| Side-by-Side |

Oil vs. Butter

Photography By Sina Mizrahi

When Rosh Chodesh Adar comes along, my kids get excited to make hamantaschen. They have fun with the process of rolling, cutting, filling, and pinching, and there are sprinkles everywhere! I usually resort to a simple, oil-based recipe because it’s easier to pull off on a busy afternoon. It’s tasty, but I wonder if softening butter and using that instead would be a better choice. I often get asked about baking substitutes, and I wanted to explore this major one: oil versus butter. The impact that the fat makes on baked goods ranges from the flavor it imparts to the texture it contributes.

Here’s a little tidbit: Butter is a saturated fat, which is why it’s solid at room temperature. Most oils (canola, olive, soybean, sunflower, safflower, etc.) are unsaturated fats. Since butter is solid at room temperature, it’s great for creaming with sugar, which aerates the batter or dough and gives it a light, fluffy texture that can’t be accomplished with a liquid fat.

Butter consists of 80 percent fat and 20 percent water, while oil is 100 percent fat, so when substituting butter with oil, reduce the amount of oil by 15 percent.

I did slightly less for this experiment so that the oil should fit into a standard cup measurement. (13 cup=0.33 whereas 15 percent of 12 cup butter is 0.4. Call me a nerd, but accuracy is important!)

Let’s explore the results.



  • ⅓ cup oil or ½ cup softened butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ⅓ tsp salt
  • filling of your choice (raspberry jam, apricot jam, poppy seeds, chocolate spread, etc.)
Method 1: Oil

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla on medium speed. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and mix on low until no streaks of flour remain.

Method 2: Butter

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes, scraping the sides once halfway. Add eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add vanilla, then add flour, baking powder, and salt and mix on low until no streaks of flour remain.

Gather the dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30–60 minutes to make it easier to roll out.

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Flour your surface and roll out the dough until it’s 14-inch thick. Using a cookie cutter or glass, cut out circles. Fill with your favorite filling and pinch into a triangle shape. Place on a baking sheet.

Repeat with remaining dough. You may need to reroll the dough several times to use it up.

Bake for 15–17 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool completely. Enjoy!

My Verdict

I can’t pick a clear winner. The oil-based hamantaschen were good on their own and had a nice texture, but when compared with the butter-based hamantaschen, they didn’t quite measure up. The buttery one had a better texture, and the buttery flavor was subtle yet impactful. I prefer butter-based baked goods, but when I gave it to my neighbor to blind taste test, she preferred the oil ones. So make both and let me know which one you prefer!


(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 884)

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