How many calories are actually in spray butter?

Spray butter, also known as aerosol butter or butter spray, is a popular alternative to traditional butter spreads. It comes in a pressurized can and can be sprayed directly onto food items like bread, popcorn, and vegetables. Spray butter gives the convenience of not needing a knife to spread it and portion control for limiting calories. However, there is some debate over how many calories are actually in spray butter versus traditional butter. Here we will examine the key differences and do a side-by-side calorie comparison.

What is spray butter?

Spray butter is real butter that has been mixed with vegetable oils to make it more spreadable coming out of the aerosol can. The exact ingredients vary by brand, but common vegetable oils used include canola, olive, soybean, and sunflower oil. Some spray butters also contain small amounts of lactose, salt, natural flavors, and lecithin as an emulsifier. Propellants like nitrous oxide are used to extrude the butter through the nozzle.

Traditional stick butter is at least 80% milk fat, while spray butter ranges from 30-70% butterfat. The vegetable oils help make it smoother and more fluid for even spraying. Due to the lower butterfat content, spray butter has a lighter taste and texture versus regular butter. It’s best for spreading thinly over breads and cooking rather than for baking which requires richer butter.

How is spray butter used?

The main advantage of spray butter is convenience – you don’t need a knife to spread it, just a quick spray. It’s great for lightly coating foods like toast, English muffins, baked potatoes, vegetables, and popcorn. Just a 1/3 second spray provides the right amount for spreading without overdoing it on calories.

Spray butter is not well suited for baking, where you need the full fat content of stick butter for proper texture and flavor. It can be used for greasing pans if a light coating of butter is needed. You also cannot make whipped spray butter due to the vegetable oil content.

For cooking, spray butter works well for sautéing in a pan or lightly greasing before grilling meats or vegetables. It provides a nice buttery flavor without heavy saturated fat. Just be careful of overspraying and measure 1-second sprays.

What are the calorie differences between spray butter and regular butter?

Both spray butter and stick butter contain calories from fat since they are dairy products. However, spray butter has less fat overall due to the liquid vegetable oils used to make it sprayable. This means spray butter will have fewer calories per serving compared to regular butter.

Here is a calorie comparison of common spray butter and stick butter brands (based on 1 Tbsp serving size):

Butter Type Calories Fat (g)
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray 0 0
Smart Balance Light Buttery Spray 20 2
Parkay Spray 35 4
Land O Lakes Butter Spray 50 5
Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter 102 12
Challenge Butter 100 11

As you can see, traditional stick butter contains about 100 calories and 11-12g of fat per serving. Meanwhile, spray butter options range from 0-50 calories and 0-5g of fat per serving. So using a spray butter instead of regular butter can slash the calories in half or more!

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray is one of the lowest calorie options, with 0 calories and 0g fat. This is because it is made from a blend of liquid oils like canola, olive, and lecithin. Smart Balance Light Butter Spray has just 20 calories and 2g fat per serving.

Parkay spray butter is mid-range with 35 calories and 4g fat due to higher butterfat content. Land O Lakes Butter Spray also has 50 calories and 5g fat per serving. Even though these are more than the “butter-flavored” sprays, they are still 50% less calories than regular butter.

The calorie savings comes from the liquid vegetable oils that replace some of the high-fat butter content. Just be careful about overspraying, since it’s easy to accidentally spray out much more than a single serving. Measuring 1-second sprays will give proper portion control.

The calorie difference in cooking and baking

Using spray butter versus stick butter for cooking and baking can also produce big calorie savings, since less butter is needed overall. Here is a comparison when substituting spray butter in some common recipes:

Buttered toast
– 1 Tbsp stick butter: 102 calories
– 1-second spray: 15 calories

Sauteed vegetables
– 1 Tbsp stick butter: 102 calories
– 1-second spray: 15 calories

Buttered popcorn
– 1 Tbsp stick butter: 102 calories
– 1 1-second spray: 15 calories

– 1 Tbsp stick butter: 102 calories
– 1-second spray: 15 calories

– 2 Tbsp stick butter: 204 calories
– 4 1-second sprays: 60 calories

As shown above, just using quick 1-second sprays to coat the pan or food instead of measuring out tablespoons of stick butter can remove about 100 calories each time. That’s because spray butter distributes thinly and evenly, while too much regular butter gets clumped in parts.

