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Vegetable oil is called for as one of the main ingredients in most baked recipes. But did you know that there are other non-oil ingredients that you can use as oil replacement if you wanted to opt for oil-free baking?
Before anything else…
What Is Vegetable Oil and Why Is It Used for Baking?
Vegetable oil may actually refer to vegetable fats that are liquid at room temperature (20 to 22 °C). They are produced by extracting oil from various plant components, the most common is from the seeds or nuts.
People of different cultures have been extracting oil from plants since ancient times. One example was in Indiana, where they have discovered a 4,000-year-old kitchen that shows evidence of large rocks that were used to crush hickory nuts, and the oil is extracted using boiling water.
Nowadays, this can be done by either mechanical extraction or solvent extraction.
The oils that are extracted from seeds are sunflower, palm kernel, safflower, cotton, sesame, and grapeseed oils, while those extracted from nuts are peanut, soybean, almond, and walnut oils. They can also be produced using other plant components such as coconut oil, which is produced from squeezing the white flesh of the fruit; olive oil from fresh olive flesh; palm oil from palm fruit pulp, and corn oil from kernel embryo.
Vegetable oil acts as the binder for the ingredients in baking and at the same time, makes the recipe moist and flavorful. For example: In bread making, fat lubricates the dough helping it to become a well-risen loaf which will have a soft crumb that is easy to slice.
Cakes and muffins, on the other hand, are generally made by mixing together all the dry ingredients with baking powder in a bowl, and all the wet ingredients with baking soda in another bowl. The use of fat will help retain the gases released during baking, providing a nice fluffy, good mouth-to-feel texture to the finished cake.
In biscuits and pastry, it also slows down the gluten formation by surrounding the flour particles and excluding water. This is important to avoid the pastry from becoming too hard and heavy.
So Why Should I Replace Vegetable Oil in Baking?
Unfortunately, most vegetable oils sold in the markets are highly processed, simply refined extractions of various seeds. Because it’s hard to find out what exactly is in the mixture, it makes the ratio between omega-3s and omega-6s imbalanced that can lead to many health-related issues.
Some vegetable oils may also contain trans fats. These are produced when vegetable oil is hydrogenated. Trans fats, especially with high intake, can be associated with cardiovascular diseases, obesity, cancer, and diabetes.
It should be also noted that the more refined the oil is, the higher its smoke point will be. Smoke point is important to be high because heating past it during cooking will reduce the oil’s nutrients and will generate cancer-causing compounds called oxygen radicals.
Some people might also want an oil replacement in baking simply because they want to cut their calorie intake since one tablespoon of vegetable oil equates to 120 calories; while some might just want to stick to having “unprocessed” foods. Or maybe it just happens that they ran out of their “go-to” oil in their pantry.
Whatever your reason may be, read on to find out the ingredients that you can use as a vegetable oil substitute for baking.
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Applesauce can be made with flat top or unpeeled apples and a variety of spices (e.g. cinnamon). We recommend making your own applesauce for the healthier version. You can leave the skins on and puree them in. Try to avoid adding sugar if possible.
How much to use: You can replace 1 cup canola oil with one cup of unsweetened applesauce.
Baked products it can be used for: Boxed mixes, brownies, fruit muffins. The finished baked product will have a tender, crumbly texture and a slightly sweeter flavor,
Health benefits: Applesauce only has 42 calories. You’ll reduce calories in your baked good while adding fiber.
Minor disadvantage: So far, the reviews we have seen were positive as applesauce almost never alter the taste of the recipe.
Tip: You can add skimmed milk to make the applesauce creamier.
Aquafaba can be referred to as the water you used to boil lentils, beans, and chickpeas, or it can be the liquid from the canned versions of these foods. For cooking, it seems to work best when it’s derived from beans or chickpeas. Note: A can of chickpeas has about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of aquafaba.
The flavor is quite neutral and the consistency is similar to vegetable oil. It can even add moisture to recipes like brownies.
How much to use: You can replace 1 cup of oil with 1 cup of aquafaba.
Baked products it can be used for: Cookies, cakes, muffins, bars, slices, and brownies.
Health benefits: The biggest benefits of aquafaba are that it’s gluten-free, low in calories, as there are about 32 calories per can of aquafaba, and it has similar consistency to ingredients like eggs and dairy. Perfect for those who choose or need to avoid them in recipes.
Minor disadvantage: It is more commonly used as egg replacement.
Tip: Aquafaba makes as a good egg replacement which is perfect for recipes like meringue. 3 tablespoons of aquafaba are equivalent to about 1 whole egg, while 2 tablespoons of aquafaba are equivalent to about 1 egg white.
Butter is a dairy product formed by turning fresh or fermented cream or milk typically composed of butterfat, milk proteins, and water in a machine. While margarine is made from the emulsion of vegetable and/or animal oil.
