Baking Alternatives – Reducing Fat in Your Favorite Baked Goods Recipes

April 19th, 2010 by Angie Thayer

Fat provides color, texture, tenderness and moisture in our favorite desserts. So for those of us watching what we eat, how can you enjoy that delicious brownie without all the fat and calories from using oil or butter? As a Registered Dietitian, I can help you create healthy alternatives to traditional desserts such as cookies, cakes and brownies. Here are a few sweet ideas:

    • Applesauce MuffinsFruit purees are most commonly used as fat substitutes in baking. Applesauce, for example, works well in most cake recipes, muffins, gingerbread, and can replace at least half the fat in cookies. Mashed bananas or pureed peaches can be used in chocolate cakes, spice cakes or muffins. Pureed pears are a great fat substitute in coffee cakes and quick breads, while prune puree works best in spice cakes, muffins, scones, chocolate cakes, coffee cakes, crumb crusts, brownies and cookies. When modifying a recipe using fruit purees use about half as much of the fruit puree as the total amount of fat called for in the recipe. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use 1/2 cup of fruit puree. When mixing together, you can always add more puree if it looks a little dry.


    • Strange as it may sound, vegetable purees can also be used to replace butter or oil in baking. Cooked mashed squashes (like pumpkin) or sweet potatoes will replace half if not all the fat in most baked desserts, and are particularly suited for muffins, quick breads, gingerbread, fruit cakes and other dense cakes. Squash or sweet potatoes are an excellent choice if the recipe calls for cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or cloves, and are pleasing for fall or winter baking! You can use 3/4 as much of the vegetable puree as the total amount of fat called for in the recipe, and as with using fruit purees as a fat substitute, add a little extra puree if you think the batter looks too dry. As an added bonus, think about all of the vitamins and minerals you will get from the vegetable purees!


    • Fat free dairy products such as yogurt or buttermilk work quite well to replace fat in desserts and to decrease overall calories. You can use 1/2 as much of the substitute as the total amount of fat called for in the recipe. If the recipe calls for oil, you may use 3/4 of the substitute, adding slightly more if it is dry. Muffins, quick breads, cakes, chocolate baked goods, biscuits and scones are good recipes to use fat free yogurt or buttermilk as fat substitutes.


  • If you are wary of any of the suggested fat substitutes and just can’t bear to bake without oil or butter, using 2 egg whites for every egg called for in a recipe will decrease the fat in a recipe slightly.

Replacing fat in baked goods often requires a shorter baking time. Low fat batters can become dry and overdone very quickly. Therefore, ten minutes before the timer goes off test for doneness with a toothpick and continue to do so every few minutes until it is completely baked.

I really enjoyed your feedback and ideas on reducing sugar in baked goods – I’d love to hear your thoughts on successful fat substitutes in baking as well!

Angie Thayer Angie is a registered dietitian and has been the Food and Regulatory Specialist for Wilton Brands for the past 4 years. She wears many hats in this role – regulatory, PR, customer service and inventory to name a few. While wearing her PR hat, you may have seen her on local Chicago news stations where she is the guest chef. In Angie’s words, “I never have the same day twice and I wouldn’t change a thing. I love the people and the atmosphere at Wilton – who couldn’t when it’s always about celebrating.” In her spare time, Angie enjoys traveling to Europe, Mexico and around the US with her husband.

53 Replies

  1. paula says:

    just a quick question. if i am using a cake mix and donot want to use the oil they request, can I use something else in its place. thanks.

    • Debbie Barry says:

      For years I’ve been substituting unsweetened applesauce for the oil when using cake mixes and brownie mixes. Never had a problem with it-always turns out well!

  2. Angie Thayer says:

    Many times the back of the cake mix box will provide you with directions on a lower fat alternative. For example, Duncan Hines suggests decreasing the amount of water from 1 1/3 cups to 1 cup and replacing the 1/2 cup of oil with 1/3 cup of unsweetened applesauce.

  3. Lois says:

    Is there anyway to reduce calories in frostings?

  4. Angie Thayer says:

    The fat and sugar in icing is necessary for its texture, and ultimately, to keep the icing from falling off the cake and to make borders, embellishments and messages. There are reduced sugar commercial frostings on grocery store shelves, however, they have almost the same amount of Calories as the regular frosting. My best advice for you from a registered dietitian point of view is to reduce the amount of icing on the piece of cake you are eating by scraping some off. All foods can fit and remember, desserts are about celebration, fun and parties. It’s ok to have your cake (and icing too!).

