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margarine substitute for graham cracker crust?

I made dessert bars (magic bars, to be specific), and it calls for a graham cracker crust. I've been using substitutes to make things healthier, such as a lower calorie substitute for the condensed milk, and I tried using applesauce instead of margarine to make the graham cracker crust. The outcome was not bad, but not what I had hoped; it was moist, which I didn't mind, but the taste was off...not very flavorful. Can anyone suggest any modifications I could make to retain a healthier version? I was thinking of adding powdered butter (like Molly McButter) but didn't have enough. And advice would be very appreciated!

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  1. Actually, something I just recently learned: put some nuts (hazlenuts work best) into a food processor and the graham crackers (not crushed) and pulse until it crumbs come together when pressed. What happens is the oils of the nuts is released into the crumbs thus allowing you to create a crust with heart health nut oils, full of omega-3 fatty acids. if that's too hard, canola oil may be a fine sub.

    3 Replies
    1. re: digkv

      This is brilliant! I'm going to try it with a lemon tart, using the low(er) cholesterol lemon curd recipe I just found.

      Oh, and I noticed a recipe on Epicurious that uses an egg white in a graham cracker crust - that might help with nuts that are less oily than hazelnuts (I'm thinking of using almonds).

      Thanks,
      Anne

      1. re: digkv

        What proportion of nuts to graham crackers should I use? i.e. cup measurements

        1. re: digkv

          neither nuts nor canola oil would be much lower calorie, though.

        2. I had a lower fat recipe that used maple syrup in the crust to bind. Not low cal per se but lower than marg, and available in reduced sugar and/or lower cal varieties, and certainly lower fat. Honey might also work in some recipes.

          I've also used water as a binder or skim milk, both with salt, if I was really cutting cals. The gram crackers do provide a lor of flavor.

          1. You could try organic, non-hydrogenated coconut oil, which looks like Crisco. I've used it with great success instead of butter in pie crusts. It has a slight coconutty flavour.

            It's sold at natural foods stores.

            1 Reply
            1. re: FlavoursGal

              I second this -- I've used coconut oil as a substitute for shortening in scones and they are very tasty. You can taste the coconut, though -- not overpowering but definitely there -- so take that into consideration.

            2. Graham crackers aren't what I'd call healthy... if it was me I wouldn't worry about finding a substitute for the butter binding the crust - I'd substitute either toasted crushed oats for the graham crackers, or crushed nuts.

              1. So right Kajikit. The graham crackers have partially hydrogentaed oils in them and that will raise your cholesterol! Try smart balance margarine in place of butter.

                5 Replies
                1. re: javaandjazz

                  I thought smart balance would be nasty because it's one of those things they push 'for your health'... but it's actually far better-tasting than the other margerines. I love it, but I've never baked with it - I use real butter for cooking and Smart Balance on my bread.

                  1. re: Kajikit

                    Make sure to use the regular SB and not the Light SB for baking. I, too, just use regular unsalted butter for baking. I do like SB on bread, french toast, etc. Plus, I feel more virtuous using it. There is no real substitute for butter though :(

                    1. re: diablo

                      I bake with smart balance all the time. And while it's not as great tasting as butter, it's actually quite tasty and bakes well. For folks who've been told they can't have butter or most margarines (and thus most baked goods) it's a real gift.

                      I deeply miss smart balance shortening - it made great pie crusts!

                  2. re: javaandjazz

                    Mi Del makes "healthy" graham crackers (evaporated cane juice, etc). I'm definitely trying some of these butter subs...thanks!

                    1. re: javaandjazz

                      Since someone has revived this thread, I'll add that a variety of cold cereals, crackers, and/or cookies can be used instead of graham crackers to make a sweet crust. It's a good way to use up the almost-empty boxes. When i first tried Samrt Balance, I too was pleasantly surprised at its good taste and texture.