There’s something that’s just a little magical about a well-made brownie. Whether you prefer them soft and buttery, with a crackly cocoa crust on top, or the moist fudgy brownies that practically melt in your mouth, there’s something for just about everyone to enjoy!
Of course, brownies aren’t the healthiest food in the world. Like most desserts, there’s a lot of sugar and carbs in your typical batch of brownies, and there’s also a surprising amount of fat.
Vegetable oil is one of the biggest ingredients in brownies that people want to avoid, either for health reasons, for their diet, or just because they don’t like the flavor and the preservatives used to keep it fresh.
The good news is, that modern baking knows a lot more about how to make a great brownie come together, and that means that there are a lot of different substitutes for vegetable oil in brownies.
Let’s take a closer look, starting with why you might want to replace vegetable oil, and why it’s there in the first place.
Why Do Most Brownie Recipes Call For Vegetable Oil?
There are a couple of key reasons why a lot of brownie recipes call for vegetable oil. On the most basic level having a source of oils or fats in your brownies is important both for binding the ingredients together and for providing the moisture brownies need to stay soft and delicious.
Another big reason that brownies call for vegetable oil is that it’s a cheaper alternative to butter, and already a liquid, so it also saves time and energy.
Especially if you're looking at an older recipe book or a recipe book that's still using an older recipe, vegetable oil was probably included as a money-saving option.
Vegetable oil is also used in brownies because it has a mild and very neutral flavor, which means that the oil won’t actually change the flavor of the brownies that much.
Lastly, vegetable oil was originally sold to consumers as a healthy oil. After all, it’s made from vegetables, right?
Now we know that vegetable oil really isn't any better for you compared with other oils, and can actually be a lot worse than some. So, while it might have worked as a cost and effort-saving ingredient in the past, it's time to give our brownies an upgrade.
What Does Vegetable Oil Do In Brownie Batter?
Anytime you’re substituting an ingredient in baking, it’s important to know exactly what that ingredient is supposed to do in the bake.
Fats and oils, like olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter, serve a couple of different roles in baking cakes and brownies.
One is that they provide long-lasting moisture. Most of the liquid water in a batter will evaporate out as the batter bakes, so if water is the only source of moisture you’re more likely to get a bread or crack-like consistency than a fudgy or pillowy brownie.
It’s also there to act as a binder between the ingredients, helping to ensure that the batter has an even distribution of ingredients like sugar, salt, and cocoa powder. Without it, you’re a lot more likely to have a swirled or marbled effect in your brownies from uneven distribution of ingredients.
However, there are good substitutes for vegetable oil that actually do a better job of all those things. Plus, you can pick a vegetable oil substitute that makes it easier to get the brownie texture you want, since the source of fat and moisture in your bake has a huge influence on the finishing texture.
Looking for even better brownies? Try our Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel Brownie recipe!
Scrumptious Substitutes For Vegetable Oil In Brownies:
There are two basic kinds of substitutes for vegetable oil in brownies, oil and fat substitutes, and non-oil substitutes. To make your job a little easier, we’re going to separate those two categories so it’s easier to find the kind of substitute you want in your brownies.
Vegetable Oil Substitutes For Brownies – Fats and Oils
Substituting vegetable oil for a different oil is a great option if you're looking for an easy replacement. Some oils are healthier than vegetable oil or encourage a different texture in your brownies, but they should all have a relatively similar end result.
These are a good option if you don’t normally keep vegetable oil in your home, or if your brownies haven’t been working quite the way you want them to.
Olive oil is one of the most common substitutes for vegetable oil. These days, especially in health-conscious homes, olive oil is a more common pantry staple than vegetable oil. It's healthier and works just as well in brownies.
Using olive oil does make for a fudgier brownie since this oil is a little heavier than vegetable oil. You might want to use a less flavorful olive oil as well. Extra virgin olive oil tends to give your brownies a bit of an olive oil aftertaste.
Canola oil is often one of the most predominant oils in vegetable oil, and it’s a great substitute for vegetable oil. This is a taste-neutral oil, which means that it won’t add any additional flavors.
Canola oil also doesn’t change the texture of your brownies. So if you’re happy with what you’ve got, this is a great replacement.
Sunflower oil is another common ingredient in vegetable oil, but it's one of the healthiest components thanks to its high vitamin content.
This is also a good vegetarian or vegan option and gives a slightly nutty aftertaste that pairs wonderfully with the cocoa.
Grapeseed oil is another flavor-neutral option, which works particularly well if you want the cocoa flavor to really shine in your brownies.
