Four Of The Best Shortening Substitutes

Shortening is used for a variety of different baking purposes, and it can commonly be found in lots of different baking recipes.

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If you like to bake a lot, then you might find that your supplies have quickly diminished and that you are now in need of a shortening substitute or vegetable shortening substitute to make the recipes work.

Thankfully, there are quite a few different shortening replacements that you can choose from, and we are going to explain what they are in this article.

4 Common Shortening Substitutes That You Never Knew Existed

We are going to talk you through four different shortening substitutes that you never knew existed, and you can use these as an alternative in your recipe without making too much of a difference to the dish that you are trying to create.

For those who don’t already know, we will also explain exactly what shortening is, and what it is used for so that you can get a better understanding of how your recipe is going to come together. 

What is Shortening?

If you have come across shortening in your desired baking recipe, but you haven’t ever heard of it before, we will explain everything that you need to know here.

Shortening is any fat that is solid at room temperature and that can be used for the purpose of baking.

This will more than likely include a list of things that you never would have thought were shortening, and you might even have some of them stored away in your home without even realizing it. This can include things like margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and much more. 

Shortening works to ensure that the goods you are baking will have the perfect crumbly texture, and it is something that is very commonly used in lots of different baking recipes. 

The Different Types of Shortening

There are actually four different types of shortening, and these are solid, liquid, all-purpose, and cake shortening.

When it is in its solid form, it is typically used for making things like pie crusts and pastries.

When it is in its liquid form, it is more commonly used for making things like cakes or when you need to deep fry your baked goods. 

Cake shortening and all-purpose shortening are typically used by professionals when baking, rather than standard bakers in at-home kitchens.

You will find that all-purpose shortening doesn’t contain any emulsifiers, but cake shortening does, and this actually helps to make the cake be able to retain more moisture. 

Alternatively to all of these options, you can also get your hands on organic shortening if you need to, and there are others that come in butter flavor.

The type that you need should be stated in your recipe, but more often than not, you will be using solid shortening. Of course you need to be mindful of saturated fat and trans fat in your baked good. Gone are the days when lard was a healthy option. You may want to give palm shortening a try.

What is Shortening Used For?

Before you start searching through your home for substitutes, it can be helpful to know what the uses of shortening are when it comes to cooking and baking first.

Shortening works by creating a barrier between gluten molecules, which stops it from forming and doing what it is usually supposed to do.

Gluten is an ingredient that creates a gummy or chewy end result, and it is typically used to thicken and combine in cooking and baking.

Gluten is in things like flour, and interestingly, there are lots of people who are gluten intolerant.

Vegetable shortening is also used for baking purposes to help keep the baked goods soft after they have been baked and then cooled.

The shortening will keep intact, and it will stay soft, which is why there are some cookies that are soft and luxurious, and others, which haven’t used shortening, that are crunchier and crumblier. 

Vegetable shortening is also typically preferred if you are going to be frying your baked goods. There will be less of a chance of spattering under high temperatures due to the lack of water content.

This will mean that you can cook food more quickly and at higher temperatures without burning the oil and ruining the taste of your end product.

4 Common Shortening Substitutes That You Never Knew Existed

4 Common Shortening Substitutes

Now that you know almost everything that you need to know about shortening and its uses, we are going to tell you all about the different things that you can use to substitute shortening when you don’t have any available to you. Let's talk about a substitute for shortening in baking.

The four products that we are going to show you will make great substitutes, but you might have to slightly alter some recipes to make them work, depending on what it is that you are making. 

Butter and Margarine

Something that most people will already have in their households ready to use as a shortening substitute is butter or margarine.

You can use this for a variety of different baking purposes, like making cakes, cookies, and even pastry items, and the substitute will work really well.

A lot of the time, there will be recipes that already use this ingredient instead of shortening, but for those that don’t, you can always make the switch yourself. 

However, something that you will need to keep in mind is that the butter or margarine that you are going to use will create a different flavor, and you will need to make sure that the flavor suits the dish that you are making.

Most of the time, it will be completely fine, but it is up to your own judgment to decide whether or not it will be a good match.

Some people may be conscious of the higher fat content, but versions with low-fat might not work as well due to the fact that it will not melt as easily.

You won’t need to alter the quantity of this product when substituting shortening for butter or margarine, and the measurements will still remain the same.

For example, if the recipe requires two tablespoons of shortening, then you should use two tablespoons of butter or margarine.

If the recipe contains salt, you should consider adding less or no salt as this substitute will do half the work for you in that department. 

