Substitute for Vegetable Oil in Cake

Mouthwatering, moist cake starts with good ole vegetable oil. But does it have to? If you’ve stumbled into your kitchen and don’t have a lick of vegetable oil, don’t panic. Coconut oil, butter, applesauce, and other substitutes can get you by.

Hi! My name is Michelle, and I love cake (all kinds – I don’t judge). I love baking them just as much. That said, I have had to be pretty inventive when it comes to substitutes. While I don’t find myself sans vegetable oil too often, I have still had the experience of needing a sub.

If you’re trying to bake a moist cake and don’t have any vegetable oil on hand, don’t worry. First, add vegetable oil to your grocery list right now. Then, keep reading to find out what to use instead of vegetable oil in the cake.

Let’s get baking!

Why Do Cakes Need Vegetable Oil?

Is it a need? Maybe not. That’s a bit overdramatic. It is a want, though. Think about the piece of cake that changed your life. It was super moist, and the fluffy texture felt like a cloud in your mouth. Want to know how that happened? Vegetable oil, my friend.

As you can see, using vegetable oil in your cake is a life-changing hack. But if you don’t have any on hand, it doesn’t mean you can’t still achieve cake greatness. Just use one of these handy alternatives listed below.

Substitute for Vegetable Oil in Cake

Let’s take a closer look at some of the best substitutes for vegetable oil in the cake.

1. Coconut Oil

I love coconut oil. (Try it next time you’re making popcorn, it will change your life expectancy, literally). Coconut oil is a great substitute for vegetable oil in the cake. Why? Because it shares similar properties, resulting in an endlessly moist and perfectly textured cake.

Now, keep in mind that using coconut oil can alter the flavor a bit. If you don’t mind a bit of a coconut-y aftertaste, use it. Also, coconut oil is a superior alternative for those baking vegetarian and vegan-friendly cakes.

2. Butter

Ah, good old butter. Is there anything this ingredient can’t do? I find myself using butter a little bit more often than I should. From toast to vegetables, cookies to cakes. You can find butter on almost anything I consume. Yum!

That said, butter is a top-notch solution for substituting vegetable oil in the cake. Use it in a 1:1 ratio, and you will thoroughly enjoy the final result. Using butter will produce a richness that is oh-so-succulent; you will never look back.

3. Applesauce

So many people use applesauce (and other fruit purees) when baking nowadays. That’s because applesauce cuts down on the calorie content without compromising moisture and flavor. 

Of course, if you’re using applesauce, you can expect the texture to change a bit. It might be a lot softer than you’d prefer. That’s why I recommend doing a half-and-half mixture with applesauce and another type of oil (coconut, avocado, canola, etc.). 

Using applesauce with oil, you can get a better texture and ensure the flavor profile is on point. I do not recommend using olive oil, though, as this can seriously meddle with the taste of your cake. Just don’t do it (unless you’re making olive oil cakes – yummy!).

If you do not have any applesauce on hand, other fruit purees can work just as well. For example, mashed-up bananas are an excellent choice, although they may leave a bit of banana flavoring behind. The moistness will be unmatched, though!

4. Canola Oil

If you take a look at the ingredients in your vegetable oil, you will notice one thing – there is a whole lot of canola oil in there! With that in mind, it makes total sense that you could swap out vegetable oil for canola oil with ease.

Canola oil is virtually flavorless, so you won’t have to worry about a change in taste, which might be more noticeable when using alternatives like coconut oil and applesauce. However, canola oil is not exactly the healthiest choice; but neither is cake. You be the judge.

Since we’re on the topic of oil, let me also suggest avocado oil. This is another great alternative for vegetable oil in the cake. The only problem with this type of oil is that it tends to be pretty expensive, so it’s not a cost-effective solution for everyone. It will work well, though!

5. Yogurt/Mayo/Sour Cream

I decided to jumble all of these ingredients together because they are somewhat similar, especially in terms of texture. Using ingredients like yogurt, mayo, or sour cream will create an undeniable smoothness and a richer flavor you will certainly enjoy.

Keep in mind, though, that using these substitutes will add some tanginess to your cake. If you want to avoid that flavor profile, add more spices and seasonings to combat. For example, a raspberry cake may need a bit more raspberry syrup, sugar, and fruits!

When using one of these ingredients, shoot for ½ the amount of oil called for in the recipe. Doing so will render the best results possible.


At this point, you are well equipped to take on any cake without vegetable oil. Do you still have questions, though?  Then I have answers. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most frequently asked questions about a substitute for vegetable oil in the cake.

Can I use olive oil instead of vegetable oil in a cake?

Well, technically, yes, Extra virgin olive oil is a great, healthy choice in place of vegetable oil. It will create an ultra-moist and soft cake. The only issue is, olive oil is known to mess with the flavor profile. You will likely taste the olive oil more than you would like. I don’t recommend it.

Can I substitute butter for oil in cake?

Absolutely. In fact, this is my favorite substitute for vegetable oil in cake. Why? Because butter adds so much delectable richness to just about anything it touches. Of course, it’s going to work wonders on your freshly baked cake. Yum!

How much applesauce do I substitute for vegetable oil?

When using applesauce as a substitute for vegetable oil in cake, it’s easiest to use a 1:1 ratio. It may create a wetter batter than you’re used to, but the cake should bake up just fine.

What happens if you don’t add oil to the cake mix?

Please, do not ever just “skip” oil in your cake mix. Skipping oil altogether will produce an incredibly dry cake that is unpleasant to consume. You have plenty of options for alternatives, so use one. Even a mashed-up banana is better than nothing!

Final Thoughts

Moist cake is the goal. Vegetable oil is the answer. But if you don’t have any vegetable oil, you can still achieve a moist cake with a perfect texture. Other oils, such as coconut or canola, are wonderful alternatives. However, you can also use fruits, butter, or dairy products, too.

Have you ever had to use a substitute for vegetable oil in a cake? Which one ended up being your favorite? Share with us below!

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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