Vegetable shortening is considered a baking essential, especially among American bakers who prefer to use traditional ingredients. Recent concerns about vegetable shortening’s potential effects on health have led to many bakers looking for alternatives, but you may still need it for some older recipes. If you have run out or need a healthier option, here are some excellent vegetable shortening substitutes.
If you're a baker, particularly, you'll want to keep vegetable shortening at hand. Crisco is the most popular brand on the market for it, along with being a product leader in cooking oils as well.
Table of Contents
- Your best bet: Margarine
- A decent second choice: Butter
- In a pinch: Vegetable oil
- Other alternatives
- Must-read related posts
Your best bet: Margarine
Even though it has fallen out of favor with modern bakers, margarine may still have its uses. It was invented to serve as a replacement for butter and can handle many of the same baking tasks for which you might use vegetable shortening. The margarine you will use for baking is not the kind you often see sold as a spread for toast and muffins.
Margarines for spreading are mostly water with a lot of air whipped in; the water content makes them unsuitable for baking and cooking. The kind of margarine you will need for replacing shortening is sold in sticks like butter and will function like vegetable shortening.
The downside of margarine is that it is not particularly versatile. While it is primarily fat, like shortening, its flavor may be undesirable for fried foods, so you will want to use it only for baking.
A decent second choice: Butter
The first thing that makes butter a decent substitute is how easy it is to find. If you make recipes that contain shortening, you most likely also have access to butter.
Butter has a richer, creamier taste than vegetable shortening, so it will improve the flavors of certain foods like cakes and cookies. It will also contribute to the golden color that many people find delicious.
Despite its positives, butter has some significant drawbacks, like the fact that while the yellow color is desirable for some baked goods, it may not be for others. Another issue is that butter contains a lot of water, which turns to steam when heated, which can make some baked goods challenging.
Butter isn’t great for frying because of its low smoke point of 302 degrees Fahrenheit compared to vegetable shortening’s 400 degrees or higher smoke point. Yet another downside of butter is its cost, which is usually higher than the cost of vegetable shortening.
In a pinch: Vegetable oil
Vegetable shortening is simply vegetable oil that has been hydrogenated to make it a solid fat at room temperature. When melted and converted back to a liquid, it is essentially vegetable oil that you can use just like any other liquid vegetable oil.
Because the two are very similar when in liquid form, liquid vegetable oil is an ideal substitute for shortening if you use it to fry. Along with blended oils, any individual vegetable oil can work as a vegetable shortening substitute, including canola and soybean.
Coconut oil is particularly good since it shares many vegetable shortening properties, including solid at room temperature. The only problem with vegetable oil is that it won’t be ideal for any other purpose besides those that use shortening in its liquid form. For example, it won’t work as a good vegetable shortening substitute in a cake recipe.
Lard is one of the fats that vegetable shortening was invented to replace. Lard has many of the same properties as shortening and is excellent for pie crusts and biscuits, but it may be hard to find in some places.
Must-read related posts
- What’s A Good Butter Substitute? Vegetable shortening can work as a butter substitute in certain circumstances. What are your other choices? Find out.
- Clarified Butter – History, Flavor, Benefits, Uses: Learn all about it.
- Margarine Vs. Butter: How do these two popular ingredients compare?