Substitutes for Shortening

Shortening is a type of fat that is solid at room temperature and comes in stick form. It also serves as a tenderizer when used in baking. Shortening is made from hydrogenated vegetable oil—such as soybean, corn, or cottonseed oil. Vegetable shortening has many uses beyond baking! You can also use it to deep-fry foods, make pie crusts flaky, and even keep cookies soft and tender when stored. So if you find yourself wondering what is a good substitute for shortening, you now know that there are lots of fats that can be used instead. Just keep in mind that some of these options won’t work in every recipe that calls for it, so read on for all the info you need!

What is Shortening?

Shortening is a type of fat that, as the name might suggest, is used to shorten the length of time it takes to bake something. Companies that are making commercial baked products use shortening because it can be solid at room temperature, which means it will not melt as easily as other kinds of fats. This also means that you can be more precise in how you are adding the shortening to your recipe, since you won’t have to worry about melting.

Shortening is now mainly used for frying, baking and making pastries. It has replaced lard in most of these uses, as lard is not considered healthy. Shortening may also be known as “vegetable shortening” or “vegetable fat”. Many brands of shortening contain trans fat, which is considered by most health experts to be unhealthy. Trans fats are created in an industrial process called hydrogenation, a process which solidifies vegetable oil by adding hydrogen atoms to its carbon chain, creating a semi-solid fat that resists rancidity.

Some shortenings are made from pure vegetable oils such as soybean oil or cottonseed oil. These are generally labeled as “pure vegetable shortening” or “100% vegetable shortening”. Pure vegetable shortenings do not contain trans fat, but they do contain a small amount of saturated fat (about 1-3%) which keeps them from being called “transferee”, although their actual trans fat content is usually less than 0.01%. Many of these pure vegetable shortenings have longer shelf life than other shortenings and are commonly used as ingredients in deep fryers, as well as for some baked goods.

4 Types of Shortening

There are a lot of different kinds of shortening, but most of them are just variations on a couple of big categories. There are four main types, and each one is a little different and has its own characteristics and uses.


All-purpose shortening is the kind most people think of when they want to fry something. It’s made out of cottonseed oil or soybean oil, maybe with some added emulsifiers or other ingredients to make it easier to work with in recipes. You can use it in pastries or any kind of baking, but it will leave an oily taste that some people don’t like if you use it in cakes or cookies. It’s pretty versatile, though, and great for frying things like chicken because it has a high smoke point. If you’re just starting out making your own shortening at home, this is probably what you should try first.

Solid Shortening

Solid shortening is a solid fat that has been whipped with air to create a light, fluffy texture. Solid shortening usually contains no emulsifiers, which would prevent it from whipping properly. Solid shortening is used for baking and pastry-making. It helps to trap air bubbles in dough, which gives it a stretchy texture, allowing it to rise higher when baked. This form of shortening is also useful for keeping cookies from spreading out too much.


Liquid shortening is all-vegetable oil that has been partially solidified and that is used as a fat in many commercial food products, like baked goods, snacks and pastries. Most liquid shortening contains soybean oil, with a small amount of salt added for flavor. It looks white like all-purpose shortening, but it’s thinner and more watery because there aren’t any solid particles in there to thicken it up.

Cake/Icing Shortening

This shortening is less dense than solid shortening because it contains emulsifiers, which help to keep baked goods moist and fresh longer. While this type of shortening is mainly used for icing, it can be used in baking as well.

What is Shortening Used For?

It has more calories than butter and is used in frying and baking. As a solid fat, it produces little smoke on heating. The flavour of vegetable shortening is bland, so it is often used in cooking to reduce the amount of more flavoured oils and fats required.

As with other fats, some trans fat is formed during hydrogenation. This is because the hydrogenation process converts the unsaturated vegetable oil into saturated fat. Trans fat raises total blood cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease. Vegetable shortening may be made partially or completely from non-hydrogenated oil; the label must state whether or not it contains trans fats.

