Cake mixes are a convenient alternative to baking from scratch, particularly if homemade baking isn't your forte. Most boxed mixes call for two to three extra ingredients including water, eggs and vegetable oil, which serves to bind all the ingredients together, adding extra moisture for the perfect cake.
You can swap in other oil and non-oil alternatives in place of vegetable oil and still create a tasty, rich cake. Some substitutions, like applesauce, have additional benefits, reducing calories and sugar content in your cake.
Swapping Vegetable Oil for Applesauce
Reduce the amount of fat in your cake with veggie and fruit purees, recommends the American Heart Association (AHA). Purees made from produce add moisture to the cake to prevent it from drying out or crumbling apart. You can use a number of different fruits and veggies for your purees, keeping in mind that the stronger the flavor, the more you will be able to taste it in the baked cake. Applesauce, banana, pumpkin and sweet potato are commonly used fruit purees in baking.
How much to use: Substitute 3/4 to 1 cup of fruit puree and 3/4 of a cup of veggie puree for every cup of vegetable oil called for in the recipe.
Health benefits: Deliciously moist, applesauce has far fewer calories than oil. Applesauce also adds no fat calories. Considering the apple's natural sweetness, you can even reduce the amount of sugar you use in the cake if you're baking from scratch.
Substituting With Olive, Coconut or Avocado Oil
Coconut or olive oil can be used as an alternative to vegetable oils, including canola and grapeseed oils, in cake mix. According to Harvard Health Publishing, olive oil, when substituted for saturated fat, can help lower your LDL (or "bad") cholesterol. While it can be a bit more costly, avocado oil is another healthy vegetable oil substitute, according to the AHA.
How much to use: Substitute olive oil or avocado oil for vegetable oil in equal measure. You can also swap coconut oil one-for-one, but make sure to measure it in melted, liquid form.
Health benefits: Olive oil contains healthier monounsaturated fats, which aid in reducing your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol when eaten in moderation. Coconut oil has been hailed for its nutritional value, but it should still be used in moderation, according to the Mayo Clinic. Avocados are also high in monounsaturated, healthy fats, according to the AHA.
Yogurt as a Cooking Oil Substitute
You can also substitute vegetable oil with dairy products like yogurt, recommends Angie Thayer, a registered dietitian and food and regulatory specialist for Wilton Brands. Yogurt adds a creamy, thick texture to your cake.
How much to use: For yogurt, cut the oil in your recipe back by substituting 1/2 of the amount of oil with 3/4 the amount of yogurt.
Health benefits: According to the Harvard School of Public Health, yogurt is rich in calcium, protein and B vitamins. Yogurt can also make your baked goods more filling, meaning you might not be tempted to indulge in that second slice of cake.
Substitute Butter for Vegetable Oil in Cake Mix
If you have butter on hand, you can substitute it for vegetable oil when preparing your cake mix too. Melt the butter prior to mixing it with other ingredients to avoid clumping and ensure smooth, even distribution and texture. Butter makes for a slightly denser cake due to its richness and is ideal for stacked, layered cakes.
How much to use: Use an equal amount of butter as you would vegetable oil.
Health benefits: Although butter has long been criticized as an unhealthy food, a June 2016 review published in PLOS found that eating butter was not closely associated with diabetes or cardiovascular disease. However, the review also found that you shouldn't increase your butter consumption, either.
- American Heart Association: "Cooking to Lower Cholesterol"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Is extra-virgin olive oil extra healthy?"
- American Heart Association: "Healthy Cooking Oil"
- Mayo Clinic: "Coconut oil for weight loss: Does it work?"
- American Heart Association: "Monounsaturated Fat"
- Harvard School of Public Health: "Yogurt"
- PLOS: "Is Butter Back? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Butter Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, and Total Mortality."