Can you substitute margarine for shortening?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you substitute margarine for shortening?”, and what are the best substitutes for shortening?

Can you substitute margarine for shortening?

Yes, you can substitute margarine for shortening. Since margarine has a higher water content than shortening, you need to add a little more water when replacing shortening with margarine in a recipe. Depending upon the type of product you are making, you can try other substitutes for shortening as well.

National data on table margarines sold in Portugal back in 1991 showed a high prevalence of trans fatty acids in margarines (0.45%–14.2% in the fat). The two main margarines and shortening industries in Portugal signed a commitment to reduce TFA in their products back in 1995 but, despite the visible reduction in 2002 (range 0.2–8.9%), 80% of the samples were still prepared with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats (1).

Best substitutes for shortening

Vegetable oil

Vegetable oil is an excellent substitute for shortening in cooking and baking. When substituting vegetable oil shortening in cookies and cakes, use three parts oil for every four parts of shortening. 

To adjust the flavor and texture, add a bit more sugar and eggs. Coconut oil works great in baking, especially where you can let the mild coconut flavor of the coconut oil shine through. However, despite its saturated nature, the use of CO as a cooking oil should not be encouraged, once it exhibits a low smoking point (171°C) and its use in continuous deep-frying leads to the production of carcinogenic substances, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and aromatic amines. Oils with higher smoking points are preferred for deep frying, such as canola oil (238°C), corn oil (232°C), and soybean oil (238°C) (4).

Among vegetable oils, peanut oil is best suited for deep-frying due to its high smoke point of 230°C (2) while olive oil can be used in baking, sauteing, shallow-frying, etc (3). Olive oil has a distinct flavor due to which it only works well in savory baked goods. 


Applesauce, as a substitute for shortening, works great in sweet cakes and cookies. Substitute ½ cup of applesauce for every cup of shortening called for in the recipe.

In a study, applesauce was used as a fat replacer to produce cookies. The results  showed that applesauce can be a successful substitute of fat in chocolate chip cookies. Replacing butter with applesauce improves the nutritional value of chocolate chip cookies. Maintaining a proper balance between applesauce and fat is important for an acceptable cookie texture, because cookies tend to become softer in texture with an increase in applesauce (5).

It is better to opt for unsweetened applesauce so you can control the amount of sugar in the recipe. However, if you used sweetened applesauce, cut back on the amount of sugar in the recipe.

You can also substitute pureed prunes for shortening in baking. Estimate a 1:1 ratio for substitution. Last but not least, mashed bananas also make for a great substitute for shortening in baking. Both applesauce and bananas result in a denser crumb.

Animal fats

Animal fats like lard and suet can also be substituted for shortening. Animal fats have a higher saturated fat content. So, skip past this substitute if you have underlying health issues. 

Moreover, animal fats have a distinct flavor and should only be used if it blends well with the flavors of your food product. Substitute a cup of lard minus 2 tablespoons for every cup of shortening called for in the recipe. 

On the other hand, margarines and shortenings are obtained through the hydrogenation process, which can produce trans fatty acids. Trans fat is related to negative health conditions. Trans fatty acids or trans fats are produced when food manufacturers add hydrogen to unsaturated vegetable oils to saturate or partially saturate their unsaturated bonds for use in cooking, frying, or baking. This hydrogenation process increases the stability, resistance to oxidation, and shelf life of vegetable oils. In addition, hydrogenation raises the melting point of unsaturated vegetable oils, which are liquid at room temperature. This process hardens the oils and converts them into solid or semisolid fats. A solid texture is necessary for the manufacture of shortenings and margarine. 

An option for replacing trans fats is a return to butter, lard, and tallow as fat additives because these substances are very low in trans fats. However, these substances are high in saturated fat and cholesterol and extremely atherogenic (6).

How to substitute butter for shortening?

Generally, you can get away with substituting butter for shortening in a 1:1 ratio. In other recipes, the water content of the butter comes into play. 

Margarine is 100% fat whereas butter contains only 85% fat. This extra moisture content may slightly change the texture of your baked product. The change will not be drastic and can be fixed by using some extra pure fat.

What happens if you substitute butter for shortening?

Shortening makes the cookies chewier while butter results in a slightly crispy texture on the edges of the cookies. Moreover, butter imparts a richness to the flavor of cookies. Estimate a 1:1 ratio when substituting butter for margarine in a recipe.

In cakes and bread, you cannot tell if you used butter or margarine. So, cakes and bread offer the easiest substitution.

Pie Crust made with shortening has a flakier texture than that made with butter. So, you are better off without replacing shortening with butter if you like a flaky pie crust.

How to substitute shortening for butter?

If you did not anticipate that you will run out of butter for your next baking project, do not fret because we have got you covered. Use the following adjustments to substitute shortening for butter in a recipe.

  1. Use 1 cup shortening to replace every cup of butter called for in the recipe. Add ¼ tsp. Salt if desired. 
  2. Replace ½ cup butter with ½ cup shortening plus ⅛ tsp. Salt, if desired.
  3. Swap ¼ cup shortening with ¼ cup butter and add a dash of salt if you like.

What is a good shortening substitute in frosting?

The structure and texture of frosting greatly depend upon the kind of fat you use to make it. Therefore, you need to choose wisely. Frosting made using confectioner’s sugar and shortening has a stable structure and a neutral flavor.

Buttercream frosting does not hold its shape for too long. It easily melts if kept for too long on the counter. 

However, the frosting made with butter has a very rich flavor. Instead of swapping shortening in a one-to-one ratio with butter, you can also use a combination of coconut oil and margarine, or a combination of all three. 

Other FAQs about Margarine that you may be interested in.

Can I substitute margarine for butter in baking?

Can I substitute margarine for shortening?

Can I substitute margarine for vegetable oil?

Can you substitute margarine for vegetable oil?


In this article, we answered the question “Can you substitute margarine for shortening?”, and what are the best substitutes for shortening?


  1. Costa, Nádia, et al. Trans fatty acids in the Portuguese food market. Food Control, 2016, 64, 128.
  2. Sanders, Timothy. Groundnut oil. Vegetable Oil in Food Technology: Composition, Properties, and Uses. FD Gunstone (Eds). Blakckwell Publishing. Oxford UK. 2002, 231-243.
  3. de Alzaa, Ana Florencia, Claudia Guillaume, and Leandro Ravetti. Cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Olive Oil—New Perspectives and Applications, 2021, 1-13.
  4. Lima, Renan da Silva, and Jane Mara Block. Coconut oil: what do we really know about it so far?. Food Qual Safe, 2019. 
  5. Hayek, Saeed A., and Salam A. Ibrahim. Consumer acceptability of chocolate chip cookies using applesauce as a fat (butter) substitute. Emir J Food Agri, 2013, 159-168.
  6. Klonoff, David C. Replacements for trans fats—will there be an oil shortage?. J diab sci technol, 2007, 1, 415-422.