What Are the Best Tips for Low-Fat Baking?

Megan Shoop

Those seeking a healthy diet or trying to lose weight often try to consume less fat, especially animal fats. Some may think this means avoiding pastries, but that’s not necessarily the case. Low-fat baking tips can include substituting healthier, moisture-rich ingredients for oils, butter, and fatty dairy products, and reducing or excluding any nuts called for in the recipe.

Applesauce is often used as a substitute for fat in baked goods.
Applesauce is often used as a substitute for fat in baked goods.

Oils, butter, whole milk, heavy cream, and cream cheese often give pastries their moist, rich flavor. They also typically add a lot of fat to a recipe. Some simple substitutions include using applesauce instead of oil, low-fat Greek yogurt instead of butter, and skim milk instead of whole milk. Low-fat evaporated milk and reduced fat cream cheese may also make suitable substitutions for whole milk and full-fat cream cheese. Those avoiding eggs may also use egg whites to cut out the fatty yolks.

Greek yogurt can be used as a low-fat substitute for butter.
Greek yogurt can be used as a low-fat substitute for butter.

Generally, there is no need to use more or less of a substitute ingredient than the fatty ingredient the recipe calls for. For instance, if replacing 1 cup (236 ml) of oil with applesauce, one only needs that amount of applesauce for the substitution. The same goes for substituting Greek yogurt for butter, though some cooks may want to drain the yogurt in a sieve over a bowl before adding it to the pastry batter. Draining the yogurt makes it thicker and denser, more like butter. This typically helps the pastry stay moist, dense, and rich during the low-fat baking process.

Mashed bananas and fruit purees of all kinds may also be substitutes for oils and butter in low-fat baking, especially when making fruit-based pastries. Banana bread generally requires several mashed bananas anyway. To make this bread low-fat, the cook must simply skip the oil or butter and mash an additional medium banana for each cup (236 ml) of fat being replaced. For instance, if the recipe called for 2 cups (472 ml) of butter, the cook must typically mash two medium bananas to replace the butter.

The same principle generally holds true for other fruit-based pastries. The butter and oil in peach muffins, for instance, could be replaced with pureed peaches. Some cooks even purchase fruit-flavored baby food just to use in low-fat baking. Baby food often contains few additives and almost no artificial coloring, making it a generally convenient, healthful,low-fat baking ingredient. Those that bake frequently may want to purchase their favorite baby food flavors in bulk.

Reducing the amount of nuts in a recipe also reduces fat content. Though nuts contain protein and other healthful nutrients, they also contain a lot of fats. Halving the amount of nuts called for in a recipe also halves the fat the nuts contribute. Some cooks may even want to eliminate nuts from low-fat baking recipes altogether. A third option includes substituting leaner nuts, like almonds and pistachios, for very fatty nuts, such as cashews and walnuts.

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