How to Swap Butter for Healthy Olive Oil

Heart-healthy tips and recipes for using extra-virgin olive oil in everyday cooking

Sea Bass

The desire (and need) to eat healthier seems to be spreading across the country, and with good reason. So it’s inevitable that we come back to the butter versus olive oil debate. While both are common cooking fats, extra-virgin olive oil has been linked to having heart-healthy benefits, giving it a leg up over butter for food lovers looking to eat better.

So what are some of olive oil's benefits? California olive oil expert Ruth Mercurio, board member of the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) and managing partner of We Olive, shared some quick facts with us. People who use high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil* in place of other fats have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and asthma, she said. Additionally, according to the FDA, eating about two tablespoons of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Replacing hydrogenated or saturated fats from animal products with extra-virgin olive oil when possible can help many Americans take the right steps toward a healthier life and heart. Of course, this could be problematic for home cooks used to recipes and cookbooks that use only butter — how would one swap it out to ensure the dish still tastes delicious? Mercurio and Emily Davis, a former Food & Wine writer, share this basic conversion chart and approachable, yet gourmet recipes to get started.

Butter = Olive Oil Conversion Chart

1 tsp butter = ¾ tsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter = 2 ¼ tsp olive oil
¼ cup butter = 3 tbsp olive oil
½ cup butter = ¼ cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup butter = ¾ cup olive oil


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*Extra-virgin olive oil comes from the first press of freshly harvested, undamaged olive fruit. No chemicals or excessive heat can be used to extract the oil — only mechanical processes that preserve the integrity of the oil.