Vegetable shortening’s use as a food ingredient comes from its high melting point (about 24 °C/75 °F). This makes it ideal for creating flaky textures that separate into layers when baked, such as in pies, pastries and cookies. Vegetable shortening is also used to make puffy food products such as doughnuts and crackers have a softer texture than if they were made with butter or lard. It is more difficult to create flaky textures using pure vegetable oils (such as olive oil), which do not contain any saturated fats, although this can be achieved using the correct ratio of oil and solid fat. Some food companies have chosen to use pure vegetable oils rather than shortening because of concerns about trans fats.

Vegetable shortenings are also used in packaged foods such as chips (crisps in some countries) and cookies, where they also function to reduce flavour transfer from the filling between batches of the same product.

10 Best Substitutes for Shortening

#1 Butter


After using butter in place of shortening, the things that were good were much better, and the things that were bad were not as bad. The cookies had a richer flavor; they tasted more like what I wanted them to taste like.

The texture was different, but in the end it was a good thing. It was more cake-like, and the crust was flakier. The crust of my pie didn’t get soggy at all, even after a day or so. It was actually better than normal.

The biscuits came out light and fluffy—almost cake like! The dough was harder to work with, but after they cooked up they were amazing!

I would recommend using butter instead of shortening for most recipes. It makes them taste better and have a nicer texture.

#2 Margarine


There are many recipes that call for butter or shortening. But there is also a market for recipes calling for lower-fat versions of these ingredients. If you are one of those people who prefer not to use butter or shortening, but still love the taste of these ingredients, you may want to try substituting margarine in your recipes.

So what is margarine anyway? The term “margarine” is most commonly used to refer to “non-dairy spreads.” These non-dairy products are developed from vegetable oils. They are made by combining hydrogen, with chlorine and a little bit of sodium, to create the compound then mixing it with liquid oil.

In addition to being a substitute for butter or shortening, margarine can be added to many recipes as an ingredient in place of other oils. However, because it contains more water than butter or shortening, it may not work exactly the same way in your recipe; you may need to mix a few tablespoons of water into your recipe when using margarine as an ingredient instead of butter or shortening.

Once you have learned how to substitute margarine in place of butter or shortening in your favorite recipes, you will find yourself able to enjoy the flavors and textures you love without the fat.

Be sure that when you are making your substitutions, you use a brand of margarine that will not affect the taste of your food or cause it to clump up and get stuck to the bottom of the pan.

#3 Lard


Lard is a 100% natural fat that works as a shortening substitute in most recipes. It is solid at room temperature and has no additives or preservatives. It can be used with or without trans fats.

Lard has a high smoke point of 370 degrees Fahrenheit (188 degrees Celsius). This makes it great for frying foods and making homemade fried pies, biscuits and other baked goods.

Lard is also the original fat of the kitchen. Just like melting butter, lard is a saturated fat which means it is solid at room temperature. To melt lard, place it in a sauce pan over low-medium heat until melted.

#4 Coconut Oil

Coconut oil
Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is solid at room temperature. This means it can be substituted for shortening (solidified vegetable oil like Crisco) with a 1:1 ratio. However, unlike shortening, which has a bland flavor, coconut oil has a distinct flavor.

Coconut oil comes in two forms: refined and unrefined. Refined coconut oil still has some flavor but it is much milder than unrefined. Unrefined coconut oils have larger particles which lends a smooth texture to baked goods. Due to the larger particle size, unrefined coconut oil is prone to melting quickly in warm environments such as your kitchen or tropical climates.

If you want to avoid coconut flavor altogether, use refined coconut oil for all of your baking needs!

#5 Vegetable Oil

Vegetable Oil
Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil is a good substitute for melted shortening in many recipes. However, since vegetable oil is liquid it will yield a different texture. It is best for quick breads. You will want to use a solid fat like vegetable shortening or butter if you are making pie crusts, scones or biscuits.

Vegetable oil can also be used as an all-purpose alternative to shortening. Since it has a similar bland taste there should not be any difference in the taste of your baked goods. If you would like to try it we recommend replacing ¼ cup of the melted shortening with ¼ cup vegetable oil and then adjusting accordingly from there.

#6 Vegan Butter

Vegan Butter
Vegan Butter

Vegan butter is one of the most common vegan substitutes for shortening. Vegan butter is made from a variety of oils and therefore has many options for flavor. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on personal preference. Experiment with the different varieties to see which suits you best.

