Sugar cookies without butter are a classic drop cookie recipe and make soft, chewy, tender, and irresistibly sweetened cookies. This no-butter cookie recipe uses everyday pantry staples and is ready in 30 minutes. Perfect for when those cookie cravings strike, but you are out of butter!
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The best vegetable oil sugar cookies without butter
Are you desperately craving sweet and tender sugar cookies but just realized that you have no butter? Good news! You’re in the right place because I’ll show you how to make amazing sugar cookies without butter.
I can’t wait for you to try these cookies! They are sweet, chewy in the middle, crispy on the edges, and everything yummy. Plus, the recipe comes together in minutes and uses easy-to-find ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.
You learn how to make sugar cookies without butter. I also share some ideas for decorations, mix-ins, and variations to jazz up your butterless cookies if you wish. A list of possible butter substitutes for cookies is included, too.
My guide includes plenty of helpful tips and tricks for the best no-butter sugar cookies. However, if you just want the recipe, click here to go to the recipe card or tap the Jump-To-Recipe button at the top of the post.
And please note that these are drop-style cookies, NOT cut-out cookies. They won’t hold the shape if you try to roll the dough and cut out cookies. See this post for my favorite cut-out cookie recipe.
This sugar cookie recipe without butter is simple to make from scratch with only a handful of pantry staples. And it’s easy to double or triple the amounts if you need to feed a crowd or for a bake sale. Check out the recipe card further down for exact measurements.
- White sugar: We need granulated (white) sugar to sweeten the dough and roll the cookies in before baking. You could also use caster sugar if that is what you have.
- Light brown sugar boosts the chewiness and adds a touch of molasses flavor. You don’t need much, just 2 tablespoons.
- Vegetable oil acts as a substitute for butter in these cookies. The oil keeps the cookies soft and tender for days. You need a neutral-tasting oil like vegetable oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, or fractionated (liquid) coconut oil.
- Egg: An egg helps to bind the dough together. Allow the egg to come to room temperature before making the dough.
- Vanilla extract adds wonderful warmth and depth of flavor to these no-butter sugar cookies. The scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste are good substitutes for extract.
- Flour: All-purpose flour (plain flour) gives the perfect structure and texture for the sugar cookies.
- Baking powder: The leavening agent helps the cookies to rise.
- Salt: A pinch of salt balances out the sweetness. Be sure to use fine salt (rather than flaked salt) for an even distribution throughout the dough.
These butter-free sugar cookies are perfect when you have run out of butter and don’t want to go to the store. The recipe is ready in about 30 minutes, and you will be snacking on delicious sugary cookies!
Step 1: Prepare for baking
Adjust a baking rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F / 180°C / gas mark 4. Line cookie sheets with parchment (baking) paper or non-stick silicone baking mats. Set aside.
Step 2: Mix dry ingredients
In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
Step 3: Combine wet ingredients
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer + a large mixing bowl, mix the sugar, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla extract until well combined, and you no longer see streaks of egg yolk.
Step 4: Make dough
Add the dry ingredients into the bowl and mix until the dough is well combined. It will be thick but shouldn’t be sticky. Be careful not to over-mix. Once everything is incorporated, use a rubber spatula to help it come together and form a ball.
Step 5: Form cookies
Using a cookie scoop, portion 1 1/2 tablespoon-sized cookie dough balls. Gently roll into a ball and optionally roll each ball in the additional sugar to coat. Arrange the balls 2 in / 5 cm apart on the lined baking sheets (trays). Gently press each ball flat as they won’t spread out much on their own.
Step 6: Bake
Bake the cookies for 7 to 10 minutes. They will rise and the centers will appear soft, but should look matt, not glossy. Don’t overbake and remove the cookies just before the edges begin to turn golden.
Step 7: Cool
Take out of the oven. Allow cooling on the baking sheets (trays) for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. At first, the cookies seem a little puffy but will flatten as they cool.
How long do the cookies need to bake?
The baking time is 7 to 10 minutes. Mine are perfect at around 8 to 9 minutes. Since every oven bakes differently, yours might take longer or shorter, so keep an eye on them as they bake.
The vegetable oil cookies are done when they have spread a little, don’t look undercooked in the center, and the edges are still pale and not quite golden.
Should I chill the cookie dough?
No, you can bake the cookies without chilling the dough. Since they don’t contain butter, they will not firm up in the fridge anyway.
This crave-worthy recipe comes together in no time. Use these tips to ensure your sugar cookies without butter hit the mark.
- High-quality ingredients: With so few ingredients, you’ll want to go for the best quality you can, especially when it comes down to the vegetable oil you use.
- Measure the flour accurately: The best way is by weight with a digital scale. If you don’t have one, use the spoon and level technique. First, stir your flour, then scoop it into a measuring scoop and level off the top with the back of a knife. Do NOT pack and compress it into the measuring cup.
- Don’t over-mix the dough after adding the flour. Overmixing activates too much gluten protein and causes the cookies to be tough and unpleasantly chewy.
- Size the dough balls 1 1/2 tablespoons each. This amount is just right for well-sized cookies. You’ll need to adjust the baking time if the portions are smaller or bigger.
- Hand mixer: A hand mixer will work as well in case you don’t have a stand mixer. If the dough gets too heavy as you add the flour, stir in the remainder by hand with a wooden spoon.
The dough is too soft, or the cookies are too thin
If the dough seems very soft and sticky, you probably have to increase the amount of flour. Add 2 to 3 more tablespoons flour.
