Swapping butter for olive oil is a simple way to get heart-healthy saturated fats in your diet. A tablespoon of olive oil contains more than twice as much monounsaturated fat as the same amount of butter.
And, unlike butter, olive oil contains phytochemicals, compounds found only in plants that help protect against disease. People who regularly consume olive oil, over other types of oil, are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Remember, the point is to replace the saturated fat you currently eat with unsaturated fat, not add additional fat to your diet. Like any fat, olive oil is high in calories, so pouring it on too thick will inhibit weight loss.Any time you substitute olive oil for butter, you’re making a healthier choice.
Make the Switch
Because they’re both fats, it’s possible to swap olive oil for butter in many recipes without negatively affecting the results.
One thing to consider: Since olive oil is 100% fat (whereas butter contains water and milk solids in addition to fat), substituting at a 1:1 ratio can leave food a bit greasy or gooey. Using 25% less oil than you would butter makes for the best results.
Here’s a handy conversion chart:
|1 teaspoon||¾ teaspoon|
|2 teaspoons||1 ½ teaspoons|
|1 tablespoons||2 ½ teaspoons|
|2 tablespoons||1 ½ tablespoons|
|¼ cup||3 tablespoons|
|⅓ cup||¼ cup|
|½ cup||¼ cup + 2 tablespoons|
|⅔ cup||½ cup|
|¾ cup||½ cup + 1 tablespoon|
|1 cup||¾ cup|
|2 cups||1 1/2 cups|
Because olive oil has light, grassy flavor, it’s particularly delicious in savory dishes. If a sweeter dish has complex flavors (think carrot raisin muffins), it can also works well.
That grassy flavor is harder to hide in unhealthy baked goods made with refined flour and sugar, because they have so little flavor. Needless to say, if a recipe calls for “creamed” butter that’s whipped to produce a light, airy texture, using olive oil would be a disaster.
By far, the simplest way to swap olive oil for butter is when greasing a pan or seasoning vegetables or intact grains. Skip the butter, and drizzle on 1 Tbsp of olive oil per serving instead.
Shopping & Storage Tips
Olive oil tastes best when fresh. Check the “best by” date on the bottle, and buy only as much as you’re likely to consume within 6 months.
Choose extra-virgin olive oil (a.k.a. EVOO). EVOO is richer in phytochemicals than other types of olive oil. And with a smoke point of 410 degrees, it’s good for most cooking methods.
Go for dark glass bottles. Neither clear glass nor plastic adequately protect olive oil from damaging light and air.
Store it in a dark, cool cabinet. Olive oil will go rancid more quickly if left on the counter, where it will be exposed to sunlight, or next to the stove, where it will get hot. The fridge is okay if storing for a long time between uses — it takes about an hour for it to return to normal after clouding up in the cold.
Olive oil in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies and intervention trials. Nutr Diabetes. 2017 Apr 10;7(4):e262. doi: 10.1038/nutd.2017.12.