Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Nov 4, 2007 06:41 PM

Quick breads: oil vs. butter

I've been on a big quick bread/muffin kick lately, and I can't figure out the difference between using oil and using butter. When I think quick bread, I generally think that it's going to involve oil, which I think of as a million times simpler than waiting for butter to soften!

Anyway, is there a good rule of thumb about when butter is used in a quick bread and when oil is used? Is that rule affected by the presence of a fruit puree (like pumpkin or banana)?

Most importantly - my grandma gave me her banana bread recipe that calls for a stick of butter, but I don't wanna wait for the butter to soften. Will I regret using oil instead?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I think I can help you with some of your questions. I have successfully used part butter and part cold canola oil in a banana bread recipe which specified shortening. However, if you substitute oil for all of the solid shortening, you will mess up the liquid ratio. If the recipe calls for a couple of eggs and some milk, as well as shortening, you will end up with a more liquid batter than the recipe calls for. If the recipe calls for melted butter, I think you could probably get away with oil as a substitute. However using oil will affect the flavor. You are right; many quick fruit breads use oil as shortening.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sueatmo

      Thanks - from what I found Googling, that seems about right. I ended up just using the butter anyway after spending so much time doing the internet research, so I guess I'm in the clear!

      1. re: sueatmo

        I like to use butter but when the recipe calls for oil could I use part butter and part coconut oil (melted)? I think there are factors beyond my scope regarding liquid versus solid. I prefer not to use oil but I want the recipe to turn out successfully. I'm looking for a quick bread that isn't too moist and crumbly - something that can be toasted and buttered for breakfast.

        1. re: subrosa39

          Any melted or liquid fat can substitute for oil.

          On the other hand, if the recipe calls for creaming the butter (usually with sugar), then you need to stick with a similar solid. Either that, or change the recipe so it uses the 'muffin method' of mixing.

          A good general purpose cookbook like Joy of Cooking should discuss the cake-method v muffin-method, of making quick breads. Or look up a website that specializes in muffins and baking.

          Since I prefer a moist bread like pumpkin, I am not sure what would make a good toasting quick bread. Regular bread is not heavy on fat, so my guess is that a lower fat quick bread would also toast better. I'd also stay away from ones that use fruit puree.

      2. For quick breads (or muffins) which are the mix wet ingredients (plus sugar) / mix dry ingredients then fold together are pretty tolerant to changes like oil for butter (and my recipes like this usually call for melted butter), as well as other changes like types of flour, fruit additions... add a bit of flour or milk it the batter seems too thick or too thin. For recipes that call for creaming the butter and sugar, you need to be more careful, but have I sometimes substitute about 1/3 the butter with oil. and for those pesky recipes that call for shortening, I use all butter or do the same 2/3 butter + 1/3 oil as sueatmo.

        also - a few seconds in the microwave makes quick work of softening butter.

        3 Replies
        1. re: firecooked

          Isn't creaming butter with sugar etc. more of a cake technique, resulting in a more uniform, tender texture. The so called muffin method (dry mix + wet mix) is supposed to give a coarser, uneven crumb. Oil or melted butter is easier to use in the muffin method.

          My experience with a hearty pumpkin bread is that oil works just as well as melted butter, and neither is all that critical.


          1. re: paulj

            Sounds like a fellow Alton Brown fan. You definitely want to melt the butter before using it in a recipe for quick breads. Otherwise it screws up your whole "bubble structure" if you try and cream it supposedly.

            Can anyone describe the actual difference in test when using oil in lieu of melted butter? I'm too scared to try it in my most delicious of recipes, but I'm wondering if it'll be less artery clogging if I make the switch.

            And what about apple sauce? Is that just gross/a nono?

            1. re: jbhungry

              I think switching any significant amount of the fat for applesauce tends to produce that unpleasantly gummy taste I associate with low fat baked goods. However, in a couple of quick bread recipes I've replaced half the fat with low fat buttermilk, which definitely brings down the fat content and I can't tell the difference in either taste or texture. I haven't tried replacing more than half, but I wouldn't be surprised if at some point the difference is apparent and the texture suffers.

        2. My recipe uses butter, but no matter how much I cream it I end up with a "darker" layer on the bottom. Still tastes great, but I can't help wondering if the uniformity of oil would alleviate that.

          1 Reply
          1. I have been substituting a combination of greek yogurt and oil for some of the melted butter in my banana bread recipe. I think it works quite well. Here's what I do: For 1/2 a cup of melted butter, I use 1/8 of a cup each of melted butter, canola oil, and non-fat greek yogurt. This is an adaptation of the recommendation on LIVESTRONG.COM. I like the result.