Using Applesauce as a Butter or Oil Substitute: Cupcake Project Substitution Lab Test 2

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Applesauce Instead of Butter and Oil

Cupcake Project Substitution Lab

Test 2: Using Applesauce as a Butter or Oil Substitute

Introduction / Purpose

Many of you have asked me about using applesauce as a butter or oil substitute to cut back on fat. With holiday baking season upon us, it would be great to know if that really works. So, I decided to take it to the Cupcake Project Substitution Lab (a.k.a. my kitchen) and to run some tests. How would the substitution affect the consistency of the dessert? Is applesauce a viable alternative to butter and oil? My hypothesis was that the substitution would be successful, but the texture would be compromised and the applesauce might lend an apple taste to the desserts.


For my experiments, I used organic, unsweetened applesauce. (View on Amazon) [paid link]


I used two tried and true recipes, my vanilla cupcakes and Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies, and ran two tests for each recipe. In the first test, I replaced all of the fat in the recipe with applesauce. In the second test, I replaced half of the fat in the recipe with applesauce:

  • Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes call for 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup oil.
    • In Ultimate Vanilla A, I used 1/2 cup applesauce and no butter or oil.
    • In Ultimate Vanilla B, I used 1/4 cup applesauce and 1/4 cup butter (no oil). I chose to keep the butter and not the oil because butter adds more richness and flavor to the cupcakes.
  • Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies call for 1 cup of butter.
    • In Cookie A, I used 1 cup of applesauce.
    • In Cookie B, I used 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup applesauce.


applesauce chart 1

applesauce chart 2

Results and Discussion

Cupcakes: The applesauce had a huge impact on Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes. When I used all applesauce, the cupcakes didn’t dome, they were dense and rubbery, and they tasted like a sad apple muffin. I was generous when I gave the taste a 3. When I used only half applesauce, the taste and texture were passable; there was no discernible apple taste. The cupcakes were a bit more dense and there was wasn’t as light of a crumb as the Ultimate Vanilla cupcake. With some frosting slathered on top, you could serve it to a crowd and surprise everyone when you mention that the cupcakes were made with half the fat.

Cookies: I gave the full applesauce version’s texture a 3 as compared to the texture of a typical Toll House cookie – there’s no crunch and there are no cookie crumbs. However, if you like chewy/cakey cookies, skip the fat in Toll House cookies and go 100% applesauce. The taste is almost as good as the original, the main difference being the soft texture. When I used half applesauce, the texture remained soft but the exterior of the cookies had little bit of crisp.


Based on the results of this study, I would avoid substituting applesauce for butter or oil in cake recipes. If I were desperate to cut some fat, I would only replace a little bit of the fat with applesauce (half or less). I would only replace butter or oil with applesauce in cookies if I wanted chewy/cakey cookies. In that case, I would definitely use applesauce and cheer for a simple way to create a tasty low-fat treat!

[Although not part of this study, I can say that it works really well as a substitute in breads like my applesauce zucchini bread.]

Past Labs

Test 1: Using Mayo as an Egg Substitute

Did you enjoy Cupcake Project Substitution Lab? Let me know in the comments. I would love your input and suggestions for future tests.

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  1. Lee Annsays:

    Would a coconut or almond oil be a good substitute, and not as bad for you as vegetable oil? Thank you.

  2. Reenasays:

    Thankyou for taking the time to post your findings. I really wanted to know how applesauce would feel ND taste like in cakes and cookies and you really helped. Thankyou so much. Very detailed and informative.

  3. Donna Barstowsays:

    Thanks for doing all the work for me. :) I prefer cakey brownies & cookies, so a little applesauce sounds fine.

  4. Jessicasays:

    Wow i love this scientific approach! I was looking for apple sauce substitution in cookies for butter and this absolutely helped. Thank you!

  5. Karen Msays:

    I’m planning to substitute butter with applesauce in my banana bread recipe. I’m not sure how it will work out, but I can always try to blame it on the bread maker! :)

  6. Missysays:

    I’ve found that applesauce works well as a butter replacement when I make gluten-free recipes. ;)

  7. Cynthiasays:

    When you substitute one ingredient with another, the entire recipe has to be altered. I run a successful business baking only with unsweetened applesauce and stevia. Baking is a science, remember to keep the ratio of dry ingredients to wet ingredients in tact. Happy baking.

