Butter is an essential part of many traditional cookie recipes. If you want to bake but don’t have any on hand, or if your dietary requirements prevent you from using it, coconut products might be the answer. Coconut milk can be used in some recipes to provide moisture and moderate levels of fat, but coconut oil makes the best direct butter substitute when creating tasty paleo- and vegan-friendly versions of your favorite cookie recipes.
Manufacturers create coconut milk by grating coconut meat and soaking it in water. They press the mixture and extract the liquid, creating a rich substance with plenty of flavor. This coconut product makes an excellent substitute for dairy cream, but its high moisture level means you can’t use it instead of butter. This ingredient is about 10 to 20 percent fat and remains liquid at room temperature, unlike butter. Add coconut milk to cookie recipes that use milk, light cream or half and half to create a soft, cakelike treat with a pronounced coconut flavor.
Coconut oil makes the best direct substitute for butter, though it might react a little differently. This occurs because coconut oil is 100 percent fat, while butter is about 80 percent fat and 20 percent water. This oil is also capable of withstanding higher temperatures than butter and is less likely to go rancid. Despite the differences, you can replace butter with coconut oil cup for cup in your favorite cookie recipes.
A thicker relative of coconut milk, coconut cream also works in cookies. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, it usually contains about 20 percent fat. Concentrated forms of coconut cream can rival heavy cream, however, with up to 35 percent fat. Use this ingredient instead of heavier dairy products in cookie recipes that call for whipping or double cream. Some brands contain extra sugar, which should be noted on the label, so you may need to decrease the level of other sweeteners in your recipe accordingly.
Substituting coconut products for butter can affect the flavor of your cookies. For instance, some coconut milks and creams impart a strong coconut taste. So does minimally processed coconut oil. If you dislike this effect, consider using refined coconut oil, which is extremely mild. It works well in recipes in which a coconut taste might be undesirable, such as butterscotch cookies.
References and ResourcesThe Kitchn: Recipe: Chewy Chocolate Coconut Cookies
Marcus Samuelsson: Ingredient Comparison: Coconut Oil Versus Butter
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Proposed Draft Standard for Aqueous Coconut Products
The Times-Picayune: Coconut Oil: When Saturated Fat May Be Good for You
U.S. Department of Agriculture: Oil, Coconut
Gourmet Sleuth: Coconut Milk
U.S. Department of Agriculture: United States Standards for Grades of Butter