Baking with Fruit & Veggies for Fat

As prime baking season approaches quickly, many home cooks are laying in their supplies—among them the typical fats used in baking such as oil, shortening and butter. Adding fruits and vegetables to your baked goods (and removing some of the fat in the recipe) will add fiber, protein and additional nutrients that fats don’t contain. Many cherished holiday recipes can be tweaked to contain less fat with a simple substitution—without sacrificing taste or texture. Others do rely on butter for flavor and crisp texture, such as shortbread, spritz cookies and cutout sugar cookies–these would not be good choices for trying out a butter sub! Swapping out fat for more healthful ingredients isn’t difficult, but it does some comfort with experimentation.

Honey Spice Bundt Cake
Honey Spice Bundt Cake / Lynn Gardner / CC BY 2.0

Choose your recipe wisely.

There are lots of ways to replace fat with fruit and veggies in baked goods. First off, realize that certain recipes lend themselves to easy substitutions. These include quick breads like banana, pumpkin and cranberry; muffins; coffee cakes such us carrot cake, spice cake and gingerbread (though not gingerbread cutout cookies); brownies and chocolate cake.

Don’t drop all the fat.

Secondly, eliminating ALL the fat from a recipe often does not result in the desired final product. Why? Because fat contributes flavor as well as texture to baked goods, helping to keep them tender and moist. Start by eliminating 1/4 to 1/2 of the fat called for in the recipe—you’ll have better success. Also, be aware that the baking time for lower-fat baked goods is generally shorter than usual—they dry out faster. Check for doneness at the low end of the specified time range, or even 5-10 minutes earlier than called for in the recipe. You can always bake a little longer, but you can’t unbake something!

Keep at it!

Finally, if it doesn’t work out the first time: try, try again! If you want to try a fat-reduction technique on a recipe, give yourself time to experiment. In other words, don’t try it the night before the party or the day of the cookie swap! That’s too much pressure. Give yourself time to try a few variations and play with different ingredients and proportions. Experimental baking can be a lot of fun, but not when you’re pressed for time.


Reduce these ingredients by up to 1/2 the amount called for by the recipe.

  • Butter
  • Oil
  • Shortening


Add these ingredients in an amount equal to the fat you eliminated from the recipe.

  • Pumpkin puree (fresh or canned, but not pie filling)
  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • Pureed beets (fresh or from canned/rinsed—especially nice in red velvet cake or other chocolate cake)
  • Mashed white beans (cooked or canned/rinsed—good in light-colored quick breads)
  • Mashed black beans (cooked or canned/rinsed black beans—good in brownies)
  • Pureed carrots or squash (cooked fresh or plain baby food)
  • Pureed baby food prunes
If you enjoyed this post, don’t miss Part 2: Less Sugar, More Fruit!

Try these Guiding Stars recipes that use veggies and fruit to get started!