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The 5 Best Substitutes for Oleo

Family recipes are the stuff of legends.

Family cooking traditions are like a time portal, handed down through the generations.

Beloved family restaurants have been founded on these time-worn treasures.

However, knowledge gets lost over time, and ingredients can change names with location.

Oleo is mentioned in many recipes around certain parts, but you probably won’t find it under that name in the supermarket.

Oleo is simply margarine, and there is no difference between the two other than the name.

This fat is not the healthiest ingredient to use in cooking, so here are the best substitutes for oleo.

What is Oleo?

what is oleo

Oleo is a shorter name for oleomargarine, a spread used for baking, cooking, and flavoring; it is most often referred to as margarine and sometimes as marge.

French chemist Hippolyte Mege Mouries created oleomargarine in 1869 as an alternative to butter.

The Emperor of France, Louis Napoleon III, wanted a cheap substitute for butter, intended for the military and poor.

Oleomargarine was originally made from tallow, a form of fat from cows or sheep.

With an increasing demand for margarine, manufacturers began to use vegetable oil to produce it.

Since the 1950s, nearly all margarine is made from vegetable oils, suitable for vegan diets.

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The 5 Best Substitutes for Oleo

1 – Butter


“With enough butter, anything is good” –Julia Child.

Oleo was made as a substitute for butter; if you can’t or don’t want to use oleo, then butter is the best replacement.

Most recipes will list butter instead of margarine or some other fat, and butter is also more widely available.

Many baked goods rely on butter’s flavor; its substitutes may not yield the best results.

You might say that anything oleo can do, butter does better.

Health-wise, butter has high saturated fat and cholesterol content.

Some studies have linked this to an increased risk of heart disease, but this is unproven.

Butter from grass-fed cows contains healthy nutrients such as vitamin K-2 and Omega-3.

Butter can be substituted for oleo at a 1:1 ratio.

2 – Cream Cheese

cream cheese

Cream cheese has lower fat content than either butter or margarine, so it is a very healthy alternative as a spread or topping.

It is made from milk and cream, but dairy-free options exist, making it suitable for vegan diets.

For recipes that are not affected by reduced fat, you can use melted cream cheese to replace oleo.

Cream cheese does well as a substitute for butter or oleo in sauces.

For baking, the reduced fat content of cream cheese will affect the recipe.

For best results, you will also need to use oil along with the cream cheese to compensate for this.

An example ratio is 1 cup butter to ½ cup cream cheese and ½ cup almond oil.

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3 – Lard


Similar to oleo’s origin, lard is made from animal fat, the difference being lard is made from pigs.

It is made by cooking a fatty cut of pork to separate the liquid fat from the solid; that liquid is lard.

It was commonly used in cooking throughout history but was replaced in popularity by butter and vegetable shortening.

Unlike oleomargarine, lard is not a trans fat: which is the most unhealthy kind.

Lard is already used in many cooking recipes, especially for savory dishes.

Many bakers prefer to use lard instead of butter in pie crusts.

Lard has a lower melting point than butter and has a neutral taste; no pork flavor remains.

Lard can be substituted for oleo at a 1:1 ratio.

4 – Olive Oil & Coconut Oil

olive oil coconut oil

Olive oil is a staple in Mediterranean cooking; Italian dishes are especially famous for their use.

Olive oil has many proven health benefits, such as having anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

Coconut oil has been used for thousands of years in Asia, where coconut trees are plentiful.

Coconut oil is increasing in popularity today due to its health benefits and use in beauty care.

When used in baking, olive oil can be used for herb loaves of bread and other savory dishes, as it has a distinct flavor.

Coconut oil is more suited for cakes and other sweet dishes, as it has a more neutral flavor.

Olive oil can be substituted for oleo at a 3:4 ratio.

Coconut oil can be substituted for oleo at a 1:1 ratio.

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5 – Avocado Oil & Avocado Butter

avocado oil avocado butter

Avocados have a rich, creamy texture and are extraordinarily good for you.

Avocado products have become more popular due to our increasing awareness of nutrition.

Avocado oil is made from the pulp of avocados and has as many health benefits as the fruit.

You can make avocado butter at home with fresh avocados and unsalted butter.

As a spread, avocado butter is delicious and nutritious.

You can easily substitute any oil with avocado oil for cooking.

It’s perfect for sautéing, roasting, pan-frying, baking, and barbecuing meats.

You can use it for mayonnaise, salad dressings, or greasing a pan.

Avocado oil gives a mild flavor in baking and can be used at a 1:1 ratio for oleo.


You can buy margarine from the supermarket for any recipe that lists oleo.

However, oleo is not the best or healthiest ingredient for cooking.

Butter will do as well or better for any recipe because it is the ingredient that oleo was made as a substitute for.

There are also healthier and more exciting options too.

Olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil are all healthy alternatives when you need lighter grease or fat for cooking.

Cream cheese for spreads and sauces, lard for baking.

Be free to experiment with your recipes to give them your personal touch.

That’s how all good family recipes come about.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the best substitute for oleo?

Margarine is the best substitute for oleo, as it mimics the texture and flavor of butter closely.

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It can also be used in baking recipes that call for oleo or butter interchangeably.

Other options include vegetable shortening, applesauce, nut butters, avocado puree, and Greek yogurt.

What is the best substitute for margarine?

Coconut oil is a great substitute for margarine. It has a neutral taste and high smoke point, making it perfect for baking and sautéing.

Unlike margarine, coconut oil has plenty of health benefits such as containing healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.

For an even healthier option, you could use olive oil or avocado oil.

Can I substitute oleo for butter?

Yes, oleo and butter can be used interchangeably in many recipes.

However, bear in mind that oleo has a higher water content than butter which may affect the texture of your baked goods.

If you are using oleo instead of butter, it is important to reduce the amount of liquid or moisture added to the recipe.

What does oleo taste like?

Oleo has a mild, buttery flavor. It is very similar in taste to butter and margarine and can be used interchangeably in recipes that call for either one of these products.

It is slightly sweeter than butter but not as sweet as margarine.

Oleo has a smooth, creamy texture which makes it great for spreading and baking.

Yield: 4 Servings

The 5 Best Substitutes for Oleo

The 5 Best Substitutes for Oleo
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • Butter
  • Cream Cheese
  • Lard
  • Olive Oil & Coconut Oil
  • Avocado Oil & Avocado Butter


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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