Can You Use Oil Instead of Butter When Making Bread?

September 23, 2022
Written by Allyza Cepeda

When making homemade bread, you can also use oil instead of butter. However, the flavor it imparts to your bread may differ.

Yes, you can put oil in bread instead of butter, but make sure you’re using the right kind. The reason why putting oil in bread works is because both of them contain fat (although different kinds). The key here is to use a neutral-tasting oil as a substitute so it doesn’t overwhelm the taste of your bread.

Below, I discuss further in this article how oil can differ from butter when using it as a substitute.

Differences between butter and oil

It’s important to realize that butter and oil aren’t the same things. Butter is made by churning cream until the fat separates from the liquid (milk). This separated fat is what we know as butter. It has a higher melting point than most other fats, such as oils.

Oil, on the other hand, is made by pressing plants to extract their oil-rich seeds or fruits (such as corn, peanut, or avocado). Oils have a lower melting point than butter and therefore don’t hold their shape as well as butter at room temperature.

That’s why you’ve probably noticed that if you leave a stick of butter out at room temperature for a few hours, it will become soft but still hold its shape. While if you leave an oil-based spread out at room temperature overnight, it will become liquid because it has melted from the heat in its environment.

If you’re looking to make something that requires a solid fat to hold its shape or has a soft crust — such as puff pastry, brioche, or croissants — then using oil wouldn’t be a good choice.

However, if you want a crunchy crust (like sourdough), then you’ll probably want to use oil instead of butter.

Here’s what to consider when using oil or butter in your bread

Although they both contain fats, they’re not always interchangeable when it comes to baking since that depends on what type of bread you’re making.

Here are some other considerations when choosing which fat to use in your bread:

  • Fat content: Butter contains more calories and about 80% fat, while most vegetable oils contain 100% fat depending on what type you use.

    Because of this difference, when you substitute oil for butter in a recipe, you will also need to adjust the amount of flour used so that there is enough structure in your dough or batter for it to rise properly during baking.
  • Taste: Butter tastes better than neutral oils. If you’re making something like French toast or pancakes where butter adds a richer flavor, then it’s still better to use butter.

You can add oil to your bread mixture (before mixing it into a dough) if you’re trying to make a loaf with a crispy crust (like French or Italian). Whether you bake or fry it — it will keep the outside well-browned while leaving the inside chewier.

In addition, oil doesn’t have any protein or sugar like butter does, so it won’t brown as butter does during baking which affects the crust color and texture of your baked goods.

Substituting butter with oil

So what would happen if you replaced all the butter in your bread recipe with oil?

The good news is that you can use any kind of neutral oil you have on hand in place of the butter or margarine called for in the recipe. Just make sure that whatever you choose has an equal amount (by weight) of saturated fat as butter does.

Since butter has a higher melting point than oil, it’s harder for butter to absorb heat than for oil to absorb it. This means you can use less butter when making bread than you would oil — or vice versa.

Butter also contains water, but oil doesn’t. The water content in butter makes it more difficult for the fat molecules to absorb heat, so they take longer to reach the temperature needed for baking.

When using butter, it melts during baking and the steam it creates makes holes in the crumb (the interior texture) of the bread. This gives a shiny exterior and an open texture inside that allows the bread to rise well during baking.

On the other hand, using oils will not make holes in your bread’s crumbs because they don’t melt at high temperatures as butter does.

In terms of the ratio used when substituting butter with oil—it depends on how much fat you want in your dough and how much flavor you want. If you want more flavor from the butter than from any other ingredient then use one-fourth cup of butter for every two cups of flour needed for your recipe.

If you want more flavor from the oil than from any other ingredient then use a one-quarter cup of oil for every two cups of flour needed for your recipe.

Other effects of substituting butter with oil

using oil instead of butter

Butter contains more solids than oil does. This means that butter will add more structure to your bread, and it will also give a richer flavor. The extra solids in butter make it more difficult to incorporate into your dough, so you’ll need to knead it longer and you may need to add more flour than usual.

Butter contains more solids than oil does. If you’re baking with butter, you need to add more liquid (usually water) to your recipe to make sure the bread doesn’t get too dense if the recipe originally called for using oil.

But if you want to use oil instead of butter, you’ll need to reduce the amount of water in the recipe by half. For example, if a recipe calls for 3/4 cup water and 1/2 cup melted butter, you would use 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup oil instead.

Another aspect of butter is that it contains more solids than oil. This means that the butter will give the bread a more superior flavor and a much tender texture. The oil, on the other hand, will make the texture spongier in comparison.

Canola or vegetable oil can be substituted for butter in most baked goods recipes. Although butter gives the finished product a richer taste, you may find that you prefer the flavor of vegetable oil in some cases.

For non-bread baked goods, you have to keep in mind the following things:

Butter is less stable at higher temperatures than vegetable oil. This means that if you’re making a sweet treat like brownies or cookies, using butter will give them a richer taste and make them moister than using an equal amount of vegetable oil would.