  5. LIDIA FARANO says:

    On a recent episode of the DRS. they mentioned a healthier alternative to using crisco shortening in icing, but I missed the reference to the product name. Would you know what that product’s name is and where it might be purchased. I live in Canada
    and am a Wilton cake decorating instructor. Thank you for your
    time. Also I would like to say thatbtoo have used fruit puree’s in
    cake batter to reduce far. Recently I used pomogranite together with red wine and a little bit of galiano liquer. The taste was very
    subtle and very tasty.

  6. Lolita Bissoon says:

    I am a hindu and we do a lot of fasting so I would like to know what I can substitute for eggs when baking. I have tried the egg substitute but the texture of the cake is not that great. I do bake box cakes and omitt the eggs and it turns out great, however, I would like to bake pound cake from stratch without the eggs.

    • Angie Thayer says:

      Since there are no chemical leaveners (baking powder/soda) in traditional pound cake, eggs provide lift and structural stability. Removing the eggs may produce a less dense cake. However, try one
      of the following options to replace one egg:

      1/4 cup of pureed silken tofu

      1/4 cup mashed fruit (banana or applesauce) but increase leavening by 25-50%

      1 tsp baking soda and 1 tbsp vinegar

      1 tsp flaxseed powder with ¼ cup water – whisked/blended together

      I would recommend experimenting with the silken tofu substitute first as it will provide the density and moistness needed for a pound cake. Give a few of them a try to see which one provides the results closest to your likings. Happy Baking!

  7. Angie says:

    Instead of adding the eggs & oil that the box cake mixes call for just use one 12 oz. can of diet pop any flavor. This makes it low fat!! I learned this from one of my Weight Watchers meeting!!

    • Hina Yamauchi says:

      I read somewhere that you can substitute a package of tofu for eggs, oil, and water contents in the cake mixes. I tried it, and it was amazing. I didn’t think it compromised the taste of the cake either, but people who are foreign to soy might find it a bit beany. The cake turned out moist and delicious – beyond my expectations!

  8. MarkSpizer says:

    great post as usual!

  9. [...] Baking Alternatives – Reducing F&#1072t &#1110&#1495 Y&#959&#965r Favorite Baked Goods Recipes… [...]

  10. Dori says:

    Fruit sugar is a great sugar substitute…beet sugar, or fruit juice concentrate (white grape, apple or pear). Reduce the other liquid or use in place of milk. I use buttermilk powder instead of buttermilk and use fruit juice instead of water and leave out over half (if not all) of the sugar called for. It works best in cupcakes.

  11. Michelle says:

    I am using a cookie recipe to make a cake-like brownies and don’t want to use oil – how much applesauce should I use? Should it be sweetened or not?

    • Angie Thayer says:

      You will want to use unsweetened applesauce. As a side note, prune puree or strained prunes that you find in the baby food section also works well in brownies. Some people prefer to only replace half of the oil with applesauce (or prunes) but there is no issue with replacing all of the oil with applesauce (or prunes).

  12. Toni says:

    I want to develop my own healthy dessert recipes but I have no idea where to start. …I follow a vegan diet about 85% of the time and I want to make delicious cakes, brownies, and cookies but I can’t find anything that actually tastes good.
    … questions are:
    1. is there a place of reference or guidebook that will allow me to understand more about potential substitutes to make mom’s traditional recipes and make them my healthy own? I think I need to know a little more than to use 1/2 the fruit puree in place of oil. I want to know what the particular fruits, veggies, or other substitutes do in the food. Do they make it sweeter, moister, take bitter away, compensate for another product?
    2.If anyone has any recipes or knows where I can get such recipes, please share!!! …hopefully I can find something good enough to make my own health food bakery that serves nutritional needs with bakery taste!!
    thank you!

    • Angie Thayer says:

      If you do a google search with the words “low fat cake recipe substitutions” or “vegan cake recipes” you will find several recipe ideas as well as information on how the various ingredient substitutions will work in your recipe.

  13. Altug says:

    Awesome, Angie!

