Extra Virgin Olive Oil can be substituted for almost any other fat in most recipes. It can replace other liquid vegetable oils, butter, and some solid fats. Whether EVOO can be substituted, and how best to make the substitution depend both on the fat it is replacing and the cooking technique being used. High quality EVOO has a smoke point between 365-400 degrees Fahrenheit, high enough for any cooking method you might like to use: sauteing, baking, roasting, or even frying*.
Butter is one of the most commonly used culinary fats. Many people love the taste of butter and high quality butter can be a good source of fat-soluble vitamins. However, butter is also high in saturated fat and cholesterol and it is the target of a number of dietary restrictions. EVOO is a natural replacement for butter either in whole or in part. It can take the place of butter as a finishing touch on dishes like roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, and toast. EVOO can replace butter in sauteing recipes in a 1:1 ratio.
In most baking recipes a mild EVOO can be substituted for a portion of butter; a 1:1 ratio may be retained for substitutions below 2 Tbsp. Above 2 Tbsp. the volume of EVOO should be 25% less than the amount of butter being replaced, resulting in a ratio of 4:3 (butter:EVOO). Care should be taken in making these substitutions; some recipes, like those that call for creaming butter and sugar or cutting cold butter into flour require butter as a structural ingredient and not just as a moistening agent. If you would like to use EVOO in a recipe that calls for these, or similar techniques, it would be best to look for a similar recipe that specifically calls for some kind of oil.
Canola, peanut, corn, safflower, soybean oil, and blends thereof are the most common vegetable oils available in grocery stores in clear, crystal-cut design bottles that show off these oils’ shiny clarity. Their neutral flavor, high smoke point, and light body make them the ghost of the culinary fats–you never notice that they are there. Substitute EVOO at a 1:1 ratio in sauteing and dressing-making for bolder flavor and heavier body. Mild EVOO may be substituted whole or in part for vegetable oil in baking recipes at a 1:1 ratio; this takes advantage of EVOO’s excellent nutritional profile in your baked goods.
Vegetable shortening is a product made by injecting hydrogen into vegetable oil to make it solid at room temperature and to give it culinary qualities that are similar to solid animal fats. This produces a partially-hydrogenated oil, which is laden with trans-fats (a very unhealthy kind of fat). EVOO may be substituted for vegetable shortening in any recipe that calls for melted shortening or that uses shortening to grease pans, at a 1:1 ratio. A recipe that calls for shortening in its solid form should be replaced with butter, coconut oil, or a mixture of EVOO/butter/coconut oil.
Margarine is a kind of vegetable shortening that has been whipped with water or skim milk (and other flavors, colorants, and emulsifiers) to make it more appealing and easier to spread. There is a great deal of variation in the composition of margarine in regards to ingredients and nutrition profiles. However, like vegetable shortening, margarine can contain high amounts of trans fats. EVOO can be substituted for margarine directly for use at the table and for sauteing. In baking, treat margarine/EVOO substitutions like the butter/EVOO substitutions listed above: 1:1 at small amounts and 4:3 in larger amounts.
*A note on frying: While EVOO has a high enough smoke point to allow for even high temperature frying (which normally takes place at 350-370 degrees Fahrenheit) it still may not be your first choice for this cooking method. Cost is always a consideration, with high quality EVOOs being generally more expensive per ounce than other more neutral oils. Also, any flavors present in the oil will be concentrated in this high temperature environment. If you are frying mozzarella sticks you may welcome a strong olive oil flavor, but those same flavors are less desirable in doughnuts or funnel cakes. Selecting a mild-flavored olive oil or one that more appropriately matches the flavors of your dish is even more important if you plan on using frying as a cooking technique.