How to Substitute Butter for Oil and proper Mixing Methods

Kek asks: If I would like to substitute butter for oil in a cake recipe (whether it be from scratch or a box mix), how do I do a proper measurement conversion from working with oil to working with butter?

Baking S.O.S. says: Butter measures the same (by volume and by weight) regardless of what form it is in: cold & solid, softened to room temperature, or melted. So, if you would like to replace the oil in a recipe with butter, it is an even exchange. For example: If the recipe calls for 1/2 Cup of oil, simply substitute 1/2 Cup of butter. (or 4 ounces)

The NEXT question becomes: What form should the butter be in when substituting butter for oil? Here is where it helps to explain a little bit about mixing methods. Regardless of the recipe (cookies, cakes, muffins, etc.), the mixing methods fall into just a few basic categories.

The CREAMING METHOD is used when a recipe calls for room temperature butter. When using the creaming method, the procedure is to beat the butter & sugar together on medium speed for 8-10 minutes to incorporate air, which helps the product rise and creates a tender, fluffy texture. (often used with cookies)

When a recipe calls for liquid fat (such as oil or melted butter), the mixing method used is called the MUFFIN METHOD (often used for muffins, as the name implies). In this method, ingredients are usually mixed just until well combined. Less air is incorporated, and the finished product is usually more dense. So. . . if the cake recipe (regardless of whether is is made from scratch or a box mix) calls for oil and you would like to substitute butter, I would recommend melting the butter so you have a liquid fat. Use the muffin method, where ingredients are mixed very little, just until combined. I hope that answers your question!

35 comments to How to Substitute Butter for Oil and proper Mixing Methods

  • Heather Brown

    The above answer is not correct. Butter contains milk solids and water in addition to butterfat. Butter is approximately 80% fat and 16-17% water. Multiply the given oil quantity by 1.25 to determine how much butter to use instead. To accommodate the extra liquid in butter compared to oil, multiply the liquid in your recipe by 0.8 or 0.85 (to allow you to round to a convenient amount) to reduce it the proper amount.

  • Heather Brown

    On May 20th I wrote:
    The above answer is not correct. Butter contains milk solids and water in addition to butterfat. Butter is approximately 80% fat and 16-17% water. Multiply the given oil quantity by 1.25 to determine how much butter to use instead. To accommodate the extra liquid in butter compared to oil, multiply the liquid in your recipe by 0.8 or 0.85 (to allow you to round to a convenient amount) to reduce it the proper amount.

    Whoops! Strike out that last sentence! (I copied and pasted the wrong bit from my doc.) Butter contains 16-17% water, so when you add butter you add moisture that you need to reduce from the quantity of liquid in the recipe (not including oils). Take the quantity of butter that you will be using, multiply by 16.5%. Reduce your liquids (not including oils) by this amount.

    Sorry about that, but this should now give you the information you need to make a substitution that works in sensitive recipes.

  • Sharon

    I have tried a few recipes using the 1 for 1 substitution of butter in place of oil and increased other moisture with water or small amt of applesauce, but the brownies/cake turned out dry and firm around the edges. If I use the 1.25 for 1 substitution of butter for oil, but then reduce the other liquids, won’t I end up with the same thing?

  • Hi Sharon, I understand your analysis and your concern, but I think the best way to answer your question is simply through trial and error. Until you actually test the ratios that Heather provided [increase the butter by 1.25% and decrease the liquid by 16-17%], there is no way to predict what the final results will be in the cake or brownies. This is starting to sound like an episode of America’s Test Kitchen, where we really get into the science behind baking!

    In general, though, any baked good–especially cakes and brownies–always bakes from the outer edges first and finishes baking in the center last. So regardless of what ingredients you use, cakes and brownies should always be a little drier around the edges than in the center. That is simply the nature of baking.

    Let us know if you test the butter-for-oil substitution and how it turns out!

  • Maria Paula

    Hi, in the following site there is a better chart regarding the oil-butter substitution. I normally add water though to complete the liquids quantity when I substitute oil for butter (i.e.: 1 cup butter = 3/4 cup of oil + 1/4 cup of water).

  • Kelli

    Thank you, I appreaciate you posting this. Very helpful!

  • subrosa

    Would it help to clarify the butter so you are able to remove the milk solids which seem to be the problem in substituting butter for oil. I think a straight one-for-one substitution would work then. Plus it would be in liquid form like oil.

  • Can I use the same 1 to 1 substitution ratio of butter for oil if I am making bread in a bread making machine?