For baking, some calories are saved but keeping adequate fat content is also important for texture. Using 4 sprays instead of 2 Tbsp butter cuts about 140 calories. But full stick butter cannot be completely replaced in delicate baked goods.

The typical recommendation is substituting up to half the butter in a baking recipe with spray butter or oil. This allows cutting some calories while retaining the right consistency. Just avoid baking with 100% spray butter instead of regular butter, or the texture will be too dense and oily.

Factors affecting calories in spray butter

Several factors influence the calorie differences seen between stick butter and spray formats:

Butterfat content

– Stick butter is 80% milk fat, while spray butter ranges from 30-70% fat. Lower fat means fewer calories.

Oil content

– Liquid vegetable oils replace some butterfat in spray products. Oils are lower calorie than butterfat.

Portion size

– Sprays distribute thinner than spoonfuls of butter. Less butter per serving means less calories.

Spray duration

– Longer spray duration applies more butter, increasing calories. Use short 1-second sprays.

Application method

– Spreading by knife often clumps butter unevenly. Spray applies thinly and evenly.

Water content

– Sprays may contain water that slightly lowers calorie density.


– The propellant in spray cans is negligible calories.

So in summary, the lower fat content, thinner application, and precise spray portions lead to big calorie savings versus regular butter. Just be vigilant about controlling spray duration and frequency.

How to get the most calories savings from spray butter

Here are some tips to get the maximum calorie benefit when using spray butter:

– Choose sprays with lowest fat percentage like “light butter” or oil-based sprays.

– Measure 1-second sprays for proper portioning. Avoid long uncontrolled sprays.

– Re-spray hands between spreading instead of spraying food directly for multiple seconds.

– Use shortest sprays needed to lightly coat pan or food instead of heavy spraying.

– Substitute up to half the butter in baking recipes to cut some calories.

– Spray popcorn bowl instead of spraying popcorn directly to limit excess absorption.

– Avoid aiming spray jet directly on food which concentrates too much.

– Shake can well between uses for even distribution of butter and oils.

– Store upside down to prevent clogs which lead to overspraying.

– Combine spray butter with cooking sprays when minimal butter flavor is needed.

Following these tips will help limit excess spray butter intake and maximize the calorie difference compared to using traditional butter. Just remember that spray butter is still a source of fat and calories. Moderation and smart use is key, even when using lower calorie products.

Possible downsides of choosing spray butter

While spray butters clearly contain fewer calories than regular butter, there are some potential downsides to consider:

Highly processed

– Spray butter undergoes more mechanical processing and addition of emulsifiers to create the smooth, sprayable texture.

Propellant additives

– The propellant gases like nitrous oxide used to extrude spray butter are chemical additives not found in stick butter.

Less satisfying flavor

– With less pure butterfat, some brands of spray butter have more mild or chemical tastes.

Not ideal for high-heat cooking

– Lower smoke points of vegetable oil blends limit high temperature cooking utility.

More expensive

– Ounce for ounce, spray butter typically costs significantly more than stick formats.

Less healthy oils

– Some sprays use refined vegetable oils like soybean and canola instead of more natural butterfat.

For people wanting wholesome, natural foods, spray butter may seem too highly processed or artificial tasting. The propellants and chemical emulsifiers create an arguably less “real” product. And sprays cannot achieve the rich, robust flavor of pure butterfat.

However, the vastly lower calorie content makes spray butter an ideal choice for those strictly managing calories or using butter sparingly. The convenience of spraying and built-in portion control are big advantages for many consumers.


Spray butter contains significantly fewer calories compared to traditional stick butter – about 50% less per serving. This calorie savings comes from the liquid vegetable oils and lower total fat content used to make spray butter smoothly spreadable. Precise spray portions also help limit excess butter and calories versus clumped spreading by knife.

Be sure to use short 1-second sprays and proper spraying technique to maximize calorie difference. And stick to moderation, since even zero calorie sprays provide concentrated sources of fat. Overall, spray butter can be a smarter alternative to regular butter when monitoring calories closely or using butter infrequently. Just weigh possible downsides like higher cost, more processing, and chemical propellants.

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