Butter, butter, butter. So good for you, and so enjoyable as long as you don’t look at the calorie count and you’re not allergic to it. If you bake a lot, you already know that it’s possible to go through an incredible amount of butter every so quickly. Knowing how to substitute for butter in any given recipe is essential if you want to keep baking on a gluten free, casein free diet.
Photo by pinprick Let’s start off with a few words about butter. Butter is fat. Butter’s primary role in most baking recipe is to be the “fat”. Since butter is a dairy product it also adds some water to the recipe – butter is about 80% fat and 20% water. Butter also adds flavor to the recipes, and it’s dairy proteins can help with browning. Yet, despite all of that, butter’s most important role is that it’s fat.
So, if you need to replace butter in a recipe, you can replace it with one of a number of other fats. The particular fat that you choose will depend on two things.
1) You can’t be allergic to the fat.
2) Pick the right fat for the recipe.
Here is a quick list of fats that might work as a dairy substitute for you. I would keep all of these that you’re not allergic to on hand at all times.
Non-Dairy Butter Substitutes for Baking
- shortening (often contains soy) - Shortening has a lingering bad reputation for saturated fats, but it’s a great butter substitute, especially for biscuits and pie crusts. In fact, shortening in biscuits is phenomenal; the crust shatters in your mouth and gives one little perfect moment of baking joy.
- vegetable oils (often contains soy and corn) - Vegetable oils work if the fat in the recipe doesn’t have to be solid. Oil does a great job of covering up flour particles and can really reduce the grainy mouth feel you sometimes get with gluten free flours.
- coconut oil (tree nut) – Coconut oil is solid above 76 degrees F, so if your house is cool then this can work a as a butter (or shortening) substitute. Get the temp above 76 degrees and you can use it as a liquid oil.
- Earth Balance (often contains soy)- Earth Balance is one of my favorite options! Earth Balance makes vegan buttery spreads AND buttery sticks. Most of their products contain soy, but one of the spreads is soy free too, and suitable for baking.
- animal lard – I’ll be honest, I haven’t used lard, but it is a fat and it used to be widely used. Using lard in cooking/baking is on my to-do list. From what I’ve read you shouldn’t use the stuff that can be stored for months at room temparature. Instead, look for lard in the refrigerated section or make it yourself.
As always, check and make sure any product that you buy is gluten free, even if that means calling the manufacturer and asking about their manufacturing practices.
How to Choose a Non-Dairy Butter Substitutes
If you wanted, you could get really scientific about which butter substitute would work best in a given recipes. You could start checking melting points, water content, and burning points. But we’re not going to do that today.
Most of the time you will be perfectly fine if you follow this rule:
Rule: Substitute solid fats for solid butter; substitute liquid fats for melted butter.
So, if the recipe calls for solid butter, you could use shortening, lard, Earth Balance or solid coconut oil. If the recipe, calls for melted butter then you can use vegetable oil, or you can melt the shortening, lard, Earth Balance or coconut oil.
Even this is not a hard and fast rule. If you’re making biscuits and only have vegetable oil, go ahead and use it. It’s won’t be the same as if you had used a solid fat, but it won’t be bad. Sometimes things won’t work out. The melting point of the fat can be extremely important in some recipes, and you might actually have to experiment with different fat substitutes to find one that works. But that’s not going to happen all that often.
In most situations, just use the fat that you have on hand and don’t worry all that much about it. This is just one recipe out of the thousands (millions maybe?) that you’ll cook, and it’s really not worth worrying over all that much. The recipe will probably turn out just fine and you can spend your worrying energy on something else =)