8 Ideas for What to Use Instead of Vegetable Oil in Cake

On almost every boxed cake mix that you find, you’ll find vegetable oil listed as one of the ingredients. The vegetable oil is responsible for keeping the cake moist and helping it to hold its texture after it has been baked. Without the vegetable oil, the cake will be much drier and prone to falling apart.

Fortunately, if you don’t have vegetable oil on hand there are several substitutes available that can produce similar results in your cake recipe.

Some of the best substitutes for vegetable oil in a cake are:

  • Butter 
  • Apple Sauce
  • Yogurt
  • Ghee
  • Avocado
  • Mayonnaise
  • Pumpkin Puree
  • Sour Cream

What Can I Substitute for Vegetable Oil in Cake?

There are several different substitutes that you can use for vegetable oil in cake. The exact one that you use will depend on the type of cake that you’re making and the texture you’re going for.

Some substitutes have a stronger flavor that will only be suitable in cakes that have a stronger base flavor like chocolate.

1. Butter

Butter is hands down one of the best substitutes for vegetable oil in almost recipes. The cake will be denser than if you had used vegetable oil, but it will also have a deliciously moist texture.

If you decide to use butter, make sure to use unsalted butter. Using salted butter can throw off your ratios and make you end up with a cake that is significantly saltier than you had planned for.

2. Apple Sauce

If you’re looking for another vegan alternative and want to reduce the amount of fat in your recipe, try apple sauce. Apple sauce helps to keep the cake moist which will also help to hold it together and keep it from crumbling apart when cut.

Apple sauce also has the benefit of adding some natural sweetness to the recipe. This can help to reduce the amount of sugar that you have to add to your cake. Applesauce also comes in many flavors like strawberry, blueberry, and cinnamon. Adding one of these flavored apple sauces can help to enhance the flavor of your cake.

3. Yogurt

Another good dairy-based vegetable oil replacement in cake is yogurt. Yogurt will help to keep the cake nice and moist. It also has lots of healthy nutrients like calcium and protein which can help to make your cake more filling.

The main thing to consider when using yogurt is that it will change the texture of your cake. Cakes made with yogurt are often denser in texture and extremely moist. If you are trying to cook a light and fluffy cake, like an angel food cake or a sponge cake, this could be a downside.

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4. Ghee

If butter isn’t your thing, you can always try ghee. Ghee is a type of clarified butter that is healthier than regular butter. It is also lighter in texture and has a deep flavor that can enhance the other flavors in your cake without overpowering any of them.

When you use ghee it is an exact vegetable oil substitute in cake so one tablespoon of vegetable oil equals one tablespoon of ghee. This makes it super easy to use this substitute without having to alter the rest of your recipe.

5. Avocado

Now this one may sound odd, but think about it. How many healthy dessert recipes have you seen that use avocado as the creamy base for icing or a pudding-type filling. With a fairly neutral flavor and creamy consistency, avocado is well-suited for taking on a variety of flavors and can be used in both desserts and savory recipes.

Avocado also has a lot of fat which helps to keep the cake moist after it is baked. It results in a cake with a surprisingly light and fluffy texture despite the dense avocado.

To use an avocado in your cake you will simply blend the avocado into a puree then mix it into the cake batter along with the other wet ingredients.

6. Mayonnaise

Now, this is actually a pretty common substitute and it is often used in bakery cakes to give them a decadent moist texture that holds up while they’re on the shelf. Although it can initially sound unappetizing, you won’t be able to taste any of the mayonnaise flavors and the mixture of fats makes for a cake that stays moist for days.

Think about it, mayonnaise is technically just made from a mix of vegetable oils and eggs, two normal ingredients in a cake. To use mayonnaise you will add the exact same amount of mayo to the cake as you normally would vegetable oil then mix away.

7. Pumpkin Puree

Just like apple sauce, pumpkin puree is another great way to add moisture to a cake while minimizing the amount of fat that you add. It works particularly well in spice cakes and carrot cakes where the natural pumpkin flavor will combine well with the flavors of nutmeg and cinnamon. 

Using pumpkin puree will result in a dense, moist cake that holds together well. If your pumpkin puree is especially thick you may want to thin it out with a tiny bit of water in a blender before adding it to the cake mix.

To use pumpkin puree you will use it as an exact vegetable oil substitute, for every tablespoon of oil just add one tablespoon of pumpkin puree. If the batter is a bit too thick with the pumpkin puree, you can always add slightly more liquid to the batter to help it mix and pour better.

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8. Sour Cream

One last substitute that you can use in your next cake is sour cream. Sour cream has a good balance of fat and natural moisture that will help make a dense, and moist cake. This makes it especially good for chocolate cakes that are naturally richer and tend to be less fluffy. It is also a good substitute for brownies where the density of the sour cream will make the brownies richer.

One thing to keep in mind with sour cream is that it has a tangy flavor. If you use it in a lightly flavored cake, like vanilla cake or a strawberry cake, you may notice the flavor slightly more. Make sure to use it in a cake that has a strong enough flavor that the tang of the sour cream won’t be overwhelming.

Can You Skip Vegetable Oil in Cake?

If the previous options don’t appeal to you or you simply don’t have any of these substitutions on hand, you can always skip the vegetable oil in the cake. Fortunately, this won’t affect the flavor of the cake however, it can greatly affect the texture.

When you bake a cake, the ingredients that keep the cake moist are the fats. This can come in the form of vegetable oil, butter, or any of the other ingredients on this list. Without them, your cake will come out significantly dryer and won’t have the same moisture content that it normally would.

If you decide to skip vegetable oil it is recommended that you use lots of icing or another topping like ice cream to add moisture to the cake. This can help to counteract the effects of leaving vegetable oil out of the cake. 

Final Thoughts

The next time you reach for a boxed cake mix and realize you don’t have vegetable oil there’s no need to panic. All you’ll need to do is search for any of the substitutes on this list.

The best overall substitute for vegetable oil in cake is butter. This creates the most similar texture and helps to keep the cake super moist after it is baked. 

The best substitute for an exceptionally rich and decadent cake is mayonnaise. Although many people find this substitute to be kind of unappetizing, you won’t be able to taste any of the mayonnaise flavor. It will give the cake a level of moisture that is difficult to achieve with any of the other ingredients, including vegetable oil.