Olive Oil, A Healthier Baking Option

Recently an AnswerLine caller asked if olive oil could be substituted for butter in a cake recipe she wanted to prepare.  Extra virgin or extra light olive oil can be a butter or margarine substitute in most baking recipes.  However, it is not a 1:1 substitute; rather it is a 3:4 ratio (3 parts olive oil to 4 parts butter/margarine) for butter or margarine.  Butter is made from milk solids and water so an even swap would result in the baked product being too greasy and heavy.  The caller’s recipe was for 1 cup butter so she was advised to use ¾ cup of olive oil.  (For help with other butter measurements, click here.) Besides the ratio consideration, olive oil may not be a good substitute if the recipe requires creaming of butter and sugar to create a light and airy cake or product.

When recipes call for vegetable or canola oil, extra virgin or light olive oil is a perfect choice; in these recipes, the swap is a 1:1 ratio (1 cup vegetable oil = 1 cup olive oil).  Olive oil can be used to prep baked good pans as well.  When a recipe calls for buttering and flouring baking pans, brush the pan with olive oil and dust with flour for the same effect as butter.

Will one notice the flavor of olive oil in baked products and desserts?  Olive oil has long been known as a flavorful and versatile cooking oil trusted for sautéing, stir-frying, dressings, marinating, and grilling.  There are several varieties of olive oil available each offering its own distinct colors, aroma, and flavor.  Extra light or extra virgin olive oil is the  best for baking; either offers the most delicate aroma and subtle flavor that often compliments baked goods.  Olive oil contributes moistness to bake products and brings out the flavor of some ingredients.  It is especially good in recipes using spices and chocolate.  However, if one is new to olive oil and its flavor, starting with half butter/half olive oil or half vegetable oil/half olive oil is a good way to develop taste.

When olive oil is used in baking, the recipe becomes healthier because olive oil is lower in saturated fat than butter.  Additionally, it provides high levels of mono-unsaturated “good” fat and low levels of saturated “bad” fat, making it a better nutritional choice when compared to butter or margarine.  And since olive oil is a 3:4 ratio to butter/margarine, calories are saved, too.  Olive oil also adds extra antioxidants (natural chemicals that help protect cells) and vitamin E which contribute to heart health.  Vitamin E may also help to keep baked products fresher longer.

Olive oil is fragile and needs to be stored properly for the best flavor, quality, and health benefits.  Store it in a cool, dark place and not over or near the range or oven.  Heat, light, and air cause the oil to break down over time leading to off-flavor and nutrition loss.

Adding olive oil  to baked recipes is nothing new.  However, it may be new to you.  Experimenting and sampling is the only way to find out if the substitution is right for you.

Resource for  “click here”:  Olive Oil by Rosemary Rodibaugh, PhD, RD, LD, Professor (rrodibaugh@uaex.edu) and Katie Holland, MS, RD, Program Associate (kholland@uaex.edu), University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Extension and Research.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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