Despite the rise in popularity of butter and the general consensus among health and nutrition professionals that butter may not be as unhealthy as we once thought, it is still high in calories and saturated fat, which causes many people to seek healthier butter alternatives.
You may be wondering what the best healthy substitute for butter is and if there is a good low-fat or low-calorie alternative for weight loss purposes. And what about the best plant-based butter alternative for vegans?
In this article, we will discuss why you may want healthy butter substitutes and provide a list of the best healthier alternatives to butter for those looking to lose weight, reduce saturated fat intake, lower calorie consumption, or follow a plant-based diet.
We will look at:
- Is Butter Healthy?
- Why Do People Need a Butter Substitute?
- Here Are 10 Healthy Butter Substitutes
Let’s get started!
Is Butter Healthy?
For many years, butter was considered one of the most unhealthy foods, and nutrition experts strongly urged people to limit butter consumption. The primary fear surrounding eating butter was the high saturated fat content found in butter.
For this reason, margarine became an “attractive alternative” to butter and was initially touted to be a healthier butter alternative.
However, margarine is typically made from oils that undergo a hydrogenation process so that they are stabilized and semi-solid at room temperature.
This process creates trans fats, which have since been found to be extremely deleterious to your health and much worse for you than saturated fats.
Thus, it is almost universally accepted now that it is better to have butter vs margarine.
Coupled with discovering that butter is healthier than margarine, the research that has emerged over the last decade has found saturated fat to be not as strongly associated with heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality as originally thought.
This, in turn, has caused a significant increase in butter consumption in the United States since 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Additionally, trendy drinks that are associated with intermittent fasting, another popular approach to weight loss and health, such as bulletproof coffee, use grass-fed butter as a main ingredient in the coffee concoction.
There are even butter boards, a sister dish to charcuterie boards, which glorify flavored butters as a dip for other crudites.
Altogether, these changing trends in diet, weight loss, and our concept of whether butter is healthy have caused a steady increase in butter consumption in the United States over the last 10 to 15 years.
Why Do People Need a Butter Substitute?
There are various reasons why people may seek a healthy substitute for butter.
Because butter is an animal product and one that is high in calories per serving, total fat, and particularly saturated fat, the primary reasons that people seek a healthy butter alternative is either for:
- A healthy vegan butter substitute for those on a plant-based diet
- A healthy, low-calorie butter substitute for those trying to lose weight
- A low-fat or low-saturated fat healthy butter alternative for those trying to limit their intake of total fat or saturated fat to potentially reduce the risk of heart disease
Depending on which of these particular camps you fall into in terms of the primary reason you are seeking a healthier butter substitute, the best healthy butter alternative choice from the list of healthier butter substitutes will vary.
For example, if you are seeking a healthy plant-based butter alternative but do not mind the nutritional profile of butter or a high-fat plant-based butter substitute, choose a coconut oil or plant-based butter product that does a good job replicating the taste, consistency, and texture of butter will likely be the best healthy plant-based butter substitute for your needs.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a low-calorie butter substitute if you are trying to lose weight, you will probably find that low-calorie, low-fat healthy butter substitutes like applesauce work best as a healthy butter substitute in baking recipes or a light smear of hummus on toast or bread and sandwiches.
Although these healthier alternatives to butter do not have the same taste and texture as butter, they can be used as low-calorie swaps for butter that will still provide some moisture and flavor while saving calories and grams of fat.
Along the same lines, some of the healthier butter substitutes on this healthy butter substitutes list are better for certain applications than others.
For example, applesauce works as a decent fat-free alternative to butter in baking recipes for things like cookies and biscuits.
However, applesauce won’t necessarily be the best fat-free butter substitute as a similar spread on something like corn on the cob or in a pan for cooking because it is sticky, sweet, and won’t provide the same nonstick or savory benefits of cooking with butter.
Using a non-fat cooking spray like organic avocado oil will be a much healthier, low-calorie butter substitute for cooking applications or for something like a quick spray on corn on the cob or other shish kebab vegetables before throwing them on the grill.
Here Are 10 Healthy Butter Substitutes
The following healthy butter substitutes list is not presented in any particular ranking order but rather just a list of healthier substitutes for butter for different uses and reasons that people seek a healthier butter alternative for their dietary needs and goals.
Here are some of the healthiest alternatives to regular butter:
Avocados are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and they have a creamy, luscious texture like butter. You can even whip up avocado in a blender and make a healthier whipped butter alternative.
