salt content of your recipe. It also is fresher than its salted variant.
  2. To substitute for unsalted butter, replace it with lard, vegetable oil, vegetable shortening, coconut oil, margarine, and avocado.

Why Use Unsalted Butter?

Doesn’t Affect Salt Content

One of the significant reasons people recommend unsalted butter is because it doesn’t affect the salt content or measurement in your recipe.

For recipes that call for little or no salt, unsalted butter is perfect. If you use salted butter, your end product might be too salty.

Relatively Fresh

Another reason why people use unsalted butter is that it is relatively fresh. Salt acts as a preservative, so salted butter tends to have a longer shelf life when compared with unsalted butter.

This doesn’t mean salted butter is never fresh, but compared to the other, it lasts longer. Since most people prefer fresh ingredients, they choose unsalted butter.

So now, what substitute option do you have for unsalted butter in your recipe? Let’s get to it.

What Can You Use to Instead of Unsalted Butter?

These are our recommended substitutes in no particular order.

1. Salted Butter

salted vs unsalted butter

Yes, we know we said the unsalted butter is better.

However, the only issue with the salted butter is that different brands have different salt concentrations. But it’s an easily accessible replacement and it works well if you use it correctly.

Once you don’t have a health issue and you don’t mind the salt content, feel free to use unsalted butter.

You can use salted butter in baking or cooking. Use it whipped, creamed, or as it is. So, how can you substitute one for the other?

How to Substitute Salted Butter for Unsalted Butter

Since both kinds of butter are almost identical except for the salt difference, the substitution is easy.

Suppose your recipe calls for one cup of unsalted butter; replace it with the same amount of salted butter.

Additionally, if you are concerned about your salt intake, make necessary adjustments to the salt requirements of your recipe. Reduce the salt by ½ or ¼ for every stick of butter you use.

You may like: How Much Salt to Add to Unsalted Butter to Make it Salted?

2. Vegetable Shortening

vegetable shortening

Vegetable shortening is obtained from vegetable oil after the process of hydrogenation [1].

This fat remains solid at room temperature. It is perfect for flaky recipes, and it doesn’t contain water.

It’s a fantastic unsalted butter substitute because it doesn’t contain salt, so it works just fine. Vegetable shortening is accessible and easy to control its use in your recipe.

How to Substitute Vegetable Shortening for Unsalted Butter

Vegetable shortening has no water; it’s just fat so use a ratio of ⅞:1.

3. Vegetable Oil

vegetable oils

Most people will say this alternative is the best non-dairy option. This reason makes it perfect not just as an easily accessible option but also as a vegan one.

With vegetable oils in your baking recipe, the level of moistness you get is top-notch. Use it in your brownies, muffins, bread, or cakes.

However, vegetable oil is more suitable for cooking than for baking.

How to Substitute Vegetable Oil for Unsalted Butter

Like shortening, use a proportion of ⅞:1 in your recipe. This measurement works fine in any recipe.

4. Olive Oil

olive oil

Olive oil is the healthiest replacement for unsalted butter in your recipe. We recommend you use extra virgin olive oil for the best results. It contains no saturated fats, so your heart is safe.

Olive oil has an intense flavor that can overwhelm the taste of your baked foods. So make sure to use olive oil with a delicate flavor.

If your recipe calls for creaming of fat and sugar together, please don’t use olive oil. It’ll be a colossal fail.

How to Substitute Olive Oil for Unsalted Butter

¾:1 is the replacement proportion you should use in your recipe.

5. Margarine


Most people already love margarine as an alternative to unsalted butter in baking. So this option is a popular one.

But, with margarine, you get a final product with less crunch if you use it for cookies. On the plus side, it doesn’t affect the flavor of your recipe. So it works fine as a substitution.

How to Substitute Margarine for Unsalted Butter

Margarine has more significant water and salt content than unsalted butter. It’s best to reduce the liquid measurement in your recipe and cut off the salt completely.

Once that is done, you can substitute one for the other in equal amounts.

6. Avocado Oil or Puree

avocado oil

Rich, nutritious avocado is our following recommendation. Avocados will work perfectly to instead of unsalted butter.

Avocado gives your products a more chewy and soft texture. You can use avocado oil or avocado puree as an unsalted butter substitute.

How to Substitute Avocado for Unsalted Butter

You can confidently replace them with each other in a equal ratio.

7. Lard


Lard is a form of shortening, but it’s gotten strictly from pork. It also has a more decadent and flavourful option.

Lard works nicely as a unsalted butter substitution in baking because it gives your goods a flaky and yummy texture.

Additionally, lard has less saturated fat when compared to vegetable shortening; this makes it ideal for frying.

How to Substitute Lard for Unsalted Butter

Swap lard for unsalted butter in the same proportion.

Don’t worry if you don’t have lard on your kitchen, its substitutes may help for your meal.

8. Coconut Oil

coconut oil

Coconut oil is a fantastic vegan substitute for butter in cooking, baking, and frosting. Coconut oil, like butter, is a saturated fat [2] with many health benefits.

It comes in regular, fractionated, and refined forms; these forms work for different recipes.

Like most nutty-flavored substitutes, coconut oil has a characteristic flavor. It’s strong enough to overpower the taste of your baked goods.

How to Substitute Coconut Oil for Unsalted Butter

Use one item for the other in equal amounts. Reduce the quantity or use refined coconut oil if you don’t like the coconutty aroma and taste.

9. Applesauce

apple sauce

Another options is applesauce. It gives your final product a delightfully moist and tender consistency. Plus, it bumps up the nutritional benefits of your baked foods.

Depending on what you hope to achieve with your recipe, you can use sweetened applesauce or the unsweetened variant.

Note that if you use sweetened applesauce, you would have to reduce the sugar requirements in your recipe. Otherwise, the unsweetened option is better.

How to Substitute Applesauce for Unsalted Butter

Like the other substitutes, a one-to-one replacement works fine.

To create a balance, adjust the other ingredients.

Our list of substitutes will give you a great range of options to choose from when finding a replacement for unsalted butter.

Do you still have questions about unsalted butter? Then you want to check out our FAQ section.

FAQ About Unsalted Butter

What can I substitute for butter in frosting?

We recommend cream cheese, heavy cream, and margarine for the best results.

Are oils a better option than butter in baking?

We have to admit that oils give baked goods an appealing moistness. However, butter is impeccable when it comes to flavor.

What other substitute options do I have for unsalted butter?

Apart from those listed, you can use buttermilk and fruit purees (pumpkin, and prune puree). Greek yogurt and ghee work fine too.

Can I swap regular butter for unsalted butter?

Sure you can. Both kinds of butter have the same effect on baked goods. However, you want to check that the salt quantity in your recipe is balanced.

Final Thoughts

Butter is one versatile kitchen staple; it’s not just great for eating. You can use butter for art. If you run out of unsalted butter, you can always use the above substitutes to make up.

While you use unsalted butter substitutes for baking and cooking, be mindful of their individual properties to balance them out. Do this and avoid the shock of ending up with a salty cake or an unpleasant pie.

I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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