These would be the less healthy alternatives in these options that we listed as butter and margarine has about 100 calories per 1 tablespoon, but since they are both fats like oil, you will notice little difference in the finished baked good
How much to use: You can replace ½ cup of oil with ½ cup of butter.
Baked products it can be used for: Butter makes a slightly denser cake due to its richness which is ideal for stacked, layered cakes.
Health benefits: Margarine is typically made from vegetable oils, so it contains unsaturated, or “good” fats which are the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These types of fats help reduce the “bad” cholesterol in the body. While butter, on the other hand, is made from animal fat, meaning it contains more saturated fat than margarine.
Minor disadvantage: Baked goods may not be as fluffy, and they may be darker in color since butter is heavier than oil.
Tip: You can use unsalted butter to avoid altering the flavor of the recipe. You should also melt the butter/margarine first before mixing it with the other ingredients to prevent clumping and to have even distribution with smooth texture of the mixture.
Cornstarch is a fine, powdery product obtained from the endosperm of the corn kernel.
How much to use: The proportion is equal to the quantity of oil you are replacing.
Baked products it can be used for: Baked recipes with low oil quantity needed.
Health benefits: Cornstarch is essentially a highly processed carbohydrate. It packs about 30 calories per tablespoon.
Minor disadvantage: Can’t be used in recipes that need high oil quantity because of its consistency.
Tip: Add 4 tsp. cornstarch to 1 cup of water and put it in heat until you achieve your desired thickness. Cool it first before adding to the mixture.
Dairy products such as skimmed milk, buttermilk, yoghurt, sour cream, and Greek yoghurt can increase the moisture in cakes, brownies, or quick breads, and help tenderize your muffin or bread without changing the flavor too much.
How much to use: Except for buttermilk and yogurt, you can replace every cup of oil needed in the recipe with 3/4 cup of a dairy product. For buttermilk, you could use 3/4 cup of buttermilk mixed with 1/3 cup of butter. For yogurt, you reduce the oil used in the recipe by substituting ½ of the amount of oil in the recipe with ¾ the amount of yogurt. For 1 cup of oil, you can replace it with ¼ cup of oil plus 2 tablespoons plain yogurt in the recipe.
Baked products it can be used for: Cake mixes, muffin, bread, brownies. Yoghurt can also give a tender crumb to cakes.
Health benefits: Dairy products can help reduce calorie consumption. Yoghurt can add probiotics to the recipe.
Minor disadvantage: May produce a drier, denser mix.
Tip: Add 1 to 2 additional tablespoons for extra moisture and to avoid a dried mix. You can also check the bread or muffins around 5 minutes before their baking time ends to avoid it from getting overcooked. We also recommend replacing each whole egg with one egg white to keep your baked good from becoming tough. Remember to use unsweetened yogurt so you don’t alter the recipe’s sweetness.
Various fruit and vegetable purees made from apples, bananas, prunes, pears, peaches, apricots, pumpkins, and even beets, are acceptable replacements for oil in baking.
How much to use: You can substitute 3/4 to 1 cup of fruit puree for every cup of vegetable oil, while 3/4 of a cup of veggie puree can be used to substitute a cup of vegetable oil in the recipe. You can also use 1/3 cup of mashed pumpkin to replace every 1/2 cup of oil or margarine.
Baked products it can be used for: Cake mix, banana bread, brownies (zucchini), brownies, chocolate cake (raspberry).
Health benefits: Various fruits and veggies have vitamins and minerals.
Minor disadvantage: Mashed pumpkin is only an option if you want the final product to have that pumpkin flavor such as pumpkin pies. Those veggies with darker colors such as beets would be more suited to darker colored baked products such as chocolate cake unless you want your baked good ending up with a reddish tone.
Tip: Fruit/veggie puree can add to the sweetness of the recipe so adjust your sweeteners according to your taste.
Ground Flax Seed
Flaxseed can replace fat in a recipe because of its high oil content.
How much to use: Mix 3 tablespoons of ground flax with 1 tablespoon of water to create a paste-like consistency which you can use as a substitute for a tablespoon of oil.
Baked products it can be used for: Perfect for recipes that have a strong nutty flavor.
Health benefits: Just one tablespoon (7g) provides a good amount of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids,
Minor disadvantage: Baked goods that use flaxseed flour as a partial substitute for fat may brown quickly. You can check your goods more often when you’re baking them and lower the oven temperature or decrease the cooking time slightly, depending on you.
Tip: You can also use chia gel which is made by mixing 1 part chia seeds with 9 parts of water. This can replace 25 to 50 percent of the oil in your recipe.
The yolks and oil in the mayonnaise balance out the cake’s sugar content and prevents it from getting too dry. It’s believed that the practice of using mayonnaise in cakes originated during World War II when butter, eggs, and oil were rationed.
