Butter Substitute for Cookies

Butter is vital in cookie recipes, creating a rich flavor and desirably crispy texture. But if you’ve started mixing your ingredients, only to realize you’re all out of this magical ingredient, don’t panic. Many viable substitutions exist, from margarine to oil, shortening to mashed bananas.

Hey, there! My name is Michelle, and I’m a self-taught baker with over ten years of experience. I thoroughly love baking – especially when it comes to cookies. There is something so sweet, delicate, and enchanting about a cookie that I can’t ignore.

If you searched high and low and simply can’t find a stick of butter hanging around your refrigerator, keep reading. This article shares all of the very best butter substitutes for cookies, so you can quickly whip up a fresh batch of cookies without butter.

Mmm, I can smell them already – can you?!

6 Best Butter Substitutes for Cookies

The good news is that there are plenty of great options for butter substitutes for baking. In fact, you might find that you enjoy the texture better with one of these variants. (And if that’s the case, make sure you share your success stories in the comment section below!)

1. Margarine

Ah, good old margarine. Some people prefer it over butter in general, so it’s not uncommon to substitute margarine for butter in cookie recipes. And hey – it works like a charm. Substitute it at a 1:1 ratio, and you’ll be happy with the results.

However, keep this important thing in mind: cookies will be softer and fluffier when made with margarine. Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not. Is it something you’d expect, especially if you were shooting for extra crispy chocolate chip cookies? Nope.

2. Shortening

Shortening is another excellent substitute for butter in cookies. It’s 100% fat so you can expect taller and more tender cookies than those baked with butter. Again, this isn’t a bad thing – it’s just different from what you might expect.

The issue with shortening is that it lacks flavor and moisture. You might find that your cookie dough is a little on the stiff side and difficult to mix. If that’s the case, adding a little extra liquid will do the trick. 

Are you concerned about the flavor profile? Butter-flavored shortening is your best option. If you don’t have that on hand, you can add more flavoring to your cookie. For example, toss in a pinch more vanilla extract or chocolate chips to rev up the taste.

3. Oil

Oil of any kind can be substituted for butter in cookies. Why? It all comes down to one keyword: fat. Fat is critical for cookie development, so anything with a high amount of fat can be used in butter’s place.

Only use about ½ the amount of butter called for in the recipe when subbing with oil. Otherwise, your cookies will come out tremendously greasy and unflattering. 

Oil will produce a flatter, thinner, and chewier cookie overall. And, if you use an oil with a strong flavor – such as coconut oil – it may alter the taste. So be extra careful when choosing which oil to use. (Olive and vegetable oil tend to be the top picks).

4. Mashed Fruit

It was “all the rage” to bake with applesauce or mashed banana in place of butter in recent years. That’s because it works, and your treats get a healthy and flavorful twist. That said, mashed fruit like applesauce, banana, avocado, and pumpkin puree, can work as butter subs.

Obviously, the flavor will change a bit when you use one of these options. You also need to be careful about how you’re substituting butter. Here are a few simple guidelines:

  • Use ¾ cup of pumpkin puree for every cup of butter
  • Use ½ the amount when replacing with applesauce
  • A banana is equivalent to one stick of butter
  • Use a 1:1 ratio when using avocado

5. Buttermilk

Buttermilk is the perfect sub for butter in cookies because it won’t affect the flavor whatsoever. With buttermilk, you get the same indulgent and rich taste you’d get from a stick of butter. However, you should cut the amount in half, so your cookie dough doesn’t get too wet.

No buttermilk? No problem. You can make buttermilk quickly right at home! Just mix a teaspoon of lemon juice (or white vinegar) into a cup of regular, full-fat milk. Let it sit for around five minutes, and viola – you have homemade buttermilk to adorn your cookie dough.

6. Cream Cheese

I’m a bit of a cream cheese fanatic, so I always have plenty on hand. How about you? If you’re an avid cream cheese user and have a bit sitting in your refrigerator, go ahead and use it as a butter substitute for cookies with a 1:1 ratio.

The texture will change a little, but it’s nothing too serious. For instance, you might notice that your cookies come out a little less crispy than preferred. These aren’t huge changes, and the best part is your cookies will get a protein boost.

Just make sure you’re using full-fat cream cheese!


There you have it – the very best six butter substitutes for cookies. Now, you have no excuse not to make a batch of your favorite cookies. Still have some questions? Okay, no worries. Let’s check out some of these frequently asked questions.

What happens if I don’t put butter in cookies?

Great question! After all, if you don’t have any butter on hand, you might think about nixing it together. But let me stop you right there. Cookies need some kind of fat, so omitting the butter or any butter substitute is a big no-no.

For one, cookies will definitely come out dry and crumbly. It may be challenging to scoop them into the cookie sheet in the first place. Secondly, they will lack flavor and depth. Third, they’ll be ridiculously tough and unmanageable. Don’t forget the butter or butter substitute!

What is the secret to soft cookies?

There are lots of ways to promote a softer texture in cookies. As you read above, some of the substitutes produce more tenderness overall (such as the case for margarine, shortening, etc.).

However, you can also achieve softer cookies by adding a bit of cornstarch, reducing the cooking time ever so slightly, using more brown sugar than white, and adding an extra egg yolk. These are some of the best ways to reach ooey-gooey, perfectly soft cookies.

Can I substitute mayonnaise for butter?

Although this may come as a surprise, you can substitute mayonnaise for butter. Using mayo is a quirky, unique, and somewhat surprising substitute for butter, but it works like a charm. It actually makes cookies impressively moist, so they melt in your mouth. Give it a try!

Final Words

Butter may be ideal for baking cookies, but it’s not the only option. You can replace butter with margarine, shortening, oil, mashed fruit, buttermilk, or cream cheese. You can even use mayonnaise if you want! 

Have you tried any of these substitutions in your cookies? Try it out, and let us know your results below! Also, suggest some other great replacements so we can try them, too.

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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  • Judith

    How much mayo substitute if one stick of butter is called for?

    • Michelle

      Hi Judith,
      Start with a 3:4 ratio and adjust as needed.