  • Hi Samuel, I would say “yes,” although some readers of Baking S.O.S. have shared much more scientific explanations of why butter and oil should not be substituted in a 1-to-1 (equal) ratio. However, the amount of fat called for in a bread recipe is probably so small that the difference between using butter in place of oil would be negligible. It should not affect the overall results of your bread recipe, including in a bread machine.

  • Jessica

    I can’t believe that person got so technical! Looks like we have someone who can’t bake and is looking for excuses for her poor baked goods :( I use the 1 to 1 all the time and my cakes always come out moist. No problems! Thank you Baking S.O.S!

  • tobi

    it is fine when you are general baking and it is a small quantity… less than 1/2 cup… to use 1:1 ratio… so the answer to your question is dependent on what you are making and how much you need…

  • Thanks for the clarification!

  • CHANEL

    Strange but I subbed a 1/2 cup melted butter for 1/2 cup oil (my recipe requirement) and vice versa. I found however, (and I tested twice on each) that the melted butter gave a dryer crumb. The oil gave a moist-er crumb. So, I opt with 1/4 cup melted butter and 1/4 cup oil. It is the ratio I use for all measurements calling for oil or butter. Not too oily with great flavor. Butter is great yes…but it just does’t add the moisture you would think it should (after all it’s…butter) and I beleive it is due to the water content.

    Maybe not. But I think it has to be a reason why most scratch ‘yellow/butter cakes’ are not as moist as box cakes.

    After an exhaustive search, I found a yellow/butter that has both butter and oil…perfect crumb.

  • Very interesting! Thanks for sharing your “test” of butter vs. oil and the results you found. Would you also be willing to share the link to the recipe you found that uses butter and oil together? I would be curious to see it, if you don’t mind sharing. Thanks!

  • Shawna

    I used the 1:1 ratio this evening in a box butter yellow cake mix and my cake came out perfectly moist with a slightly enhanced butter flavor. We all enjoyed it. The edges were a little hard but since they were cut off when I leveled my layers there was no real concern. If I was making a sheet cake I would probably reduce the water a bit though. This tip saved me today since I had run out of oil and couldn’t get to the store to get more.

  • Good to know it worked! Thanks for sharing the results!

  • WorkingMom

    I just made my favorite chocolate chip banana bread substituting 1/4 cup melted butter for the 1/4 cup oil I usually use. I measured 1/4 c butter in solid form. When it melted it measured about 1/3 cup.I also turned the heat down 25 degrees after the first 25 minutes. Either way, it worked perfectly! I may use butter for that recipe all the time. Thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences. Reading through really helped me make the best decision for this recipe.

  • Sounds delicious! I’m glad it worked!

  • JBoy

    Why dont all you people make your lives easier and instead of sitting here ranting and raving about the substitution, simply get your rear ends out the door and head to the store ;) all the mathematical conversions and scientific analysis of the two ingredients is just a waste of time when you could have just used what the recipe calls for. remember, baking is a science. its not like cooking. if all else fails people, read and follow the recipe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Nicola

    To Jboy
    Your post is offensive, condescending, and rude. I found this discussion because I have a cake recipe that I have followed very successfully BUT I want to make this cake with butter instead of vegetable oil.
    You are the one ranting and raving and being both objectionable and unreasonable, everyone else has done their best to be helpful and pleasant even when disagreeing with other posts.
    If this thread is still active, does anyone have any thoughts about whether any other ingredient quantities should be adjusted? I didn’t think the butter cake rose as much as the oil one

  • Hi there, I will attempt to address your question about the butter cake not rising as much as the cake made with oil and also whether to adjust any other ingredients.

    First, unless you are making cake batter in really large volume, I still maintain that you can substitute butter for oil in an even exchange without any major noticeable difference.

    But in my original post, I suggested substituting melted butter in place of the oil so that it would be in a liquid form like the oil. But in your experience, the cake made with butter did not rise as much as the oil cake. So I would recommend trying the creaming method when substituting butter. When creaming room temperature butter with sugar, it incorporates air, which in turn helps the cake to rise more. To properly cream the butter and sugar, use an electric mixer set on medium or medium-high speed and beat for 8-10 minutes. This will incorporate more air into the creamed mixture and help the cake to rise better.

    If that doesn’t work, you could try to add just a little bit of baking powder to force the cake to rise a little bit more. Good luck!

  • Claudia

    Came to this website to look into whether I could substitute butter for oil. I found most answers very helpful. Many thanks. This is in reply to JBOY: It is not necessary to be so unpleasant and belligerent. I totally agree with Nicolas, your behavior is quite deplorable and not becoming. Lighten up…

  • Dsills

    Wow…was hoping for a simple solution in a pinch and ended up finding a need for advanced algebra skills and people who can’t take sarcasm well.

