Our Best Shortening Substitutes

Shortening substitutes have become a topic of interest in recent years, as more and more individuals seek healthier or allergen-free alternatives for their baking and cooking needs. These substitutes often aim to either reduce saturated fat content or cater to specific dietary restrictions. The following paragraphs will provide a concise introduction to shortening substitutes and their benefits, appealing to the reader’s curiosity and desire for information.

One popular reason for seeking shortening substitutes is the movement towards healthier eating habits. Traditional shortening often consists of hydrogenated oils, which can contain significant amounts of unhealthy trans fats. By replacing shortening with a suitable substitute, individuals can enjoy their favorite baked goods while potentially reducing their intake of harmful fats.

Another driving force behind the search for shortening substitutes is the prevalence of allergies and dietary restrictions. Some people are unable to consume wheat, dairy, or other common ingredients typically found in traditional shortenings. By exploring various alternatives, those with restrictions can still indulge in delicious treats without the worry of adverse reactions or violating their dietary guidelines.

4 Common Shortening Substitutes

What Is Shortening?

Shortening is a type of fat used in baking and cooking to improve the texture and mouthfeel of various dishes. It is typically solid at room temperature and offers a tender, flaky quality to pie crusts, biscuits, and other baked goods. Shortening can be made from animal fat or vegetable sources, with some common forms being lard (animal fat) and vegetable shortening.

Vegetable shortening is derived from vegetable oils, such as soybean, cottonseed, and palm oil. The process of hydrogenation is used to convert these liquid oils into a semi-solid, resulting in hydrogenated vegetable oil. This process also increases the shelf life of the shortening, making it a popular choice for commercial food production as well as home use.

There are various types of shortening, including:

  • Lard: Made from rendered pork fat, lard has been a traditional choice for shortening due to its natural properties that provide a high smoking point and excellent flavor to dishes.
  • Vegetable Shortening: Comprised of hydrogenated vegetable oil, this type of shortening is a popular choice for vegans and vegetarians as well as those wanting to avoid animal fats in their cooking.
  • Margarine: A blend of vegetable oils and other ingredients, margarine can serve as a shortening substitute in certain recipes but must be chosen carefully, as it does not always have the same consistency and melting properties as traditional shortening.

Each type of shortening comes with its own specific properties and uses, making it crucial to understand which type is best suited for the desired dish. Ultimately, shortening is an essential ingredient in baking and cooking, offering versatility and unique qualities that make it a widely popular choice for creating delicious, tender, and flaky results.

4 Common Shortening Substitutes That You Never Knew Existed

Common Shortening Substitutes

Butter and Margarine

Butter and margarine are popular shortening substitutes. They are widely available and can be used in various recipes to replace shortening. Butter has a rich flavor, while margarine is a more budget-friendly option. Both can be used at a 1:1 ratio as a substitute for shortening. Keep in mind that butter contains more water than shortening, which can affect the texture of baked goods.


Lard is another common shortening substitute derived from animal fat. It has a high fat content and can create a flaky texture in baked goods. Lard can be used in a 1:1 ratio for shortening, but it may impart a distinct flavor to your finished product, making it more suitable for savory dishes.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a versatile and popular shortening substitute. It is a solid fat at room temperature and can be used in equal proportions as a replacement for shortening. Its mild flavor makes it suitable for a variety of recipes, from baked goods to savory dishes. Note that coconut oil’s melting point is lower than shortening, so refrigeration may be necessary.

Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil can also be used as a shortening substitute, particularly in recipes where a more liquid fat is needed. To substitute for one cup of shortening, use ⅞ cup of vegetable oil. Keep in mind that this substitution may produce a different texture in your finished product, especially in baked goods.

Vegan Butter

Vegan butter is a suitable shortening substitute for those following a plant-based diet. Made from a combination of oils and fats, vegan butter replicates the texture and flavor of traditional butter. Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting vegan butter for shortening in recipes.

Bacon Grease

Bacon grease can be used as a flavorful shortening substitute in savory recipes. It has a high smoke point, making it suitable for frying and sautéing. Use bacon grease in a 1:1 ratio when replacing shortening. Note that its strong flavor may not be suitable for all dishes.


Applesauce is a healthier option for replacing shortening in baked goods. While it may not provide the same flakiness as shortening, it does offer a natural sweetness and added moisture. Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting applesauce for shortening, and consider reducing the amount of sugar in your recipe to balance the sweetness.

