When it comes to healthy eating, we hear a lot about people wanting to substitute extra virgin olive oil in their diet for butter. So we’ve been talking to culinary pros and leafing through books to gather ways you can use extra virgin olive oil in baked goods.
Some cookbook authors such as Fran Gage suggest substituting 3/4ths of the butter called for in a recipe with olive oil – so one stick of butter (4 oz.) would equal 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
Olive oil expert and cookbook author Carol Firenze offers an extensive conversion table for measurements of up to 1 cup of butter in her fine book, The Passionate Olive: 101 Things to Do with Olive Oil (Ballantine Books, 2005). For example: For a cup of butter, or two sticks, she suggests ¾ cup of olive oil.
Lisa Sheldon, the author of Olive Oil Baking (Turner Publishing, 2007), suggests an approach that involves a bit more experimentation and explanation.
For recipes that call for more than half a cup of butter, she suggests keeping half the butter and substituting olive oil in an amount equal to 2/3 of the butter removed from the original recipe. So, for a cookie recipe, say, that calls for two sticks of butter – or a cup – you’d keep one stick of butter and substitute 1/3 cup of the olive oil for the other stick.
That way, you can make sure the substitution works – versus performing a more radical overhaul that might destabilize how all the ingredients come together, according to Sheldon.
For recipes that call for half a cup or less of butter, Sheldon endorses the idea of using an amount of olive oil equal to two-thirds of the butter that’s specified in the recipe. In a recipe that calls for six tablespoons of butter, for example, you’d replace that entire amount with four tablespoons of olive oil.
“I think that is a good substitution amount. It seems to compensate for the liquidity of the oil and the fact that butter has water,” says Sheldon. “Butter isn’t a solid fat. It contains some milk solids and some water.”
However, Sheldon is also quick to note that there is no hard-and-fast rule of thumb for substituting olive oil for butter. If something doesn’t come out quite right, she adds, experiment a bit.
And there may be some recipes you don’t even want to avoid a substitution, such as Aunt Tillie’s cookies that you feel passionate about.
“Olive oil is going to change the taste of those cookies. They’ll still be delicious, but they won’t be the same as you remember them,” says Sheldon.
Pie crusts and biscuits also don’t seem to adapt, according to Sheldon.
“I’ve never been able to make a good olive oil pie crust – that and biscuits,” she says. “Other than that, you can play around with a lot of the recipes, especially those that call for melted butter.”
In her book, Sheldon also offers these thoughts to keep in mind when converting recipes to use olive oil:
- Be sure to use less olive oil in the recipe than the amount of butter you are replacing.
- Generally speaking, cookies made with olive oil take slightly longer to bake than cookies made with butter or margarine. Keep an eye on your cookies.
- Cookies baked with olive oil tend to be slightly lighter in color than butter cookies, so avoid over-baking the cookies.
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch