Margarine is a fat used in cooking and baking and is often used as an alternative to butter. Originally made from dairy products, margarine has recently evolved into a healthier product and is now usually made from natural vegetable oils.
Butter and other cooking fats and oils with similar fat contents make good substitutes for margarine because, like margarine, these fats bind dry ingredients and add moisture to foods and baked goods. Some dairy products and mashed fruits also work as margarine replacements in cakes, cookies, and pastries.
Best Substitute for Margarine: Unsalted Butter
The best substitute for margarine is unsalted butter because butter has a similar fat content to margarine. Unlike margarine, which is made from vegetable oil, butter is a dairy product made from heavy cream and has a richer, creamier texture than margarine.
Butter is a good substitute for margarine in baking, giving a golden-brown finish to baked goods. Use butter as a 1:1 replacement for margarine for a smooth, rich texture in cakes, cookies, and pastries.
Use butter in place of margarine in an equal ratio when sauteéing and stir-frying veggies, meat, fish, and eggs.
Other Margarine Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
Below is a list of other foods that you can use in place of margarine.
Semi-Solid, Fat-based Margarine Substitutes
Lard, a semi-solid cooking fat made from rendered pork fat, is frequently used in cooking and baking and makes a good substitute for margarine.
Lard has a higher fat content than margarine, so use less lard when substituting. Use ¾ cup of lard in place of 1 cup of margarine in baking and cooking.
A cooking fat made from hydrogenated vegetable oil, vegetable shortening works as a substitute for margarine in cooking and baking because both fats have a similar consistency and fat content.
Use vegetable shortening as a 1:1 replacement for margarine in baking, cooking, sauteéing, and pan-frying.
Ghee, a semi-solid cooking fat made by straining melted butter to remove the milk solids, makes a good substitute for margarine in cooking and baking. With its smooth texture and rich flavor, ghee gives baked goods a light and fluffy consistency.
Use ghee as a 1:1 replacement for margarine in cooking and baking.
Derived from the flesh of the coconut, coconut oil is semi-solid at room temperature and works as a replacement for margarine in baked goods, cooking, and frying.
Refined coconut oil comes from dried coconut flesh and has a subtle coconut flavor, while virgin coconut oil comes from fresh coconuts and doesn’t have any taste.
When replacing margarine with coconut oil, use virgin coconut oil to prevent a noticeable coconut flavor. Substitute at a 1:1 ratio in baking and cooking.
Beef tallow, a cooking fat derived from cow’s fat, is solid at room temperature but liquifies when heated. Beef tallow makes an excellent replacement for margarine when frying, but isn’t suitable for baking because of this replacement’s meaty flavor.
Use beef tallow as a 1:1 substitute for margarine when stir-frying and pan-frying.
Liquid, Oil-based Margarine Substitutes
Olive oil is made from pressed olives, giving the oil an olive flavor. Extra virgin olive oil has a less distinct olive flavor than regular olive oil, making extra virgin olive oil a good substitute for margarine in cooking and frying.
Substitute olive oil for margarine at a 1:1 basis in cooking, but avoid using olive oil in place of margarine in baked goods because of this replacement’s distinct olive flavor.
Sunflower oil, made from pressed sunflower seeds, is high in polyunsaturated fats and has no flavor. Therefore, sunflower oil works well as a margarine substitute.
Sunflower oil is denser than margarine, with a higher fat content, so use ⅞ of a cup of sunflower oil in place of 1 cup of margarine in baked goods but replace it at a 1:1 ratio in fried foods.
Safflower oil is derived from the safflower plant and works as a margarine replacement in cooking and baking.
Because safflower oil is heavier than margarine, with a higher fat content, replace 1 cup of margarine with ⅞ of a cup of safflower oil in baked goods. Replace margarine with safflower oil at an equal ratio when cooking and frying.
Canola oil is derived from rapeseed and is high in monounsaturated fats, making canola oil a healthy substitute for margarine.
Replace margarine with canola oil on a 1:1 basis in cooking and frying, but use ⅞ of a cup canola oil in place of 1 cup margarine in baking, to prevent the texture of baked goods from being too heavy.
Avocado oil, made from avocado pulp, is a healthy oil that works as a margarine replacement in baking, cooking, and frying. Refined avocado oil has a subtle avocado flavor, but unrefined avocado oil is flavorless, making unrefined avocado oil a better choice for baking.
Replace 1 cup of margarine with 1 cup of unrefined avocado oil in cookies, cakes, pastries, and fried foods.
Peanut oil, derived from peanuts, makes a good substitute for margarine in baking, cooking, and frying. Peanut oil made from raw peanuts has no flavor and is suitable for baking.