Using Shortening Substitutes in Baking


Using oils, like canola or vegetable, as shortening substitutes in cookie recipes is possible. However, it may alter the dough’s texture and spread, making the baked cookies less tender and flaky. When using oils, reduce the volume in the recipe by 20% to achieve a better ratio of ingredients. For a crumbly cookie such as shortbread, you can experiment with gluten-free flours or butter alternatives.

Pie Crusts

Pie crusts require a flaky, tender texture, which can be achieved using substitutes like butter or lard. The ratio for these substitutes can be 1:1 for shortening. Ensure to chill the butter or lard before using it in the dough, as it helps achieve the desired flaky consistency. Coconut oil can also work as a shortening substitute in pie crusts while maintaining a tender texture.


Baking cakes with oil or applesauce instead of shortening yields a moist, tender crumb texture. Depending on the recipe, a 1:1 ratio of oil to shortening is generally suitable, but the choice of oil type may change the overall flavor profile. Applesauce can also serve as an even healthier substitute, but be aware that this may affect the cake’s sweetness.


In biscuits, using butter as a shortening substitute often creates a flakier texture, and a 1:1 ratio is ideal. Be sure to incorporate cold diced butter into the mix, as the butter’s melting creates air pockets that result in flakier baked goods. Alternatively, it is possible to use lard or vegetable oils with slightly reduced volume.


When baking bread, you can use butter or margarine as a shortening substitute. The ratio is 1:1, and using a soft, room temperature butter will help maintain a soft, tender crumb structure. Oils, like olive or vegetable oil, can also be used to provide a slightly denser bread with a chewier texture.


For frostings, cream cheese or pureed avocado can be used in place of shortening for a rich and creamy consistency. The ratios will vary based on the desired taste and texture. Some recipes may require additional sugar or flavorings to achieve the desired balance.

SubstituteRatioBaked Goods Suitable
Butter1:1Pie crusts, biscuits, cookies
Lard1:1Pie crusts, biscuits
Coconut oil1:1Pie crusts, biscuits
Vegetable oilReduce volume by 20%Cookies, breads
Cream CheeseVariesFrosting
Pureed AvocadoVariesFrosting

Considering Flavor and Texture

When selecting a shortening substitute, it is important to consider the impact on both flavor and texture. Different substitutes can affect the taste and mouthfeel of the end product, making it essential to choose the right ingredient.

For instance, vegetable shortening is a popular choice for baked goods, like cookies. Its high melting point ensures a flaky, tender crust as the shortening does not melt too quickly when baked. This creates air pockets within the dough, resulting in a desirable texture. However, when you substitute it with another ingredient, be aware that it may alter the texture and appearance of the baked product.

In terms of flavor, some shortening substitutes might bring a distinct taste to the dish. For example, using butter as a substitute will not only provide a rich flavor but also a slightly different texture. Butter has a lower melting point than vegetable shortening, which means that cookies made with butter may spread out more and become crispier. On the other hand, when creating savory dishes, consider choosing a shortening substitute that complements the dish’s flavor profile, such as using olive oil or coconut oil.

It’s essential to keep the recipe’s measurements in mind when replacing shortening. For example, when substituting with butter or margarine, consider that they contain more moisture, and you may need to adjust the liquid content of the dish to maintain the desired consistency. In some recipes, using a spoon for measuring the ingredient might be more effective than relying on weight measurements.

An important point to remember is that some recipes may require adjustments to cooking time or temperature based on the melting points of different shortening substitutes. To achieve the ideal end result, it may take some experimentation and tweaking the recipe’s specifications.

In conclusion, when choosing a shortening substitute, carefully consider the impact on flavor and texture of the dish. It’s important to remember that while some substitutions may work well in certain recipes, they may not yield the desired results in others.

Health and Dietary Considerations

When looking for a shortening substitute, it’s important to consider health and dietary restrictions. For vegans or those seeking dairy-free options, vegetable oil can be a viable substitute in baking. Many vegan bakers turn to vegetable oil for its plant-based origin and versatility in recipes.

Ghee, a form of clarified butter, is an option for people who can tolerate lactose. While not suitable for vegan baking, ghee provides rich, buttery flavor without the unwanted milk solids found in regular butter. Be sure to check if the ghee is sourced from a grass-fed, organic source to ensure the highest quality.

