July 19, 2022

Replacing Butter with Olive Oil

Tips for substituting butter with olive oil in your recipes, including a conversion guide for amounts needed.

Originating from the Mediterranean Basin, Syria and Turkey, the olive tree is among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world. Historically called “liquid gold,” olive oil is popular in sweet and savoury recipes for good reason. The health benefits are huge, potentially aiding with management of cardiovascular health, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and memory function. Olive oil is high in vitamin E, antioxidants and it is lower in saturated fats than butter.

With that said the use of butter may be required to maintain the finest quality and flavour in certain recipes that require a creaming process of a solid fat such as in cookies, cakes, or frosting. They will yield the best results when butter is used. You could also substitute a plant based butter for those specific recipes where the use of olive oil is not appropriate. 

There are many varieties of olive oil to choose from for every budget and culinary need. Consider purchasing an all purpose extra virgin olive oil that can be used in various recipes, from cake to vinaigrette. I usually buy an extra virgin olive oil that would be considered the “middle of the road” in terms of flavour and price: not too strong or too mild and it doesn’t break the bank. There are different grades of olive oil so be attentive when purchasing the product that you need.

In order of quality from high to low:

  1. Extra virgin olive oil
  2. Virgin olive oil
  3. Refined olive oil
  4. Pure olive

Keep in mind that when you are using olive oil in different recipes adjustments may be needed. Olive oil has a lower smoke point than butter, so don’t turn the stove on high before adding it to the pan. It will smoke and burn and whatever is added to it will taste terrible. To avoid this from happening during the cooking process, start low and slow. Gradually increase the heat, then add the olive oil and what you are cooking to the pan or pot. If you are grilling something that has been marinated with olive oil then you can expect for it to flame up as it would with any other oil. To minimize the amount of smoke or possible flames, use what you need. Don’t smother your ingredients in oil.

When you are baking with olive oil the measurements will need modifying that compares to the required amount of butter that the recipe originally calls for. 

Butter to Olive Oil Conversion Guide

ButterOlive Oil
1 teaspoon3/4 teaspoon
1 tablespoon2 1/4 teaspoons
2 tablespoons1 1/2 teaspoons
1/4 cup3 tablespoons
1/3 cup1/4 cup
1/2 cup1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons
2/3 cup1/2 cup
3/4 cup1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon
1 cup3/4 cup

When preparing baked goods, it is also important to gradually add the olive oil during the mixing process so that it gets completely incorporated. If you add it too quickly the wet ingredients will separate and it will be difficult to maintain a smooth emulsion. Another added benefit of using olive oil is that the crumb in your baked goods will be soft, light and fluffy. All that on top of the health benefits are a win, win!

Growing popularity and production of extra virgin olive oil are taking place in countries like Morocco and Israel where it was previously cultivated, harvested and consumed for centuries.

If you haven’t made the transition in some of your creations I hope that you will. I have come to realize that small changes in recipes can make a huge difference and the results are just as delicious if not better. Let’s continue moving forward with olive oil, the modern day superfood.


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