Can you substitute oil for butter or margarine in cakes, cookies, and pies?  

Canola Oil Pound Cake with Browned Butter Glazeenlarge

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Leigh Ann Ross

About Our Expert

If you have a cooking question, our expert, Marge Perry, can answer it. Marge teaches home cooks in her classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She is an award-winning food writer, longtime contributor for Cooking Light and a number of other leading food magazines, author of the blog A Sweet and Savory Life, columnist for Newsday, and has contributed to over 20 cookbooks.

Send Marge your cooking questions

Like Marge on Facebook

Browse Marge Perry's Recipes

Video Tips from Marge

Before substituting oil for butter in a cake, cookie, or pie recipe, it's important to understand what each does and does not contribute to the outcome.

Picture creaming butter and sugar together in a mixer when you're making a cake: you get a fluffy, creamy substance. Now imagine beating oil and sugar together: the result looks like wet, heavy sugar. That's because butter incorporates and holds tiny air bubbles while oil does not.

But that doesn't mean oil is all bad in baking. Oil makes cakes moist and tender–like my favorite carrot cake, which is made with oil (and no butter). But I wouldn't much care for a pie crust made with oil: I want both the flaky light texture and great flavor that butter contributes.

There is no hard and fast rule for how much oil it takes to replace butter: it varies by recipe. Start with a cake, muffin or cookie recipe. (Stick with butter or shortening for pie crusts). Try substituting one-fourth or half the butter with oil. And don't substitute the same amount: try two thirds to three fourths as much oil. In other words, to replace 4 tablespoons of butter, experiment with a scant 3 tablespoons of oil.

For more information about ingredient substitutions, see our Ingredient Substitutions guide.

Marge Perry
Dec, 2013
  1. Enter at least one ingredient