Brownies have always been one of my specialties. My sons often volunteered to take homemade brownies to their various activities. While butter is the most frequently used ingredient, It is common to look for a substitute, whether for health reasons or because they are out of butter. I have tried a wide variety of replacements and decided to share them with you.
Applesauce is an excellent substitute for butter in brownies as well as in quick breads, cake mixes, and muffins. Using applesauce instead of butter in your baking adds moisture and extra flavor and is a good way to reduce the amount of fat and calories in your baking. This way, you get all the extra health benefits found in applesauce, like extra fiber and antioxidants, as well as the nutrients that can improve heart, brain, and gut health.
The primary difference in your baking when using applesauce will be that brownies made with applesauce will be more moist and dense and will not rise as much. They will be less cake-like and fudgier. Also, applesauce is sweeter than butter, so you may want to adjust the amount of sugar in your recipe.
Substitution Rate: Applesauce can be substituted for butter on a 1:1 basis, so use a cup of applesauce for every cup of butter called for in your recipe.
2. Puree of Avocado, Banana, Prune, or Pumpkin
There are several fruits that, when pureed, make excellent substitutes for butter in brownies and many other baked treats like quick breads.
Pureed avocado not only adds fiber to your brownies or quick breads, but also vitamins and other nutrients. Because of its vibrant green color, it is best to add avocado to chocolate-flavored goodies like brownies because the green color in some things like biscuits may result in an odd color that will look somewhat unappetizing.
Bananas add nutrients that support a healthy heart and digestion. However, bananas have a strong flavor that can impact the taste of your baking, but it pairs well with chocolate in brownies.
Prune puree is another substitute for butter that is excellent in brownies and cakes. It makes the brownies and cakes moist and delicious, but it will add a dark reddish-purple color to whatever you are making and is better used in chocolate baked goods like brownies and chocolate cakes.
This could be one of the easiest butter substitutions for you if you happen to have a young child because you can use baby food prunes in your recipe just as it comes out of the jar. What could be easier than that?
Pureed pumpkin is another fruit that can be substituted for butter; it can serve many purposes in baking. Pumpkin can be substituted for eggs in your recipe, for butter or oil, and it can also be substituted for the liquid in making certain dishes like pancakes. And the pumpkin flavor pairs well with chocolate, making it an excellent ingredient in brownies.
- In the case of both avocados and bananas, the substitution can be made at a 1:1 ratio, or 1 cup of pureed or mashed avocado or banana for each cup of butter called for in your recipe. However, many bakers like to substitute ½ cup of either type of fruit puree for a cup of butter in their recipes to reduce the dense texture that will result by using this type of substitution.
- Like pumpkin puree, substitute ¾ cup of prune puree, or prune baby food for 1 cup of butter in your brownies and chocolate cakes.
3. Black Beans
Many people are becoming a lot more creative these days when trying to make their food healthier. Even black beans, which are considered one of the healthiest foods, are now being substituted for butter or other fat in making brownies. This is an excellent way to add protein and fiber to your brownies without sacrificing flavor and texture.
What is even better about this substitution is that making brownies with black beans creates a dessert with enough healthy nutrients to satisfy your hunger and will not leave you craving more food.
Substitution Rate: Black beans can be substituted for butter on a 1:1 basis. Simply puree the black beans and measure the amount needed for your recipe.
Buttermilk is one of those ingredients that can replace the liquid, usually milk, and the fat in baking. I first became aware of this phenomenon years ago when a friend shared her biscuit recipe with me. She used self-rising flour and buttermilk, period, as ingredients to make her from-scratch biscuits. And they were always delicious, light and flaky, and rose beautifully.
Since that time, I have often substituted buttermilk for at least part of the liquid and fat in brownies and certain quick breads including biscuits and cornbread.
And, if you don’t happen to have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar per cup of milk, stirring well, and letting it set for a couple of minutes. Nothing to it. Then you can take that homemade buttermilk and make brownies with it as a substitute for butter and at least part of the liquid.
Substitution Rate: It can be substituted for butter by using ½ cup of buttermilk for every cup of butter called for in the recipe.
