By Nereesha Patel; image from Freepik.com
Because the price of butter is insane right now – if you can even find it…
Contrary to what naysayers may think, butter is packed with all sorts of health benefits. It’s rich in an absorbable form of vitamin A necessary for maintaining thyroid and adrenal health, it contains antioxidants that protect against weakening arteries, and it helps to keep gastro-intestinal infections at bay. Butter is also an extremely popular baking ingredient, giving baked goods their fluffy, moist textures and tasty flavours.
Right now, however, South Africa’s going through a butter shortage. Lower milk production and the effects of the Cape drought have been its major contributors, causing butter prices to skyrocket. In fact, according to global market research from Nielsen, the retail butter price was almost 27 percent higher in March this year than in April 2016. Additionally, both supply and demand have played a part in this shortage, as consumers and Banting enthusiasts alike have taken notice of the benefits of butter. This has led to South Africans switching from low-fat to full-cream milk and other higher fat dairy products, which in turn has led to the reduction of cream quantity available for making butter.
Fortunately, you can swap butter out for other dairy-free substitutes to use for in your favourite baked or cooked meals. These seven alternatives contain healthy fats and a whole host of nutrients, perfect for any recipe that calls for butter.
From baking and oven-top cooking to spreading on toast, unrefined coconut oil goes with just about any food. It can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio for unsalted butter in any baking recipe and its rich, tropical flavour can do wonders for the taste of cakes, cookies and other baked goods (if you’re not keen on a coconut flavour, you can opt to use a more refined brand of coconut oil). It also contains saturated fats including lauric acid that helps to raise HDL cholesterol (the good kind), speed up your metabolism and help to clear acne. Coconut oil is a great substitute, but just like with butter, you should always try to consume it in moderation.
Olive oil is not only used in salad dressing – you can also use it on bread, grilled meat, in pasta sauces and foods that have a fruity or savoury quality such as muffins. It can be substituted for butter at a 3:4 ratio. According to the American Heart Association, olive oil is one of the better saturated fats for your heart, plus it contains zero cholesterol. Extra virgin olive oil is loaded with antioxidants such as oleic acids and oleocanthal that can help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and prevent unwanted blood clotting. Watch out for olive oils that are labelled light or blend because those aren’t considered pure virgin olive oils.
Whether you use it as a spread for your bread, in smoothies or for baking, avocado has a creamy consistency and a deliciously mild flavour. Like coconut oil, you can substitute avocado for butter in a 1:1 ratio. It’s a superfood, meaning it’s packed with nutrients galore: monounsaterated fats to regulate blood sugar levels, loads of fibre to facilitate proper bowel regularity and phytonutrients to reduce the risk of inflammation. It also helps to reduce the risk of cancer, improve your heart’s health and promote healthy hair, skin and eyes – go, avocado, go!
This is a great low-fat substitute for butter, giving baked goods such as cakes, cookies and muffins a rich, dense texture. Simply substitute an equal amount of mashed bananas for the butter in a recipe. Potassium is its key nutrient, which aids in lowering high blood pressure, reducing the risk of stroke and preventing muscle cramps after you exercise. They’re also a good pick-me-up snack as it can provide you with a quick source of energy before a work-out or if you’re in a slump. Be careful – if you use bananas instead of butter in your recipes, this may reduce the cooking time by up to 25 percent, so watch your baked goods carefully.
Coffee cakes, muffins and plain yogurt are just some of the things that you can add pumpkin purée to. All you have to do is replace ¾ of the butter that’s called for. Not only does it contain potassium and fibre, it also has vitamin K: this assists in helping blood to clot and preventing excessive bleeding. Plain cookies and cupcakes may pick up on the pumpkin flavour and colouring, so if you’re making a light-coloured or vanilla cake, you may want to reconsider adding the purée.
For cake-like recipes that could do with some sweetening up, look no further than apple sauce. It especially works well as a glaze on roasted meat and it lightens the caloric density of baked goods. Half the amount of butter can be replaced with this fat-free delight for a cake’s crumbly texture, or you can replace all the butter for a denser, more moist texture. Nutrients include fibre and vitamin C, the latter which is involved in iron absorption, strengthening the immune system and maintaining the development of connective tissues including bones and cartilage. Apple sauce is available at the shops, but you can also try making your own: slowly heat some chopped apple mixed with a little water in the microwave, then mash it with a fork.
Onions need sautéing? Need to keep your food juicy and tender? Try bone broth, or vegetable broth if you’re keen on a meatless option. Throw a cube or one teaspoon of bouillon soup into your pan before adding your dish’s main ingredient. Not only does it add a distinct flavour to your food, it’s a source of natural collagen that can help protect your joints. The caloric content of bone broth is low, but its sodium content is quite high, so use it sparingly if you can.