In terms of health, some advocates promote healthier alternatives to traditional shortening. Saturated and trans fats are often associated with negative health outcomes. To minimize these risks, choose substitutes with lower saturated fat content like peanut oil. High in monounsaturated fats, peanut oil can be a better choice for those seeking heart-healthier options but be cautious of allergens if catering to larger crowds.

Keep in mind that not all vegetable oils are created equal:

OilSaturated FatTrans FatSuitable for Vegan Baking
Coconut OilHighLowYes
Canola OilLowLowYes
Olive OilLowLowYes
Sunflower OilLowLowYes

As the table suggests, choosing a vegetable oil with lower saturated fat content, such as canola or olive oil, offers a heart-healthier alternative.

For those without dietary restrictions but still seeking a healthier option, consider experimenting with different ratios of animal products and plant-based alternatives. A moderate approach might include a blend of both butter and vegetable oil, for example. This method can help balance flavor and texture while improving the nutritional profile of the final product.

In conclusion, be mindful of the health and dietary considerations for yourself and others when selecting a shortening substitute. By taking into account the various options and their specific advantages, you can create delicious and accommodating baked goods for all to enjoy.

Kitchen Tips and Techniques

When it comes to shortening substitutes, there are a variety of options available for home cooks. One common alternative is using cooking spray which can provide a nonstick surface for pans without adding excess fat to the recipe. For those concerned with the health effects of shortening, this is a great option.

Butter is another popular choice for replacing shortening, particularly in baking recipes. While it does contain more water, which may impact the final texture of the finished product, its rich flavor lends an added depth that many find worth the tradeoff. When using butter as a substitute, remember to adjust the quantity appropriately, as it has a denser consistency. Keep in mind that butter has a shorter shelf life, so it’s important to store it properly in the refrigerator or freezer, and use it promptly.

For an even healthier option, canola oil is a suitable shortening substitute in many recipes. With a mild flavor and high smoke point, it works well in various cooking and baking applications. Canola oil can be found in most any pantry and boasts a longer shelf life than butter.

For those unsure of which option to use, experiments can be an effective way to determine the best shortening substitute for a specific recipe. Trial and error can help home cooks identify which ingredient produces the preferred taste and texture.

Understanding Different Types of Shortening

Shortening is a crucial ingredient in many recipes, particularly in baking, as it contributes to the texture and crumb of various baked goods. Different types of shortening exist, each with distinct properties that can affect the final outcome of the dish. This section will provide a brief understanding of various types of shortening and their substitutes.

Crisco is a well-known brand of shortening that has been a go-to choice for many bakers. It is a hydrogenated vegetable oil, which gives it a high smoke point and makes it an excellent choice for frying. However, as some people may prefer a healthier or vegan substitute, there are alternatives available. One of such alternatives is vegan butter, which often has a similar consistency to shortening and can be used in the creaming method.

Clarified butter, also known as ghee, is obtained by removing milk solids and water from the butter. This process results in a higher smoke point and a longer shelf life. However, it may not be suitable for those following a vegan or dairy-free diet.

When considering vegetable shortening substitutes, it’s essential to understand their properties and how they interact in specific recipes. Some potential substitutes include:

  • Coconut oil: a popular plant-based alternative that is solid at room temperature and may have similar properties to traditional shortening.
  • Vegetable oil: although liquid, can be used in certain recipes that do not require solid fat, such as muffins or quick bread.

In some baked goods, such as piecrust, the choice of shortening significantly influences the flaky layers. Animal fats, like lard and bacon fat, are often used to achieve this desired texture. However, they may not be suitable for those who avoid animal-based products.

Lastly, it’s important to consider the salt content of various shortenings and their substitutes. Different products have varying sodium levels, which can impact the overall flavor of the dish.

In summary, understanding different types of shortening and their properties is essential for determining the most suitable substitute for your needs. Consider factors such as smoke point, dietary restrictions, and desired texture when selecting an alternative for your recipe.

4 Common Shortening Substitutes

Our Best Shortening Substitutes

These options are sure to be a hit. So, gather your family and friends and enjoy. Let us know your thoughts!
4.86 from 7 votes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Substitute
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 144 kcal


  • Butter and Margarine
  • Vegetable Oils
  • Applesauce
  • Animal Fat


  • Try our kitchen tested shortening substitutes.


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Calories: 144kcal
Keyword shortening substitutes
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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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