The Best Substitutes for Cooking Spray

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A lot of us avoid purchasing regular cooking spray for money, environmental or health reasons. Luckily, you have options when looking for a substitute for cooking spray.

Nonstick cooking spray has been a household staple since the 1960s. When it came out, it provided a fantastic alternative to high-fat butter and cooking oil. It keeps food from sticking while keeping the calories low, which sounds like a win-win, right?

Unfortunately, most store-bought cooking spray contains more than just oil. The oil is thinned out with water, so you’ll also find soy lecithin (an emulsifier), dimethyl silicone (anti-foaming agent) and food-grade propellant to get it out of the can, like butane or propane. If you’d rather avoid these added ingredients, use a substitute for cooking spray instead. These cooking spray alternatives work for everything from greasing a pan for a homemade cake to lubricating measuring cups to help sticky ingredients like honey slide right out.

Use Butter or Lard

Butter and lard are great cooking spray alternatives. They’re soft enough to spread into loaf pans and muffin tins with your fingers. You don’t have to get your hands messy to use these products, either. Use a piece of parchment paper or paper towel to help grease.

Keep in mind that both butter and lard are more strongly flavored than the neutral oils found in cooking spray. Butter’s flavor makes a great addition to baked goods, while lard is best when roasting meats and vegetables.

Regular Oil

Cooking spray is basically pressurized, watered-down oil, so feel free to use your favorite healthy high-temperature cooking oil instead. Our favorite is pure olive oil, but you can also use a neutral-flavored oil like safflower oil or avocado oil. If you’re trying to limit the amount of added fat to a recipe, try pouring the oil onto a paper towel and using it to rub a thin layer of oil onto the pan.

Give Flour a Try

Have you ever seen a recipe that calls for dusting a greased pan with flour? That’s because flour is a fantastic way to prevent things like bundt cakes or muffins from sticking to a baking dish. To create a spreadable flour mixture that magically keeps food from sticking, blend equal parts all-purpose flour, vegetable oil and vegetable shortening. Store the mixture in the refrigerator and spread it onto your pan using a silicone basting brush ($7).

Buy a Refillable Spray Bottle

If you still want the ability to spray instead of spread, try making your own substitute for cooking spray. Pick up a refillable spray bottle—like this one from Amazon ($12)—and fill it with your favorite cooking oil. It works as a cooking spray alternative for any recipe that calls for the store-bought stuff. You can also use it to lightly spritz salads with oil instead of tossing them in heavy dressings.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.