How to Substitute Fats and Oils
NOTE: This is part of the Substitution Series: Part 1 is Understanding Gluten Free Flours, Part 2 is How to Substitute Eggs, Part 3 is How to Substitute Sugar, Part 4 is How to Substitute Fats/ Oils, Part 5 is How to Substitute Dairy and Part 6 is Substituting the Top 10 Allergens in Baking.
For other great baking tips, visit the Helpful Resources section.
Whew. Ok, so, replacing and substituting fats and oils in a recipe.
How to Substitute Fats and Oils
You’ll notice if you are a gluten free baker, you flours are often heavier than wheat flour, and your baked product can often be drier. These issues can be solved with lighter fats (to help the rise), and additional moisture through other ingredients (listed below).
Replacing fats is also a challenge when you need to go dairy, soy, and corn free. You’ve eliminated butter, shortening, vegetable oil and canola oil. This can be a bit of a conundrum. There are so many things that seem to require butter for flakiness or a crisp finish, or need the light and flavourless properties of the soy or corn based products. Below you’ll find some great alternatives to help out. There is a range in prices, some are more expensive than others, but all have particular uses that are helpful.
Applesauce, Bananas, Pumpkin Puree, Soaked Pureed Dates or Prunes
You can reduce fats by ¼ or more if you replace with 1/3 cup applesauce or ½ – 1 well mashed over ripe banana. For pumpkin puree you can use 1/2 cup, for soaked pureed dates or prunes start with1/4 cup (soak over night and drain, or microwave them in water for a faster option.) These add moisture and binding from the pectin, and fibre and structure, which reduces the need for fat to moisten the crumb. Best options are cakes, muffins and tea loaves. One caveat- using too much may result in a dense or heavy product and may also take longer to bake
If you are baking a cake or muffin or something light, and want a nut free option to replace oil, mashed overripe avocado is another choice. You will find its lighter than dried fruit as it has less water content and less fibre. Start with using 1/2 an avocado.
Similar to butter in that its solid at room temperature and melts easily. However, its harder at room temperature, and browns more easily in coking. This oil results in a crispy product. Its more delicate – pie crust will brown darker and easier. The next day, or in the fridge, it will result in a more solid slightly stiffer baked good but will soften a lot if reheated.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is twice the price of coconut oil. However, its much healthier as well. It’s a bit softer, bright white, and smells of fresh coconut. Coconut oil is great for pie shells and cookies because it adds to the sweet flavour of them. It also results in a crispier cookie when cooled.
Solid Palm Oil
A terrific soy free and corn free alternative to shortening. It is solid but relatively soft at room temperature. It’s by far the cheapest fat to buy. Palm oil adds a lot of moisture to baked goods, results in a chewy cookie and softer cake. It can replace butter in most recipes, and is great for making icing. Spectrum products sells it online, and if you are in Ottawa, then you can get it cheapest at Pantry Plus in Orleans, or at Rainbow Foods in the west end.
Rendered Pork Fat
I know, I know. It sounds totally disgusting. The truth is though, if you are making pasty, any kind of pastry, the best way to go is to use rendered pork fat. It results in a terrific pie crust or pastry shell, and is especially effective with savoury recipes. Its got a similar consistency to solid palm oil. You can find rendered pork fat locally at The Piggy Market, or you can go to your area butcher and request it. Its super cheap- way cheaper than its equivalent volume of butter.
Of all the liquid oils, if you want corn free and soy free, this is your best, lightest, and almost flavourless option. Grapeseed oil can be easily found at the grocery store, and its very accomodating to fluffier baked goods. It has a very high burn point, so it won’t transform to a trans fat at high heat. Works well in muffins and cakes because it doesn’t weigh them down.
Yogurt / Sour Cream
If you aren’t dairy free, and you want to add moisture to your recipe and reduce the fat, try replacing half the fat with yogurt or sour cream- it makes the baked good retain softness and adds a unique depth of flavour.
If you are dairy free but want something similarly fatty to sour cream in your baking, use the top cream-like layer of coconut milk. You may also wish to thicken it by either simmering it in a pan to evaporate more of the water, or adding a sprinkle (1/8 tsp or so), of agar agar powder.
Often when you are baking Gluten Free, the texture of the crumb can turn out dry. For light baked goods, try 1-2 tsp of glycerin to keep it moist. If you are using coconut flour, make sure to also add in other fat replacements as well. Glycerin can be found at your local bulk store or Baking supplies store.
Nut / Seed Butters
Sometimes you need a hearty crumb in your baking, something with a creamy taste on the back of your palate. For cookies and ice creams, nut and seed butters do a great job. They are hearty and creamy and work well for sturdier creations. My personal favorites are cashew butter and tahini, but if you like the stronger flavour of sun flower seed butter, it is also great as a sticky rich binding agent.
Nut/ Seed Flours
Nut and seed flours are naturally oily, and you will find that recipes featuring these ingredients have far less or no oil required for them. If you are replacing oil, try reducing it by 1/4 cup and adding about 1/3 cup of your nut or seed flour. These flours add structure and also help with biding, but htey can be a touch heay so err on the side of less rather than more. Almond flour, Sunflower seed flour, and hazelnut flour are good choices. Almond flour has the mildest taste of the three. Don’t use coconut flour as it actually removes moisture from a recipe rather than adding it.
And thats it gang! This is all I know so far about substituting ingredients- if you have any additional tips, please feel free to let me know, I’d love to share.