    Google’d oil alternatives for baking and your article is perfect! Going to try some of your suggestions, especially the vegetable puree’s! Sweet potato sounds VERY interesting in a muffin mix.

    I may even make a video on my YouTube channel if it turns out well! (Which is never a given when I’m cooking! lol!)

    Thanks again :)

  14. Gigi Plakke says:

    I dont know why i am unable to access this forum on my mobile. I had to use my pc.

  15. Emma says:

    When you say sub 3/4 oil for fat free yoghurt, does that mean omit oil completely and use 3/4 amount of yoghurt or use 1/4 the amount oil and 3/4 amount yoghurt? Thanks

    • Angie Thayer says:

      Yes, I can see how my comment could be confusing. What you should do is cut the suggested amount of oil or shortening by half and add ¾ cup of yogurt for every cup of oil or shortening that you remove from the recipe. For example, instead of 1 cup oil, use 1/2 cup oil and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons yogurt.

  16. Ellen says:

    Do you have any references to recommend for quantity baking recipes or guidelines. I work at a large facility cooking for 450 people. Will the guidelines for substituing fruit purees or yogurt for 1/2 of the fat work across the board for quantity recipes as well?

    • Angie Thayer says:

      Unfortunately, we haven’t developed a low fat recipe using the techniques I noted above for such a large group of people. However, according to “Taste of Home”:

      “Reduced- and low-fat batters are more sensitive to overmixing, overbaking, ingredient substitutions, improper measuring and oven temperatures. Plus, when you change the amount of one ingredient, often other ingredients need to be adjusted as well.”

      And, based on my experience using Food for Fifty during my college years I believe you will have to modify the recipe more so than following the instructions I noted above.

  17. wanda brown says:

    im looking for a really good sugarfree cake mix or recipes

    • Angie Thayer says:

      We haven’t tested any sugar free recipes in the Wilton test kitchen, therefore, you can find tested recipes if you go to a “no calorie sweetener” website such as or You can also check out the Wilton blog post, “Baking Alternatives – Sugar Substitutes”, for ideas you may be able to use with your existing recipes. You can also do a google search for sugar free recipes and the web will pull up several different options. Once you start your search you’ll find that the ideas are endless.

  18. Pat Ellingson says:

    Any suggestions on how to reduce the fat in a savory biscuit?

  19. […] more information here on the Wilton Baking site for how to use the alternatives in your baked […]

  20. […] more information here on the Wilton Baking site for how to use the alternatives in your baked […]

  21. […] Reducing Fat in your Favorite Baked Goods - Wilton (they include vegetable purees, fruit purees, yogurt, buttermilk, extra egg whites) […]

  22. Lauren Perryman says:

    I have to make a cake, the mix (golden butter recipe) asks to use 3 eggs, cup of water, and 1/3 cup of butter. What can I use instead of butter? I have heard banana works, but how much of the banana and will it give the cake a banana flavor?

    Thank you!

    • Angie Thayer says:

      You couldn’t have come to a better place for some answers! You can use fruit or vegetable purees or even yogurt as full or partial substitutes for the fat in a recipe. However, one thing to remember is that baking is a science and all of the ingredients work off of one another so it is best to do some trial baking with the recipe prior to making it for the real event. If you are worried about the fruit or vegetable flavor dominating your cake you could use plain Greek yogurt. You would replace half the butter with half as much yogurt. Therefore, using your recipe you would use 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp of butter plus 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp of yogurt. This doesn’t completely eliminate the fat but helps lower it.

  23. Stacey Rhodus says:

    When replacing butter with sweet potatoes, how is the puree prepared and how much is substitued for oil? Thanks!

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  25. tiffany says:

    I have tons of baby food but my baby does like to eat them anymore. I have heard of people using baby food in muffins but I cant find the ratio of baby food needed in a muffin recipe. My whole family would enjoy muffins and it could be extra healthy with more fruit and veggies. Do you have a great basic recipe for muffins that would use baby food?

    • Angie Thayer says:

      We haven’t tested a specific recipe incorporating baby food into muffins, however, you can take your favorite recipe and substitute anywhere from 1/2 to the full amount of oil called for with the fruit and/or vegetable puree. I would recommend starting with substituting 1/2 of the oil with baby food so you can experiment and determine which result is most liked by the family.

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