Vegetable Oils

Another thing that you will typically have readily available in your house already to use is vegetable oil. Interestingly, shortening is actually made up of vegetable oils, so you will be able to use this as a substitute with no problems.

It is recommended that you use olive oil, as this will work the best, but you are not limited to this choice.

However, olive oil might not be the best choice for those baking products that are supposed to be sweet, but you can use it for things like bread and other pastries like pie crust. You can also try coconut oil, refined coconut oil, canola oil, and hydrogenated vegetable oil. 

You should also be aware that this substitute will not work if the recipe requires you to use the melting of shortening, as it is not a suitable swap. 

Vegetable oil is best to be used when the recipe is designed for creating a product that is going to be deep-fried. You can also choose to use oils like peanut oil, as they will bring an interesting flavor to your dish.

The measurements are also of equal quantities for this substitute, with a 1:1 ratio. For sweeter dishes, it might be best to use slightly less oil than you normally would, and you might also want to add a little extra sugar.

Applesauce

A substitute that is a little bit less common is applesauce. Due to the fact that it has a naturally sweet flavor, it would be great for baking a variety of sweet treats.

You should half the amount of applesauce in comparison to the amount of shortening that it says to use.

For example, if your recipe requires two cups of shortening, then you should only use one cup of applesauce. This is because applesauce is much denser.

For applesauce with higher sugar content, reduce the amount of sugar that you add to the mix to avoid it becoming too sweet. 

Animal Fat

Another alternative for shortening that you can use is animal fat, but obviously, this isn’t going to be a suitable option for vegetarians and vegans.

Animal fats can also contain high levels of saturated fats, so it might not be the healthiest alternative.

As long as you aren’t concerned about the high-fat content, you should be able to use this substitute with no issues.

You should also keep in mind that you will need to use less fat than you would shortening.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you substitute oil for shortening?

If you don’t have any shortening available, then there’s no need to worry because you can substitute it for oil. In particular, vegetable oil makes an excellent substitute for shortening.

So, if you don’t have any shortening available you can use oil as a replacement. 

If you are using vegetable oil as a replacement for your shortening, then this is an easy substitute to make.

With some substitutes you will need to alter the amount of the replacement that you add to the recipe.

But when you are replacing shortening with vegetable oil, all you need to do is replace the exact amount of shortening with the same amount of oil. 

This is good because it is very unlikely that you won’t have vegetable oil in your home. After all it is something that you use most days.

So if you are baking and find that you have no shortening to hand, you can easily replace it with vegetable oil. 

What can you substitute for Crisco?

If you are baking and find that you don’t have any Crisco shortening to add to the recipe, then don’t stress because there are lots of different things that you can substitute it with.

Different people will recommend different alternatives, but we’d suggest using butter or margarine. 

Both of these make an excellent substitute for Crisco, however you will need to alter the recipe slightly to fit to the new ingredients.

If you are using butter or margarine instead of Crisco, then you will need to add slightly more to the recipe.

So, for every cup of Crisco, you should add 1 cup of butter/margarine plus an extra 2 tablespoons. 

So if you have no Crisco available, both butter and margarine are great substitutes. But you will need to use slightly more in the recipe. 

What’s a healthy substitute for shortening?

If you want to use a healthy alternative to shortening then olive oil is a great choice.

Olive oil works very similarly to shortening which is why it is an excellent substitute. However, it is not suitable as a substitute for shortening in all recipes. 

Olive oil has a distinct flavor, and because of this you can only use it as a replacement for shortening when you are making savory baked goods.

It is not suitable for sweet baked goods as the flavor of the olive oil will impact the sweetness of whatever you are baking. 

So if you want an alternative to shortening for sweet goods, you should use butter instead. But, of course, butter isn’t too healthy. 

However, you are unlikely to be looking for a healthy alternative if you are making sweet baked goods.

So, if you want a healthy alternative to shortening for savory treats, then olive oil is the best option. 

What is a substitute for ½ cup of shortening?

As we have established, the two best substitutes for shortening are olive oil and butter/margarine.

Depending on whether you are baking something sweet or something savory then different substitutions will be better. 

If you are making something savory, then you should use either olive oil or vegetable oil.

For both of these substitutions, you should use the same amount of oil as you would shortening in the recipe. So, you should replace ½ a cup of shortening with ½ a cup of oil. 

Whereas, if you are making something sweet then you should use butter/margarine instead.

When using this as a substitute you will need to add a little extra, so as well as ½ a cup of butter/margarine, you should also add 1 tablespoon to the recipe. 

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community.
She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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