This is a slightly lighter oil, so it will give you either a fluffier brownie or a slightly crumbly brownie, depending on the recipe.
Untoasted Sesame Oil
Sesame oil is a very good option if you’re looking for a healthy oil. It’s high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and has mostly healthy fats.
Untoasted sesame oil has a neutral taste. Toasted sesame oil has a strong nutty flavor, and can mimic the taste of peanuts in your brownies if you prefer that flavor.
Coconut oil is a good option if you want a slightly more complex brownie. It’s a good oil for rich and fudgy brownies, but it does give a noticeable coconut taste.
Of course, you can always add some coconut flakes to your brownie recipe and just make the coconut flavor a key part of the recipe.
Just make sure to melt the coconut oil before you use it, to make sure you get the right volume of oil.
Avocado oil is a good source of healthy fats and vitamin E, which is important for skin, eye, and hair health.
However, it does make for a slightly creamier, slightly heavier brownie. So you might want to save this oil for extra special occasions.
Melted butter is an excellent replacement for vegetable oil, and gives a delicious buttery richness to your brownies when you’re finished.
It does provide some added lift in your batter though, which will make your brownies a little more cakey and less fudgy than brownies made with other oils.
Like coconut oil, you cannot add solid butter to your brownies. You always need to melt it first.
Some people think that Mayonnaise belongs in the non-oil replacements for brownies, but since mayonnaise is a combination of oil and egg, it actually acts more like an oil than most non-oil substitutes for vegetable oil.
This option is great if you're cooking for someone who likes a little bit of a tangy flavor to balance the sweetness of a great brownie. The added egg in your mayo also adds a little bit of protein and nutrition and helps make a richer brownie, with a good balance of fluffiness and fudginess.
Vegetable Oil Substitutes For Brownies - Oil Replacements
Using something other than fats and oils in your brownies can be a little more complicated, but often has health benefits. These alternatives can still give you a rich and satisfying brownie but often have fewer calories, less fat, or more nutrients to make your brownies a slightly heavier option.
If you love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, peanut butter might just be the best vegetable oil substitute for you.
For a lighter brownie, just about half as much peanut butter. For a chewy fudgy brownie, use just as much peanut butter as the recipe calls for vegetable oil.
Love the idea of peanut butter brownies? Here is the World’s Easiest Peanut Butter Brownie Recipe!
Cornstarch and Water
Cornstarch is a wonderful binder, which means that it works well as an oil replacement in baking. Just make sure you mix it with some water before adding. You should have a slurry of the same amount of cornstarch as you would use vegetable oil, with enough water added to create a slurry that’s easy to mix in.
Yogurt is a fantastic source of moisture, fats, and protein all in one. It's a healthy (but not low-calorie) replacement for vegetable oil that tends to give you a balanced brownie that's both fudgy and cakey.
You can replace yogurt for vegetable oil 1:1, so just use the same amount.
Applesauce is probably the most common vegetable oil substitute for brownies. It makes for a lower-calorie, fudgy brownie, that's just a little bit sweeter than the standard recipe.
Kids especially love this substitute.
Wanna try it for yourself? Check out our weight watcher’s friendly brownies!
Love chocolate and bananas? Mashed bananas are a great option, and they give you just a little bit of banana flavor in the brownies. However, you need to be careful not to add too many bananas, or the brownies will stay a little too runny.
Use a 1:2 ratio, mashed bananas to oil, to get the right texture.
Buttermilk is another good option, and the added acidity adds just a little tangy flavor and keeps your brownies wonderfully moist.
If you happen to have buttermilk on hand, you can replace vegetable oil 1:1 with buttermilk.
Want to make a seasonal Autumn treat? Try replacing your vegetable oil 1:1 with pumpkin puree. You can even add a little cinnamon to really bring out the combination of flavors and make a delicious treat.
This substitute is perfect for Halloween and Thanksgiving treats!
If you love the delicate sweetness of pears, pear puree is a wonderful addition to your brownies. Replace vegetable oil 1:1 with pear puree, and you’ll notice that it has a mild pear flavor and a wonderful moist and fudgy texture.
Last, but not least, avocado brownies had a brief moment in the spotlight, but are delicious enough we’re surprised they didn’t last longer.
The avocado flavor helps bring out the slightly bitter cocoa powder, making this replacement perfect for people who love dark chocolate. Like the other fruit purees on our list, you can replace vegetable oil 1:1 with avocado puree.
Just make sure your avocados are ripe!