The most common type of oil used in baking is vegetable oil, because it’s light in body and taste. So what happens when you’re baking cakes or cookies and you run out of your go-to oil?
Clearly, you’re going to need a suitable substitute for vegetable oil (1). A longstanding debate among bakers is the one about the benefits of canola oil vs. vegetable oil, and really, it comes down to individual preferences regarding diet and taste.
The two oils are quite interchangeable, so if you need to substitute canola oil for vegetable oil, go ahead and don’t worry about it.
There are many options available that are healthy (2) and/or simple substitutes for vegetable oil. For example, you can easily substitute butter for vegetable oil; in fact, most baking recipes call for butter rather than oil so this is an obvious choice if vegetable oil isn’t an option.
8 Simple Vegetable Oil Substitutes
1. Olive Oil
This oil is heavier than vegetable oil and is a good substitute for vegetable oil for frying because it has a high smoke point, which is necessary for frying foods. One thing to note, though, is that olive oil is overheated past its smoke point, it’s no longer a healthy oil and can be just as bad for you as any other oil might be.
Also, the taste can be rather strong, so it’s not ideal to use it as a substitute for vegetable oil in brownies and other baked goods. To take advantage of its health benefits, use olive oil at room temperature in dressings, marinades, or as a topper for hummus and spaghetti. The replacement values are 1:1.
2. Coconut Oil
This is another versatile oil and a healthy option, packed with nutrients and vitamins. It’s unlike other oils in that it remains solid until heated. With its light nutty flavor and texture, coconut oil makes a great substitute for vegetable oil in cakes and other baked goods, and is also delicious when used for frying meat and vegetables. The replacement values are 1:1.
3. Sesame Oil
If you haven’t used this oil before in cooking, you’ll be delighted by the nutty flavor it imparts to food. Sesame oil is best used for stir-fries and to cook beef. Don’t bake with it because it will completely overpower the taste of whatever you’re making. You can also use it as a dipping sauce when mixed with soy sauce.
4. Avocado Oil
This is a healthy option with a light taste. Use it in salads and when making marinades and dressings. You can cook with it as well, but avoid using it for baked goods. It’s one of the more expensive oils, so it’s best to drizzle it on foods or in salads, or to use it with dishes that don’t call for a lot of oil.
Butter is perhaps the most obvious replacement for vegetable oil, and is often the go-to over vegetable oil in many recipes. Butter will make your baking crisp, light brown, and flavorful. It’s an ideal substitute for vegetable oil in baking. The replacement values are 1:1.
A nutritious substitute for vegetable oil in muffins is applesauce, because it’s moist and naturally sweet. You can use unsweetened applesauce, but if you’re baking from scratch and all you have on hand is sweetened applesauce, then cut back on the amount of sugar the recipe calls for. The replacement values are 1:1.
This seems like an odd choice, but in a pinch you could use mayonnaise as a vegetable oil substitute. Really, mayonnaise is mostly oil that’s been mixed with raw eggs. The high fat content makes it a good choice for baking if oil isn’t on hand, and it will make your baked goods very moist. The replacement values are 1:1.
8. Mashed Fruit
Use a mashed banana or prunes in place of vegetable oil to get some added nutrition into your muffins and cakes. You may need to add a liquid to smooth it out. The replacement values are 1:1.
Try mashing some bananas and use them in place of vegetable oil!
How to Substitute Vegetable Oil When Cooking Cake, Muffins, or Brownies
It’s actually quite simple to substitute other oils and ingredients in cakes, muffins, and brownies (3). With baking, your main concern will be whether the substitute will be mild enough so that it won’t impair the flavor profile of whatever you’re making.
As noted above, your best options when finding a substitute for vegetable oil for baking are coconut oil, butter, applesauce, mayonnaise, and mashed fruit. In fact, you could use a combination of some of these as well. For example, if you need one cup of vegetable oil, try using half a cup of mayonnaise and half a cup of applesauce.
The added fat from the mayonnaise will make cakes or muffins moist, but the total fat has been reduced by adding the applesauce.
Olive oil is an option in baked goods, but be sure to use a light-flavored olive oil and not extra-virgin olive oil. The color will tip you off. You don’t want to use a dark, deep green olive oil; instead, use one that is quite pale.
The darker the color, the deeper the flavor, and a deep flavor will overpower the taste of brownies, cakes, and muffins. Besides, brownies work best with butter, so that should be your first choice when substituting for oil.