The best butter substitutes vary depending on your needs. For example, if you want a completely dairy-free option for baking, you may find that certain oils make ideal butter substitutes. For reducing saturated and trans fat in your diet, you may find that some types of margarine are your best options. To reduce fat while cooking on the stove, a cooking spray may be an ideal substitute. If you follow a vegan diet and want a substitute for spreading on toast or baking, you need to make sure the margarine or oil doesn't contain any hidden dairy products.
You have a number of butter substitutes to use when baking foods such as cookies or cakes. In some cases, using vegetable such as canola or soybean oil is a great option. The oils do not contain the saturated fat that butter has and have a neutral flavor so that they will not overpower the taste of baked goods. If you use oil in place of solid butter, reduce the amount you use so that the baked good doesn't fall apart.
If you are using butter substitutes to cut back on cholesterol and saturated fat in general, you have a number of options and need to use care when picking out a substitute. Some butter substitutes, such as margarine in stick form, contain trans-fat, which is generally considered to be unhealthy, as it can lower the amount of good or HDL cholesterol in your body. Any margarine containing partially hydrogenated oils contains some amount of trans-fat, even if the label states that the product is trans-fat free.
Examine the amount of mono- and poly-unsaturated fats in the margarine to help you choose the best for your health. Ideally, 70 percent or more of the fat content in margarine will come from mono- and poly-unsaturated fats. Oils that are high in unsaturated fats include olive, canola, and palm oils.
Look for a margarine that is lactose-free and does not contain whey if you need a vegan butter substitute for using as a spread or baking. Some vegan margarine will be labeled vegan- or dairy-free so that you do not have to scan the ingredients list. Olive oil is another completely vegan butter substitute that you can use on toast or bread.
When cooking on the stove, look for a butter-free cooking spray. You can also use cooking sprays to grease pans for baking instead of the traditional butter and flour. If you don't want to use a cooking spray, a thin layer of neutral-flavored vegetable oil will work as well.