Baking Hacks: Olive Oil & Butter Swaps

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

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.