But if you’re making something like bread or cake where the goal is to get a golden brown crust on the outside while keeping things moist on the inside, then vegetable oil might be a better choice

What kind of fats are most commonly used in bread recipes?

Most bread recipes require fats. Butter and margarine are the most popular, but oil is also used in some bread recipes. Remember that the type of fat you use in your bread will affect the taste and texture of your bread.

Butter and margarine are solid at room temperature, whereas oils are liquid at room temperature. If a recipe calls for butter or margarine, you can substitute oil by using 1/2 cup butter or margarine for 1/4 cup oil. If your recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine, you can use 1 teaspoon of oil.

In general, bread baked with butter will be softer than bread baked with vegetable oil.

Butter is also the most common fat used in bread recipes. It’s a natural ingredient and adds flavor. It’s also used to make bread that’s flaky and tender such as croissants.

When to use each

Butter is more expensive than oil, and some people prefer to use oil instead of butter due to the fact that it’s much cheaper to use or they’re on a diet and don’t want to eat as much fat.

If using oil instead of butter, keep in mind that not all oils are created equal. There are oils that will have a higher smoke point than others. This means that they can be heated to a higher temperature before they start smoking. The smoke point of an oil is also important because it affects how much flavor the oil adds to your bread.

Corn oil and safflower oil have very high smoke points — between 450°F and 500°F — so they’re good choices for frying or baking at high temperatures without burning them. They also have neutral flavors that won’t compete with the taste of your bread or other ingredients.

Oils tend to make bread softer than butter or margarine

oil makes bread softer

Oils add a spongier texture to bread compared to butter or margarine. This is because the protein structure of bread is destabilized by the presence of water, and oil doesn’t contain any water.

If you want to use oil in your bread dough, the best way to achieve a good result is to mix it with melted butter or margarine. Adding oil to cold butter will make it difficult for the two ingredients to mix properly, but adding melted butter or margarine to oil makes it easier for them to blend.

If you’re making a loaf of bread with lots of yeast and/or high-gluten flour, then using oil instead of butter will probably result in a denser loaf. This can be desirable if you’re looking for something with more chewiness and substance — think focaccia rather than brioche.

Oils also tend to make bread softer than butter or margarine. This is because they don’t contain the same amount of saturated fats as butter and margarine.

However, the amount of oil you use will depend on the recipe you’re using, but it’s usually between 1/2 and 2/3 cups. It’s also a matter of personal taste. For example, some people prefer the taste of bread made with oil because it lacks the distinctive flavor of butter.

How to incorporate oil into your bread recipe as a substitute

If you want to substitute oil for the fat in your bread dough, be sure to compensate with additional flour so that the dough stays soft and elastic. The amount of flour you need depends on how much fat you’re replacing. For example:

  • Replace 1/3 cup (1 oz) of butter with 1/3 cup of oil, and add 2 tablespoons of flour.
  • Replace 2/3 cup (1 1/2 oz) of butter with 2/3 cup oil, and add 3 tablespoons flour.

If you’re using a stand mixer, add the liquid ingredients (oil included) first, and then add the dry ingredients. If you’re mixing by hand, add the dry ingredients first and then pour in the liquids. Then knead until it is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes).

If you’re using a stand mixer, let it knead for about 7 minutes at medium speed, and then turn off the machine. Then, punch down the dough after 5 minutes of resting.

If your dough seems sticky when kneading by hand or using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, add more flour until it no longer sticks to your fingers or spatula.

What kind of oil should you use?

There are many different types of oil that you can use in your baking.

Some oils are better for certain types of bread and pastries than others. For example, olive oil is great for savory bread but might not be the best choice for sweet pastries like cinnamon rolls or biscotti.

The best oils for baking are neutral-tasting oils such as canola or vegetable oil. They don’t have any strong flavors that would mix with the ingredients in your recipe and ruin the taste. You can also use a mixture of different types of neutral-tasting oils to get the benefits from each one.

If you’re using an oil other than vegetable or canola oil, you may find that it makes your baked goods softer than they would be if you used butter or margarine instead. This is because fats like butter and margarine contain saturated fat, which makes them solid at room temperature (unlike most plant-based oils).

Fats that aren’t solid at room temperature tend to make baked goods softer than those made with solid fats like butter or margarine.

Oil isn’t a straight-up substitute for butter in bread recipes

As you now know, oil isn’t a straight-up substitute for butter in bread recipes since you have to tweak the measurements first. If the recipe calls for half a cup of butter then that doesn’t mean you should use half a cup of oil as well.

When using oil instead of butter, you’ll have to cut back on some of your other liquids as well, as oil increases the dough’s hydration level.

But as long as you plan appropriately, you’ll be able to enjoy some tasty results for yourself!

You can also experiment with different ratios and types of oils until you find something that works well for you. Or, if you’re feeling more daring, try your hand at making wholemeal or sourdough bread—they have less need for fat in the first place, so you’ll have more freedom to play around with different oils.

Allyza Cepeda
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