Butter Alternatives: Which One Is Best? 

A lot of us grew up eating butter. We spread it on toast, let it melt into the nooks and crannies of our English muffins, and topped our pancakes with a pat. But as people age, many move away from consuming a lot of butter. That’s where it can get a little confusing. If you’re looking for a butter alternative, which one is best? 

Statistics show the average American eats more than six pounds of butter each year, but not everyone loves those yellow sticks. People look for butter alternatives for lots of different reasons. Some are cutting dairy from their diet. Others don’t like the fact that butter is high in calories and saturated fat. Butter also has some natural trans-fat, which some people really try to avoid because it can raise the risk of heart disease.  

How are you using it? Finding the right butter alternative is not a one-size-fits-all answer. It really depends what you’re swapping the butter for – something you’re cooking, eating or baking? Different answers there will lead to different butter alternatives. Let’s look at some options. 

Cooking. If you’re looking to switch out the butter you use to sauté vegetables, melt to make scrambled eggs or add to rice or pasta, try using a healthy oil instead. Extra-virgin olive oil might be the best option. It’s a fat like butter, but it has less saturated fat and has no cholesterol. Other vegetable oils, like canola oil, can also be used.  

Using it as a spread. If you’re looking for a creamy spread alternative, there are a few good ones. You can select your favorites based on taste and/or health benefits. Here are top spread alternatives, according to WebMD and Healthline. 

  • Margarine: This is typically the go-to butter alternative. Margarine looks a lot like butter, but it’s made from vegetable oils instead of dairy butterfat. Vegetable oils have unsaturated fats in them, which can help lower the bad cholesterol that leads to heart disease, according to WebMD. But read the labels on margarine. Some types can have added ingredients and even trans fats - especially margarine sold as sticks – that don’t make them any healthier than butter. Whipped margarine in a tub might be the better choice.  
  • Peanut or almond butter 
  • Hummus 
  • Mashed avocado 
  • Cream cheese or ricotta cheese 
  • A drizzle of good-quality olive oil  

Baking. This is where substituting things for butter can get a little tricky. While vegetable and olive oils can be used in some baked goods, many times the oils are too liquid and don’t make a good alternative. Margarine, because it’s made of oils, also doesn’t have enough heft to be used in most baked goods like cookies, cakes and muffins. Instead, try these healthy alternatives: 

  • Greek yogurt 
  • Mashed banana 
  • Mashed avocado 
  • Unsweetened applesauce 
  • Pumpkin purée 
  • Almond butter 


Photo credit: Getty Images



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