Can you use butter instead of margarine?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you use butter instead of margarine?”, and how to choose between butter and margarine?

Can you use butter instead of margarine?

Yes, you can use butter instead of margarine. Replace every cup of margarine with  1 cup butter or 1 cup shortening plus ¼ teaspoon salt. If you are making cookies with butter instead of margarine, the cookies will brown quickly because butter tends to burn faster than margarine. 

Healthy margarine substitutes

Replace 1 cup of margarine with a single cup of the following healthy substitutes of margarine.

  • 1 cup softened cream cheese (or one 8 oz. block) or reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup 60% to 70% trans-fat free vegetable oil spread or olive oil spread
  • 1 cup tofu (works best in brownies).
  • 1 cup baby prunes (works best in dark baked goods, due to color).
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce, which breaks the fat and adds vitamin C.

Butter vs margarine: How to choose?

The nutritional profile of butter or margarine helps us decide which one is the best. Margarine is extracted from plant oils and goes through a process known as hydrogenation to mimic the texture of butter. 

But hydrogenation produces trans fats that are harmful to health. The trans fat lowers the LDL and increases the HDL levels in the blood. This gives butter an edge, even though butter has a high content of saturated fats.

The differences between butter and margarine 

Like trans fats, the saturated fats in the butter also increase the LDL content of the blood but they do not affect the HDL levels. 

As per the instructions of the FDA, the food manufacturers are trying to completely remove or reduce the number of trans fats produced during the hydrogenation. However, even if the product claims “Zero trans fats”, it may contain 0.5 g of trans fats per serving.

On the other hand, grass-fed butter is considered nutritionally superior. If you are on a cholesterol-restricted diet, butter is a bad option for you. 

A cholesterol-restricted diet is a lifestyle change that prevents heart disease or hypercholesterolemia. All animal products including butter contain substantial amounts of cholesterol. Such individuals may find margarine a better option. 

Whether you choose margarine or butter, you add calories to your diet. Moreover, fat makes you feel full for longer and it helps absorb certain nutrients. Therefore, whatever type of fat you choose, you should choose what best suits your nutritional needs.

Nutritional breakdown of butter

A single tablespoon or 14.2 g of unsalted butter contains the following nutrients.

Calories 102 kcal
Fat 11.5 grams 
Saturated fat 7.17 grams 
Cholesterol 30.5 miligrams 
Carbohydrates 0 grams 
Sugars 0 grams 

Grass-fed butter is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, it is considered an effective food to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Pasteurized cream is the base ingredient of butter. Some manufacturers also add salt for flavor.

Types of margarine 

Several additives are used to improve the taste and texture of margarine.  For example, maltodextrin, soy lecithin, and mono or diglycerides. 

Other common additives include olive oil, flaxseed oil, and fish oil, Vitamin A, and salt. Some manufacturers produce preservative-free and artificial flavor-free margarine.

You cannot use the margarine intended to use as a spread for baking. Moreover, you should always read the label to decide what you want. Look for any mention of the allergens if you have soy, dairy, or any other allergy.

Stick margarine

Stick margarine has a lower caloric content than butter but some varieties may contain trans fats. A single tablespoon or 14.2 g of unsalted stick margarine contains the following nutrients. 

Calories 102 calories 
Fat 11.5 grams 
Saturated fat 21.6 grams 
Cholesterol0 grams 
Carbohydrates0 grams 
Sugars 0 grams 

Light margarine

Light margarine is low-fat and low caloric margarine due to its higher content of water than regular margarine. A single tablespoon of the light margarine or margarine-like spread contains the following nutrients.

Calories 50 calories 
Fat 5.42 grams 
Saturated fat 0.67 grams 
Trans fat 0 grams 
Cholesterol 0 grams 
Carbohydrates 0.79 grams 
Sugars 0 grams 

Margarine with phytosterols

Margarine contains certain plant compounds known as phytosterols, having a similar structure to cholesterol. Phytosterols. Phytosterol containing margarine is made with a blend of oils such as olive oil and flaxseed oil.

Phytosterol and cholesterol fight each other for absorption and lead to overall low blood cholesterol due to its poor absorption. 

Other FAQs about Butter that you may be interested in.

Can I bake with European-style butter

Can I freeze butter

Why is butter bad for you?


In this article, we answered the question “Can you use butter instead of margarine?”, and how to choose between butter and margarine?