8 Butter Substitutes for Pasta

There are many reasons you might want to try something instead of butter for your next pasta. Maybe you’re trying to find a healthier alternative that is still tasty. On this list, we’ll go through some easy substitutes for butter in pasta. 

Instead of using butter, you could try swapping it for a variety of other ingredients. Some of the best butter alternatives for pasta include: olive oil, cornstarch, vegetable oil, margarine, heavy cream, milk, ghee, and cream cheese. 

What’s the Use of Butter in a Pasta Sauce?  

It’s a well-known fact that butter can improve the taste of pretty much anything. This is true for pasta sauce as well, but butter does more for pasta sauce than just amplifying the flavor. Butter has a high fat content, which causes it to act as an emulsifier in pasta sauces.

This means that when you add butter to a pasta sauce, it gives the sauce a richer and more velvety consistency. It can also act as a binding agent between the pasta and the sauce, giving the whole meal a more cohesive experience without overpowering any flavors.

What Can I Replace Butter with in a Pasta Sauce?

Instead of butter in a pasta sauce, there are quite a few other alternatives that serve the same purpose as butter. Below are some of the best.

1. Olive Oil

Olive oil is another ingredient that is commonly associated with pasta and sauces. But, unlike butter, olive oil does have some health benefits. It is full of antioxidants and low in saturated fats. Try using ¾ cup of olive oil for every cup that you would’ve used of butter. 

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The saturated fat content of butter can be as high as 65%, but this number in olive oil is around 14%. Olive oil is especially useful for sauteing things like garlic and onion before they are added to the pasta. If you’re trying to be healthier, olive oil is an easy solution instead of butter. It has less calories and less fat.  

2. Cornstarch

Cornstarch has similar emulsifying properties that butter has. Try adding half of one teaspoon for every two servings of your pasta to get the beautiful clinging effect that we search for when using butter in pasta sauce.

3. Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil is similar to olive oil. The term “vegetable oil” is an umbrella term for oils made from byproducts of vegetables. So, your vegetable oil easily could contain olive oil, as well as an array of other vegetables.

Mixing a splash or two of vegetable oil into your pasta sauce can yield impressive results. It will give the sauce an emulsifying effect, and most people already have vegetable oil on hand anyway. It is an easy and inexpensive solution.

4. Margarine

Margarine is very similar to butter. The main difference between the two is that while butter is made from heavy cream, margarine is derived from vegetable oil. This also makes margarine a healthier option for pastas than butter.

Margarine also contains more “good” and unsaturated fats than butter does. This means margarine is more heart healthy, and it can also improve cholesterol levels and lower inflammation. 

5. Heavy Cream

As mentioned, butter is made from heavy cream. So, it only makes sense that heavy cream could be a useful butter alternative for pasta sauces. It will add a thickness to your pasta sauce without really changing the flavor or texture at all. 

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Heavy cream also has nearly the same fat and milk content that butter does, so you can expect the end result to be practically the same as it would have been with butter.

6. Milk

Adding milk to your pasta sauce can give it a more creamy texture. One element that milk is missing when it comes to pasta sauce is thickness. If you’re using milk and want to replicate the emulsifying properties that butter offers to pasta sauce, try adding some flour.

If you’re in the mood to go the extra mile, whisk one cup of whole milk with two tablespoons of flour, then mix it in with the sauce, of course. This should give your sauce the perfect texture that you’re in need of.

7. Ghee

Ghee can easily replace butter in pasta sauce. Just use the same amount of ghee that you would of butter. Many consider ghee to be a better option than butter, particularly for sauteing or frying. Ghee is also unsalted, so the main focus in terms of flavor can remain on the rest of your recipe.

Essentially, ghee is just clarified butter, which means that milk particles have been removed, leaving just pure fat. This is beneficial in situations where high temperatures will be used, as ghee does not burn easily. A little bit of ghee can go a long way.

8. Cream Cheese

Cream cheese, as the name suggests, will give your sauce the desired creaminess. The only downside is that it does have more of a flavor than butter does, so keep that in mind when using it as a replacement for butter. 

It may be best to experiment and taste test the amount you use so you don’t accidentally overdo it. Using a whole block of cream cheese is fine, but you’ll likely want to add other ingredients so the texture does not become too overpowering.

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Try adding two tablespoons of flour and ¼ teaspoon of salt to a saucepan, along with the cream cheese. Stir all of the ingredients together and let them simmer for about one minute.

Is Butter Needed For Pasta Sauce?

Pasta with walnut sauce

Butter is a main ingredient in pasta for many people. It ties all of the ingredients together, making it a very cohesive meal. Some people love the butteriness of pasta, and others aren’t too fond of the extra greasiness.

While it is a preference for many, butter is not necessary for pasta sauce. Butter is mainly used to add moisture and flavor to pasta, which can be desirable but is not always necessary. For example, water can add moisture too. 

If you don’t love when pasta contains high amounts of butter, you could try a less flavorful approach like olive or vegetable oil. It’s perfectly okay to go without any additives too, it really just boils down to your personal preferences.  


If you’re wondering if there are any healthier replacements for butter in pasta, you’re in luck. There are plenty of other ways to emulsify your pasta sauce without butter. Whether you’re vegan, looking out for your health, or just needing a change, you’re sure to find a butter substitute for pasta that works for you.