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Butter Substitute: Cooking with Olive Oil

Nearly everyone loves the taste of butter. The saturated fat, on the other hand, is at best an indulgence and at worst a medical liability, especially when eaten regularly. Olive oil on the other hand, is an essential component of the Mediterranean Diet, and is delicious and satisfying—but it’s not butter. Many Americans would like the best of both worlds: the health benefits of olive oil with the taste and satisfaction of butter. Now you can make your own buttery spread with just half the saturated fat while you enjoy the health benefits and unique flavor of olive oil. It’s simple and easy when you combine equal parts of both. Our butter substitute is softer than butter but still solid, so it’s easier to spread.

You can make as much or as little of it as you like: it keeps well in the refrigerator or freezer as long as you have it sealed or covered. For the best flavor, though, we recommend making smaller batches, using fresh or new butter and olive oil that has been kept sealed and at room temperature or lower, in a dark place.

Anything that is half olive oil will require high quality olive oil for the best flavor and nutritional value, so we suggest you not use the least expensive olive oil. Many bulk olive oils may contain very little olive oil and may be adulterated with other oils—neither Italy nor the United States regulate the quality of olive oil. Alternatives include looking for Spanish, Greek, or California olive oil; and buying olive oil that lists the name of the farm or farming group that actually produce the olive oil.

While you’re buying the best olive oil you can find, make sure to buy only olive oil that is in green glass or metal containers, as these block the light, which is the single factor that most quickly damages all oils (we look for all our oils to be in opaque containers). Even the best olive oil quickly becomes as bad as the worst if it’s packaged in clear glass or plastic containers.

Of course, olive oil butter substitute is superior to margarine, too, because it’s simple and homemade, not the result of any industrial food process, and you can control the quality of the ingredients.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Butter Substitute: Cooking with Olive Oil

Butter, salted or unsalted
Extra virgin olive oil, organic if available

Leave 1 stick of butter out to soften. Once at room temperature, mix with an equal amount extra virgin olive oil (1/2 cup). You can do this in a bowl with a mixing spoon or a fork, or it can be done in a food processor or blender. Mix thoroughly until it is a single uniform color and texture, and you’re done. Simply refrigerate and use as you would margarine or any other spread.

Most people will want to use this as an unflavored spread, as you would butter, margarine, or olive oil. However, you can make it with flavored olive oil, too. Ghee, also known as clarified butter, would work as well but it is more expensive. If you don’t like olive oil, you can use another oil to mix with the butter, though it should be one with a high monounsaturated fat content—otherwise, the spread won’t solidify in the refrigerator. Avocado oil, peanut oil, and high monounsaturated safflower or sunflower oil could all work, but not as well as extra virgin olive oil.

This spread will have half the saturated fat of butter. The health benefits of olive oil has more to do with replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat than specifically with monounsaturated fat, though olive oil has phytochemicals in it that may have some health benefits.

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Principal Author: Daniel J. Heller, N.D.
Last Modified: July 31, 2012

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