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The kids are excited to help you bake a cake and are fully decked out in aprons and chefs' hats as they gather around the kitchen counter. Or, it's game night, and you're tasked with making goodies to nosh on, and the brownie mix in the pantry beckons. Being the good cook that you are, you usually lay out all the ingredients ahead of time. Plus, it's an important lesson for the kids and prevents last-minute panic, especially when you discover that you're out of oil – and it's an essential ingredient in your recipe. What to do? Punt! Find an oil substitute and get to work!

Why Oil Is Important

Baking is a science, as is all cooking. It's the blending of ingredients to create a result that's the combination of those ingredients, yet in a totally different form. Oil adds moisture to whatever you're baking. It binds all your ingredients together in different ways, tampers the gluten in the flour so your result is fluffy and tender, and keeps the gasses from being released from the baking soda or baking powder.

While canola oil is the standard in baking, substitutions are plentiful, and for the most part, can be added to a recipe one-for-one measured against the oil. Coconut, avocado, grapeseed and sunflower are the oils often touted as good substitutes, and they bring a healthier element to your baking that's worth noting.

Calorie Counting When Baking

Granted, when you're baking goodies, you're not usually counting calories. But there is a middle ground that's covered when substituting other products for oil. Yes, oil does add calories, but not so many that your hips are going to flare after eating one brownie. But if you want to add to the calories you walked off when you exercised this morning, substitutes, as minimal as they seem, do add up to a healthier daily intake.

Substitutes for Oil When Baking

If your recipe calls for oil, think applesauce! Get the pureed kind, not the lumpy version, and use it one-for-one when replacing the oil. It'll keep your baking moist and won't disturb the flavor too much. In fact, it'll probably add some delicate sweetness to whatever you are making.

Other fruit purees and vegetable purees also substitute for oil, but add time to your process. If you need to empty your refrigerator of some vegetables or fruit before they grow fuzz, whip some up and make bread or muffins.

Butter! It won't subtract from the calories when using it as a substitute, but you're sure to have a stick or two in the refrigerator. You can even use margarine for the same result. Melt the butter or margarine before adding it to your recipe. The flavor is enhanced, and the texture of your baked goods will be fluffy. They'll also be tasty.

Try apple butter for a flavor combination that boasts the best of both substitute ingredients! What you don't want to do is eliminate all the fat that oils bring to the mix, or your baked product will end up dry and flavorless.

Buttermilk. Sour cream. Yogurt. Mayonnaise. Think outside the box when searching for a substitute for oil. Some may alter the flavor of what you're baking, but the new result may taste even better than what you would have made with the oil. A word of caution when using buttermilk: Mix 3/4 cup of buttermilk with 1/4 cup melted butter when replacing oil in your recipe.

About the Author

Jann Seal

My seventh grade English teacher didn't realize what she was unleashing when she called me her "writer," but the word crept into my brain. I DID become a writer. Of advertising copy, dialogue and long-term story for several network soap operas, magazine articles and high-calorie contents for the cookbook: Cooking: It AIn't Rocket Science, a bestseller on Amazon! When I'm not writing, I'm cooking!