Can You Use Olive Oil in Place of Butter in Baking?
This swap works surprisingly well for certain types of baked goods—however, there are some instances when olive oil simply won't do the trick.
Baking swaps can be tricky, so it's best to know the ins and outs of ingredients before making adjustments. If you've ever baked an olive oil cake and liked the results, you might want to explore other baking recipes where olive oil can be used, but is the swap a straightforward one? Maybe you want to use olive oil in place of butter in a favorite recipe for health reasons, or maybe you're in a pinch and olive oil is all you have on hand. Whatever the case, know that olive oil is an ingredient that can be swapped for butter in most baking recipes, but not all. While butter is well-suited for baking, there is no question that olive oil contains healthier fats and polyphenols that butter does not. Olive oil is also a choice that adds a unique depth of flavor to baked goods. Ahead, learn when and when not to swap olive oil for another fat, plus get our tips for successfully baking with olive oil rather than butter.
When to Swap and When Not To
If a recipe calls for melted butter, it's pretty safe to use olive oil instead. These baked goods are typically more moist and a bit dense, such as firmer cakes, muffins, quick breads, brownies, and granola. Adapt your favorite or try some of these as starters: Orange-and-Poppy-Seed Sheet Cake, Chocolate-Cherry Granola Bars, Pecan Blondies, and Banana Nut Muffins.
On the other hand, olive oil does not make for a great swap in recipes that call for room temperature butter; these recipes almost always have a step called creaming where room temperature butter and sugar are beaten until light and fluffy. The creaming technique creates light, airy cakes and this can't be achieved with olive oil. When this is the case, it's best to stick with butter.
What Type of Olive Oil Is Best for Baking?
Olive oil's flavor shines through in baked goods, which will impact the overall flavor. Our test kitchen's choice is always high-quality extra-virgin olive oil for baking (and cooking). Extra-virgin oil retains the most health benefits and purity. Within this category, each brand and type of olive produces a unique flavor profile, this is where the choice comes into play for baking. Start by tasting the oil before baking with it. If you don't like the taste of the oil on its own, don't cook with it or bake with it.
Once you know which oils you like, select the final one you'll use in a specific recipe based on how its flavor complements the baked good. Mild and buttery olive oil with low bitterness and fruity notes are overall best suited for baking. More robust, peppery, or pungent oils are amazing for drizzling on finished savory dishes, but they're less likely to be a suitable swap for butter in baking. If you want to explore baking with a more robust oil, start with chocolate desserts, as chocolate can stand up to the more assertive flavor.
How to Replace Butter with Olive Oil in Baking
For successful baked goods, add slightly less olive oil than butter. When adjusting recipes, use three parts olive oil to four parts butter. In other words, if a recipe calls for ¼ cup or four tablespoons of butter, use three tablespoons of olive oil.