Peanut oil made from roasted peanuts has a nutty flavor, which affects the taste of baked goods but works for frying and sauteéing. Use peanut oil as a 1:1 replacement for margarine.
Dairy-based Margarine Substitutes
Buttermilk is made from fermented cow’s milk that has been mixed with cultured bacteria, resulting in a thick, creamy liquid with a sour tang. Buttermilk makes a good substitute for margarine in baked goods because buttermilk adds moisture and binds dry ingredients.
Use 1 cup of buttermilk instead of 1 cup of margarine in cakes, muffins, cookies, and breads. Add a little extra sugar to compensate for the buttermilk’s sourness. Buttermilk isn’t suitable for pie crusts and pastries.
Yogurt is a dairy product made from milk that has been mixed with a specific bacteria to produce a yogurt culture, resulting in a semi-liquid, creamy substance with a sour flavor.
Natural, unflavored yogurt works as a 1:1 substitute for margarine, adding moisture to cakes, breads, muffins, and cookies. Add extra sugar to compensate for the yogurt’s sour taste.
Yogurt isn’t suitable as a replacement in pastries and pie crusts because the texture is too heavy. Don’t use yogurt for frying because this replacement doesn’t contain enough fat.
Natural fruit and other flavorings are often added to yogurts for extra flavor. These flavored yogurts aren’t suitable as margarine substitutes.
Fresh cream is made by skimming the surface of cow’s milk during the homogenizing process. With its high fat content, thick, creamy texture, and rich flavor, fresh cream works as a substitute for margarine in cakes, cookies, breads, and muffins.
Replace margarine with an equal quantity of fresh cream for baked goods with a rich flavor and light, fluffy texture, but avoid using fresh cream for frying.
Sour cream is a thick cream that has been mixed with a bacterial culture, causing the cream to ferment. With its thick, creamy texture and smooth consistency, sour cream is a suitable replacement for margarine in baked goods like cookies, muffins, cakes, and breads.
Sour cream has a high fat content, adding moisture to baked goods and binding dry ingredients. However, sour cream has a sour tang, so add some extra sugar to balance the sour flavor.
Use sour cream as a 1:1 substitute for margarine in baking, but don’t use sour cream for frying.
Fruit-based Margarine Substitutes
These fruits work as margarine substitutes in baking because the natural moisture in the fruit adds moisture to baked goods and binds dry ingredients. However, fruit-based margarine substitutes aren’t suitable for frying because the fruit doesn’t contain fat.
Pureéd prunes are prunes that have been blended to a smooth paste. To make pureéd prunes, remove the stones and soak the prunes in water overnight. Drain the prunes well and pureé the fruit using a hand blender or a food mill.
Pureéd prunes make a good substitute for margarine because the liquid in the prunes adds moisture to baked goods.
Use 1 cup of pureéd prunes instead of 1 cup of margarine in cakes, cookies, and muffins. Because prunes are sweet, reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe to compensate for the extra sweetness.
Applesauce, made from cooked apples, works as a replacement for margarine in cakes, bread, muffins, and cookies because applesauce acts as a binding agent and adds moisture.
Make your own applesauce or use one of the many bottled or canned varieties available. Unsweetened applesauce is better than sweetened because the apples contain enough natural sugar and the sweetened variety is too sweet.
Use 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce in place of 1 cup of margarine in baked goods.
Homemade applesauce is easy to make using only apples and water. Golden delicious apples have the best flavor for applesauce, with the perfect sweet and tart flavor balance.
Here are five easy steps for making applesauce:
- Peel and core 6 apples
- Cut the apples into chunks
- Place the apples in a saucepan with ¼ of a cup of water
- Cook the apples over medium heat until they’re soft
- Leave the apples to cool, and blend them into a smooth paste using a blender
Mashed avocados have a smooth, buttery texture and contain natural avocado oil, making mashed avos a good substitute for margarine in cakes, cookies, breads, and muffins.
Because avocados have a high fat content, use half the quantity when substituting for margarine. Use ½ cup of mashed avocados in place of 1 cup of margarine. Mashed avocados aren’t suitable for pastries and pie crusts because the texture is too heavy.
Mashed bananas contain natural moisture and have a creamy consistency, making mashed bananas a good replacement for margarine. The bananas act as a binding agent and add moisture to baked goods.
Replace 1 cup of margarine with ½ a cup of mashed bananas in cakes, breads, muffins, and cookies. Reduce the amount of sugar according to taste to compensate for the bananas’ sweetness.
Avoid using mashed bananas in pastries and pie crusts because the mashed bananas’ heavy consistency will affect the texture.