  8. Ingasays:

    Applesauce is used as an egg substitute by vegans. Have never heard of it being used as a fat substitute, but am not surprised at the results. I would be more interested in experiments where is has replaced eggs.

  9. Cynthiasays:

    I absolutely loved this post! I teach middle school science and an elective called Kitchen Science. Our current cooking project is the exact question you so eloquently used the scientific process to answer. I can’t wait to share your results, after we conclude our experiment. Thank you for your post!

  10. shannonsays:

    Stef, i really like this series: the graphs are a great way to visualize what happens to different aspects of a baked good once you start switching things out. I don’t typically do tons of substitutions (save for the occasional greek yogurt for sour cream switch) but it’s interesting to learn what happens when you do.

  11. Stephanie @ Daisy Bitessays:

    This was so interesting! And I agree with many of the comments – applesauce may still be a good option in other cake recipes. I liked the graphs. Very scientific, haha, which I appreciate as a scientist. :P Anyway, My mom has been hounding me to make her some healthier baked goods! Using applesauce might be the ticket (at least for some cookies)!

  12. priscilla pohsays:

    Thanks for running the study on Applesauce vs. butter or oil for cupcakes and cookies which ultimately put my curiously to rest.

    I bought a bottle of applesauce sometime ago thinking I could use it to replace butter or oil for my cake recipes. With your study, I am now more clear about the results on cakes and cookies.

    Stef, do you have other recommendations for usage on the bottle of applesauce I have since that now I do not think I will use it for cakes neither cookies?

    Priscilla Poh

  13. Julianne @ Beyond Frostingsays:

    Thanks for sharing this! I will be posting on my FB soon. The Tips and techniques are super helpful!

  14. Joanna Norlandsays:

    Interesting. On another topic, could you write something about the science of what makes cupcakes dome? I’d love to know

  15. lindasays:

    I replace butter with a yogurt and oil mix, natural yogurt, and some oil (as long as it doesn’t have too much flavour) or butter. I whip/ mix them together in the mixer before I add the sugar to cream it and it comes out fine. I tend to add a little more baking powder and I have been told that they do not last as well as cakes made with the full fat, as they dry out, but mine never last that long. When the eggs go in it does curdle a little, but when you start adding the flour it is fine.

  16. Silviasays:

    I have to disagree with your findings.
    1. To me, the whole point of cookies is the crunchy-crumbly texture. Adding watery ingredients, such as applesauce just turns them into sad little muffins- soft, dense and cake-like.
    2. For the cake test you chose a very delicately balanced, super fluffy cake. Any change to this particular recipe will be terrible.
    There are other cakes, less fluffy, which work just fine with applesauce. Quick breads are a perfect example. Muffins (the quick-bread of cupcakes) will also work. Chocolate-based cakes, which tend to be a little heavy, will also be good.
    3. I do agree that replacing up to half the fat with applesauce is better than replacing all the fat. 100% applesauce produces something dense and rubbery. I do NOT recommend it.

    Love your site!

    • Rachelsays:

      I find crunchy cookies to be unappetizing, I will be using applesauce in my cookies! Thank you for your article!!

  17. Jordan O.says:

    Have you considered substituting yogurt? I used it to make some brownies that turned out very cakey, which leads me to believe that it could potentially yield cupcakes comparable to the original.

  18. VickiTsays:

    Years ago I was experimenting with this myself and I found instead of using applesauce that using pureed prunes worked really well. The texture of those vs. applesauce was much closer to that of the butter or fats being replaced. I started replacing using baby food, but that was more expensive and I saw a larger jar I think it was Sunsweet of pureed prunes so I started using that instead. I did find cookies were easier to replace than other baked goods as you found. Maybe you can try using the pureed prunes to see how that compares to the applesauce in your tests?

  19. Beckysays:

    I have subbed applesauce for butter in brownies and muffins with good results.

  20. Kirstensays:

    Applesauce is a lot wetter then the fat components it replaces therefor, especiall the cookies, might be better with extra flour/dry ingredients.

  21. Sharon NotYourAverageCupcakesays:

    I would love to see you sub sugar for a natural sugar-free substitute (like something erythritol or stevia based), and also would love to see you sub baking soda/apple cider vinegar for eggs. I use that sub all the time and would love your opinion and test results!

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