How much to use: You can use mayonnaise in an equal amount of the oil you were going to substitute.
Baked products it can be used for: Using mayonnaise while making a chocolate cake gives a great taste and texture.This might be a good substitute for vegetable oil in cake.
Health benefits: The omega-3 found in mayonnaise is great for keeping your heart healthy.
Minor disadvantage: Because most mayonnaise is commonly made from egg yolks, oil, mustard, citron juice, salt, and pepper, this might give the mayonnaise a bit sour flavor. Although, this is can be compensated with sugar in the recipe,
Tip: Since you are replacing pure fat with a mixture of fat, water, protein, a bit of carbohydrates and salt, we think you can adjust the water in your recipe.
You can blend tofu in a food processor until smooth and use it as an oil substitute.
How much to use: You can substitute half of the oil in the recipe with pureed tofu.
Baked products it can be used for: Cookies, muffins, cakes, and brownies.
Health benefits: Good source of protein.
Minor disadvantage: It can give muffins a rubbery texture and somewhat beany flavor.
Tip: It’s ideal for denser baked goods with strong flavors, such as chocolate or banana.
Sweeteners commonly used in baking such as apple syrup, honey or molasses can help tenderize the baked good and keep it moist.
How much to use: You can use 3/4 as much of the liquid sweetener as you would for oil.
Baked products it can be used for: Most baked goods.
Health benefits: Maple Syrup has a number of vitamins including niacin, B5, B2, folic acid, B6, biotin and vitamin A. While honey may lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol. Molasses, on the other hand, contains vital vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium
Minor disadvantage: Since you’re adding sweetness, you should lessen the sugar in your recipe so that your baked good wouldn’t become too sweet.
Tip: Let’s say that you already use 1 tablespoon of liquid sweetener to replace the oil in the recipe, and the recipe needs for 5 tablespoons of sugar, you can lessen it and use only 4 tablespoons of sugar.
Whole Nut Butter
Whole nut butter such as cashew butter works as an excellent oil replacement in baking as it has a very subtle flavor. Sunflower and almond butter are also great, although they can impart a slightly nutty flavor to the finished baked good.
How much to use: You can replace the oil in your recipe with an equal amount of nut butter. If the nut butter is particularly stiff, you can stir one or two tablespoons of soy milk into the measured amount before using to give it a better texture.
Baked products it can be used for: A sunflower, almond and cashew butter will work well in cookies. Nut butter will also work well for baked goods that have nutty flavors.
Health benefits: A tablespoon has 5 grams of protein.
Minor disadvantage: Not a suitable option for those with nut allergies, or those who need to follow a strict low-fat diet as nuts are packed with fats as well.
Tip: Remember to look for varieties with no added oil or sugar. Nut butter can also work well if ½ cup coconut oil is added to ½ cup butter because not butter is typically only 50% fat.
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I Have Other Kinds of Oil, Can I Use It as a Vegetable Oil Substitute for Baking?
Sometimes, completely eliminating oil from the recipe will lead it to be completely different those characteristics that you might desire for your baked good. You can always try other ways to reduce the cholesterol level and make it healthier by using low-fat oils instead of vegetable oil. Technically, “pure” oils like olive and canola oil are also types of vegetable oils. But as we mentioned before, most vegetable oils are mixtures from different plant sources so choosing a “pure” oil might be a better choice just to be sure with its nutritional components.
Did you know that olive oil can be used in brownies? You can also opt for canola oil when your cake recipe calls for vegetable oil. We suggest that you use a pure light olive oil rather than the extra-virgin variant to so the flavors will not be overpowering the flavor of the recipe.
Replacing vegetable oil with olive, or canola oil in baking might be a better option for you if you don’t want to completely rid of oil in the recipe or you happen to have some of them in your pantry waiting to be used. Of all the vegetable oils, canola oil has the lowest amount of saturated fats which are linked to cardiovascular diseases while studies of olive oil-enriched diets show improved high “good” cholesterol levels.
When it comes to baking, we have seen that most people recommend canola oil as it doesn’t alter the finished product.
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No matter what you are baking, we know that you will feel better with having a healthier substitute for vegetable oil. Who knows? Maybe most of these ingredients are already in your pantry or fridge.
Always remember that not all of these substitutions for vegetable oil will produce the exact same results as to when you used oil in the recipe. We recommend that you experiment as you bake to see what works for your personal preferences.
We hope that with these substitutes, you can adjust that recipe you have been craving for so long to make but is put in halt because it doesn’t suit your personal dietary needs, or simply because you thought you’re lacking a vital ingredient.
Do you know a vegetable oil substitute for baking? Do you have any recipes that replace vegetable oil? Let us know in the comments below.