You can add salt if you are looking for a healthier salted butter alternative, or leave the avocado as it is for a heart-healthy unsalted butter substitute.
You can use avocados as a healthier alternative to butter on toast. Avocado toast has been extremely popular over the past decade.
Swapping the high saturated fat in regular butter for the heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in avocado will promote heart health while giving you some great flavor along with the aforementioned nutrients like vitamin E, potassium, and fiber.
#2: Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is a healthier alternative to butter in terms of the fat profile.
You can use avocado oil in a pan for cooking or on a grill instead of butter. It has a higher smoke point, which is better for your health compared to some other plant-based oils.
Avocado oil works as a one-to-one substitute for butter in recipes, so you don’t have to worry about converting measurements.
You can also use “fat-free avocado oil spray, “ which is a cooking spray to quickly grease a pan with minimal calories.
Although cooking sprays like avocado oil, which is a healthier oil alternative to Pam cooking spray, do contain some calories and fat, because the aerosol spray is so quick, you aren’t getting an appreciable number of calories from this, “no-calorie butter substitute“ to really contribute to your total daily caloric intake.
Applesauce is a great fat-free substitute for butter in baking recipes.
Even though the applesauce will change the consistency of baked goods to some degree, if you are trying to lose weight or walk to decrease your fat intake to reduce your risk of heart disease, using applesauce as a fat-free butter alternative can be well worth the difference in texture that results.
To reduce the impact of the textual differences when substituting applesauce for butter, use half applesauce and half avocado oil or vegetable oil in place of butter.
For example, if a recipe calls for a half cup of butter, use a quarter cup of applesauce and a quarter cup of avocado oil as your butter substitute in baking.
Although it may sound strange, you can also use a light smear of applesauce in place of butter on toast in the morning for breakfast. This will save you total calories, total fat, and grams of saturated fat.
Applesauce also doesn’t contain any added sugars if you choose unsweetened applesauce, so it can be a healthier alternative to many commercial jellies and jams that often add high-fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners.
#4: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
If you are looking for a healthy vegan butter substitute or a healthier butter alternative that is low in saturated fat, extra-virgin olive oil is another good option if you do not like avocado oil or you find it difficult to locate in your grocery store.
Extra-virgin olive oil does have more of a flavor profile than neutral avocado oil, so it will affect the taste profile as a butter substitute to some degree, but you can also use it as a 1:1 ratio in your recipes instead of butter.
It is also packed with healthier polyunsaturated fats instead of saturated animal fats, and it is higher in antioxidants and polyphenols, making it a heart-healthy alternative to regular butter.
#5: Nut and Seed Butters
If you like butter on toast, you can use nut butters or seed butters like peanut butter, almond butter, walnut butter, sunflower seed butter, and macadamia nut butter for a protein-packed, plant-based, healthier butter substitute.
Nut and seed butters are more satiating because they have more protein and fiber.
They also have much less saturated fat and more healthy plant fats, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals. These are also great vegan butter options for those avoiding animal-based ingredients.
Greek yogurt makes a great low-fat butter alternative.
Plain Greek yogurt adds a lot of protein and calcium, so it is more filling and nutritious. Even if you go with whole milk Greek yogurt, you will still consume much less fat than regular butter while still getting creaminess in your healthier alternative to butter.
#7: Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is also high in saturated fat, much like regular butter, but it is thought to provide healthier saturated fats because of the medium-chain triglycerides found in coconut oil which are quickly metabolized since they bypass digestion in the stomach and provide a quick source of energy.
Additionally, coconut oil is a good plant-based healthy butter substitute for vegans that is still creamy and has butter-like properties in that it is semi-solid at room temperature and quickly melts as soon as it is heated slightly.
#8: Mashed Banana
Like applesauce, you can use mashed banana as a substitute for butter in baking, which is fat-free and high in potassium. It adds sweetness and creaminess.
#9: Pumpkin Purée
Plain, unsweetened pumpkin purée is packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber and can work as a nonfat butter substitute in baking.
It will also add earthiness, richness, and slight sweetness to your baking. Pumpkin purée can also work well as a substitute for butter on top of pancakes, waffles, or breakfast biscuits and croissants.
It may sound strange, but you can actually use curated beads as a high-protein, high-fiber, low-fat alternative to butter in baking recipes.
Homemade brownies and cookies sometimes use black beans and white beans or navy beans, respectively, to boost the nutrient content and reduce the fat and calories while not causing a significant change in the taste and texture of your baked goods.
For another guide to healthier food alternatives, check out our guide to peanut butter substitutes here.