  • It is my experience that if the percentage of butter or oil in a recipe is 25% or less of the total weight in the recipe, then a straight 1 for 1 ratio can be used between butter or oil. It is when the oil ratio is greater than 25% of the total recipe weight that you need to increase the butter ration to be greater than 1:1 – I find 1.25 (butter):1 (oil) works well but then again, you really need to consider why am I substituting butter or oil into a recipe … butter shortbread cookies will never taste right if you substitute the butter with oil.

  • Rhee

    I’m new at baking and have been trying my hand at making cupcakes. While they’ve tasted ok so far, comments have been that they may be too sweet and NOT moist. I’ve been researching and saw that vegetable oil would answer the moistness aspect. But I couldn’t bring myself to totally substitute butter with oil as I know that butter does give a better taste profile for the cake.

    My question therefore is can I have a 50:50 split of butter and oil in the recipe, eg if the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, I will use 1/2 cup of butter and 6 tbsp of oil?

  • Ella

    I make my own butter at home.
    To substitute 1 cup of Canola oil – how much butter will I need? (ounces please)
    Thanks
    Ella

  • Ella

    I make my own butter at home.
    To substitute 1 cup of Canola oil – how much butter will I need? (ounces please)
    Thank you
    -Ella

  • Hi Ella, I would recommend using 8 ounces of butter to substitute for 1 Cup of canola oil. Although some other readers in this conversation thread have recommended some more complicated calculations for substituting butter for oil, I believe that when you are working with fairly small quantities, it’s not going to make a noticeable difference so it’s really not worth all that extra trouble to work out the exact mathematical conversion.

  • Hi there,

    To answer your question about using a 50:50 ratio of butter and oil in a cake recipe, you could certainly try that to see if it helps add more moisture to your cakes. However, the measurements you suggested are a little off, so that would throw off the balance of fats in the recipe, as well. In your question, you gave the example of 1 cup of butter. So the proper substitution for half butter-half oil would be 1/2 cup of each. However, there are 16 Tablespoons in 1 cup, so you would actually need 8 Tablespoons rather than 6 Tablespoons of oil. (or simply measure 1/2 cup of oil) Be careful to do the math calculations correctly so that your recipe turns out properly. Otherwise, using too little fat could also cause your cakes to be dry.

    Some other things to consider to prevent a dry cake include: adding a little more of the liquid ingredient, and also baking the cake at just the right time and temperature to prevent it from over-baking and drying out. If the oven is too hot, the cake will bake too fast and dry out before it is done all the way through the middle. I think 325 or 350 F is the ideal temperature for baking cakes. Be sure to check the cake at least 5 minutes before the recipe says it will be done to ensure that it doesn’t over-bake.

  • Good advice! Thanks for sharing your tips and experience.

  • Ella

    Thanks much ChefRB.

    Ella

  • Elvie

    To Claudia, feb 26 and Nicola feb 10,

    If you ever revisit this… Lighten up, no need to take what is obviously a light hearted message and joke and get all aggressive. Shame on your outlook of others!

    Good baking to all!

  • Gina

    This recipe makes a beautiful double sponge with height and moist lightness….
    Sponge Cake Recipe

    2 cups 300g (10.58 ounces) plain all-pupose flour
    1 1/2 cups 330g (11.64 ounces) sugar
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 tsp 7.5g (0.26 ounces) gelatine

    1/2 cup 125ml vegetable oil such as canola oil
    7 egg yolks
    1 cup 250ml cold water

    7 egg whites
    1/2 tsp cream of tartar

    Place your flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and gelatin into a bowl and whisk it to incorporate air and get rid of any lumps.

    Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture then pour in the oil, egg yolks and water in that order. Set that bowl to one side.

    Put your egg whties and cream of tartar into another bowl and whisk on high speed until you get soft peaks.

    Mix together the flour mixture for 30 seconds only or until just combined, don’t ovemix this.

    Using a spatula fold in your egg whites in three batches.

    Line but do not grease two 20cm (7.87 inches) cake tins and spread the mixture evenly between the two.

    Bake in a slow oven, 160C (320 degrees Fahrenheit) for 55-60 minutes.

    When it is done leave in the tin and cool upside down.

  • Scott Oh

    Make ghee (clarified butter); its a 1 to 1 substitution for oil, and it’s a chef’s secret.

  • Teresa Williams

    Perfect answers. You not only gave me the answer but included measurement conversionso and mixing guidelines. Thankyou.

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