The dough is too dry
A dry, crumbly batter indicates that too much flour was added. Try adding a little extra oil to soften and smooth the dough.
The way you measure your flour is important for these cookies. I recommend weighing flour with a kitchen scale for the most precise measurements. Alternatively, employ the spoon-and-level method, which I explain in the tips section above.
How to store sugar cookies without butter
Store the no butter cookie recipe in an airtight container on the countertop for up to 5 days. They will last in the fridge for up to one week.
Can you freeze no butter sugar cookies?
Yes, these vegetable oil sugar cookies freeze well! Allow the baked cookies cool to room temperature, then pack them in an airtight container or zip-lock bag and freeze them. Thaw the cookies in the fridge or on the counter when ready to eat.
To freeze the unbaked dough, wrap it well in plastic wrap (cling film) and place it in a freezer-safe airtight container. Freeze for up to 3 months and defrost overnight in the fridge.
Making sugar cookies without butter ahead of time
The cookie dough can be prepared a couple of days in advance. Wrap very tightly with plastic wrap (cling film) and store the dough for up to a week in the fridge. Once it’s time to bake, simply scoop into balls, roll in sugar, and bake as indicated in the recipe.
How long do sugar cookies last?
No butter cookies last at room temperature for about 5 days, in the fridge for 1 week, and in the freezer for up to 3 months. However, these cookies are so good I doubt they will last very long.
Can you make sugar cookies with oil?
Yes, you can bake delicious sugar cookies with vegetable oil. It’s an excellent substitute for butter in sugar cookies. Oil creates a soft crumb, keeps the cookies soft and tender for days, and creates a perfectly chewy texture.
Can I make these cookies with all white sugar?
Yes, you can make these vegetable oil cookies with all white sugar instead of adding a little brown sugar. The cookies’ texture will be slightly different and a little less soft.
Can I add butter flavor?
Of course! If you still want that warm, buttery aroma, add a few drops of butter flavor to the cookie dough.
Can these sugar cookies without butter be made with gluten-free flour?
Yes, most likely. Though I haven’t tested this, I imagine this sugar cookie recipe will work well with a 1-to-1 gluten-free flour blend. I recommend King Arthur’s gluten-free measure-for-measure flour or Bob’s Red Mill’s gluten-free 1-to-1 baking flour.
Are these sugar cookies without butter vegan?
These are not vegan sugar cookies because the dough contains an egg. Rather, I created this recipe for those times when you crave a delicious sugar cookie but are out of butter.
- Sprinkles: Roll the cookies in sprinkles instead of sugar for a quick decoration. Try green and red sprinkles for Christmas, pink and red sprinkles for Valentines, pastel-colored ones for Easter, orange, purple and black sprinkles for Halloween, and red, white + blue sprinkles for patriotic holidays.
- Icing + frosting: Royal icing, buttercream, or cream cheese frosting would make delicious additions to these no-butter sugar cookies.
- Chocolate: Melt some chocolate and drizzle over the cookies or dip the cookies in melted chocolate. Use any flavor you like. White, milk, and semisweet are all yummy options.
Sprinkle Sugar Cookies
Funfetti cookies loaded with colorful sprinkles are perfect for birthdays and will be a big hit with kids. To make sprinkle cookies, stir 1/3 cup sprinkles into the dough. For the best results, add sprinkles or jimmies. I find that nonpareils tend to bleed into the dough and leave color streaks.
Brown Sugar Cookies
To bake brown sugar cookies, prepare the cookie dough with 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 3/4 cup dark brown sugar. The cookies won’t spread, so be sure to flatten them before baking.
Chocolate Chip Sugar Cookies
To make cookies that are half sugar cookie and half chocolate chip cookie, fold 1 cup chocolate chips into the dough. I prefer mini chocolate chips, but you can surely use regular chocolate chips.
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
For chocolate sugar cookies, prepare the cookies with 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder. This version isn’t overly sweet. If you like your cookies on the sweeter side, increase the brown sugar and add 1/2 cup brown sugar.
Citrus Sugar Cookies
Citrus sugar cookies are on repeat in my kitchen! To make them add the finely grated zest of 2 organic lemons to the dough. To switch things up, try orange zest or lime zest.
I also like to roll these cookies in lemon sugar. To make lemon sugar, mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest.
Spiced Sugar Cookies
If you crave warm and cozy holiday cookies, infuse the recipe with delicious gingerbread spices. You can try my gingerbread spice blend or simply add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.
What can I use instead of butter to make sugar cookies?
Before ending this post, I want to talk a little more about possible butter substitutes for sugar cookies, so you have more options to choose from. Just keep in mind that the texture and taste will turn out to be different with each substitution.
Vegetable oil is an excellent substitute for butter in cookies. While it won’t give your cookies that yummy buttery taste, vegetable oil works well as a 1:1 baking sub for butter.
You can also use other flavorless oils such as sunflower oil or fractionated (liquid) coconut oil. I don’t recommend olive oil as its characteristic taste will be noticeable.
Coconut oil is a great butter substitute as the oil behaves similar to butter in cookie recipes. Refined coconut oil is almost tasteless, while raw coconut oil has a mild coconut flavor. It’s up to personal preference!
Margarine & shortening
Margarine and shortening are easy 1:1 substitutes for butter. For cookies, opt for margarine sticks instead of tubs. Shortening has a higher melting point than butter, so let it sit out on the counter for at least 1 hour before getting started.
Ghee is a type of clarified butter originating in India and can be swapped for butter. It produces a strong buttery aroma and a soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture.