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.

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.

Among vegetable oils, peanut oil is best suited for deep-frying due to its high smoke point while olive oil can be used in baking, sauteing, shallow-frying, etc. 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.

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. 

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.

Piecrust 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. 


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


Hello, I'm Sana Ameer. I'm a student of Food Science and Technology at UVAS. I like to bake and I aspire to become a Food blogger.