5. Canola or Other Vegetable Oils
Butter and oil are pretty much interchangeable in making brownies. The primary difference is that using butter in brownies creates a brownie that rises better and is cake-like, while brownies made with oil are denser and have a more fudge-like texture.
The thing that brownies made with butter have in common with brownies made with oil is that they are both moist and tender.
Substitution Rate: Canola oil and other vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, and pure vegetable oil can be substituted for butter on a 1:1 basis.
6. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil makes a good substitute for butter in brownies, and the texture will be quite similar to brownies made with butter. Using coconut oil in your baking creates a taste treat if used in chocolate cakes or brownies because of the delicious combination of chocolate and coconut.
But that same added bonus can be a disadvantage if you don’t happen to like the taste of coconut. But, if refined coconut oil is used, the coconut taste will not be prevalent in your baking.
Substitution Rate: Coconut oil can be substituted for butter on a 1:1 basis.
7. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt makes an excellent substitute for butter in brownies and especially in cakes. It gives cakes a smooth texture and a higher protein content, and the tangy flavor it adds to your baking is similar to buttermilk but with much lower calorie and fat content. Using Greek yogurt instead of butter will cause your baked goodies to have a denser texture, but this change in texture can be avoided by adding a little extra liquid to the batter.
Substitution Rate: To substitute Greek yogurt for butter, use a 1:1 ratio.
Many cooks use margarine and butter pretty much interchangeably. Both margarine and butter produce similar results in baking, but with subtle differences. While margarine produces cakes, cookies, and brownies with a lighter texture, the taste is just not as rich as when butter is used. So, let’s discuss some other issues related to using butter or margarine.
- Texture: Margarine cakes are lighter; butter cakes are a little heavier and brown slightly more. Margarine cookies are more chewy; butter cookies are flatter and crisper. Margarine brownies are more cake-like; butter brownies are more chewy.
- Price: Many people use margarine instead of butter, as I did back when I was raising my children, because of the economics of the matter. Let’s face it, butter is a lot more expensive than margarine. Butter was used only for spreading on toast or biscuits and making those cakes and other desserts for special occasions. The majority of the baking and other cooking was done with margarine or a mixture of the two.
- Health issues: When margarine was first invented, it was invented as a more reasonably-priced substitute for butter and one that was more easily obtained. But, margarine was improved and marketed in the 1950s as an all-vegetable product with fewer calories and fat than butter. Butter, however, is all-natural and has more calories and fat than margarine, but it provides vitamins A, B12, E, and K. So, each person must make the decision as to whether they prefer natural butter with nutrients over manufactured margarine with lower calories and fat.
Substitution Rate: If you are out of butter and need a good substitute, margarine can be used at a 1:1 ratio. Just be sure to use stick margarine and not the whipped margarine in tubs because the whipped margarine has a high water content that can change the texture of anything you bake with it.
Mayonnaise, as strange as it may seem, is an excellent substitute for butter in baking and is especially good in making stir-and-drop biscuits and brownies. I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising because mayonnaise is made from oil and eggs, but somehow it does sound like a strange substitution for butter. Biscuits made with mayonnaise are simply delicious with no mayo taste, while brownies turn out rich and gooey.
When I was very young, my dad came home one day with a new recipe for biscuits. A co-worker brought stir-and-drop biscuits that had been made with mayonnaise for a mid-morning snack, and that simple recipe has been a family favorite ever since. If you are interested, here is my video demonstrating that simple stir-and-drop biscuit recipe.
Substitution Rate: Mayonnaise can be substituted for butter at a 1:1 ratio.
10. Nut Butters
There are now many types of nut butters on the market. In addition to peanut butter, almond, pea, and soy nut butters are readily available at most supermarkets. Each has its own specific flavor and health benefits, and they make excellent substitutes for butter in baking. They can be used in brownies, cakes, cookies, and different types of bread.
Nut butters contain protein and provide the necessary nutrients to improve cholesterol levels. They contain many vitamins and minerals, and the fats they add to your food are healthy monounsaturated fats. However, it is better to select the nut butters for baking that only contain nuts and salt and stay away from brands that are loaded with sugar.
Substitution Rate: Nut butter can be substituted for butter in your baking at a 1:1 ratio.
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For more, don’t miss 8 Best Substitutes for Vegetable Oil in Brownies.
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.