Taste-wise, vegan butter falls somewhere between margarine and regular butter. It also has a much higher smoke point than either margarine or regular butter, making it better for sautéing and frying.

Amount-wise, one tablespoon of vegan butter is roughly the equivalent of 1 cup of shortening. To substitute vegan butter for shortening, add 1 tablespoon per cup you plan to use. If you plan to use it regularly, begin with 1 tablespoon and then experiment to see if more is needed to reach the same desired consistency.

#7 Applesauce


When it comes to making baked goods, fat is flavor. Fat is texture. Fat is the thing that makes the difference between dough and bread, between cookies and cake.

For some bakers that’s a big problem; they want to reduce the fat in their recipes, but they don’t want to sacrifice flavor or texture. In these cases applesauce can be a good substitute for something like shortening or butter.

Taste-wise, applesauce won’t fool anyone; it has a distinct—though not entirely unpleasant—granny-apple-like flavor. Texture-wise, however, it’s a little better. It’s also much cheaper than shortening or butter.

But if you’re going to use applesauce in your baking, know that you shouldn’t substitute it 1:1 for shortening or butter in your recipes. Because of its much lower fat content, it will produce different results. In addition to reducing your overall fat content while adding moisture to your baking (which some people might consider a benefit), the lower fat content of applesauce can make all the difference between dough and bread and cookies and cake. To compensate for this effect, you should either build in more fat (and add calories) or replace the applesauce with some kind of fat or shortening.

#8 Ghee


Ghee is a kind of butter. It was originally made as a way for people to use butter in the hot Indian climate without it turning rancid, but now it’s available pretty much everywhere. It’s made by heating butter until all the water has evaporated, leaving behind milk solids and golden fat.

Ghee is similar to clarified butter, which is made by heating butter until the water and milk solids separate, then pouring off the milk solids and keeping just the clear fat. But ghee has been cooked longer than clarified butter, and so it contains even less water than regular butter. This makes it ideal to use as a shortening in baking recipes that call for shortening.

Since ghee contains no milk solids, there are no proteins in it to react with gluten in bread doughs or batters – so ghee can be used to make gluten-free baked goods. And since ghee contains almost no water, it also won’t dilute a flour mixture like regular butter might. That can be good or bad depending on what you’re making; if you want your cake to stay light and fluffy, you may not want all that fat in there.

#9 Bacon Grease

Bacon Grease
Bacon Grease

A little bit of bacon grease goes a long way. If you’re using it to replace vegetable shortening in a pie crust, for example, use just one tablespoon for every two cups of flour. And if you need to make more than one batch of cookies or scones, store the unused portion in the fridge.

Testers found that the bacon grease-infused recipes were incredibly easy to work with—even without chilling. In fact, some noted that they preferred the texture of the treats made with bacon fat over those made with shortening.

#10 Mashed Bananas

Mashed Bananas
Mashed Bananas

A banana has a similar consistency to shortening when pureed and can be used in place of shortening in any quick bread or cookie recipe. You do not need to change anything else about the recipe, but you will see a difference in texture.

Trying this out with your favorite recipes can be fun! If you are making a dessert or something that needs to be more tender than usual, then use mashed bananas for the shortening.

Mashed bananas are the same consistency as shortening when pureed. So if you have a recipe that calls for shortening, simply replace it with mashed bananas! The ratio will depend on how much shortening is called for, so use your judgment.

How To Make Homemade Vegetable Shortening?


What’s a Good Shortening Substitute in Cookies?

Well, butter is your best bet. Just use 100 percent butter in place of the shortening and reduce the amount of liquid by one tablespoon per cup. If you need to add some fat content to make up for the missing shortening, you can use coconut oil, which has a neutral flavor that won’t compete with the other ingredients. Use 1/3 cup coconut oil per cup of shortening.

Is Coconut Oil Considered Shortening?

Trying to answer this question requires knowing what “shortening” means. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, shortening is defined as: “a solid fat used in making pastry and in cooking.” The definition further explains that shortening is used interchangeably with terms such as: “fat” and “starch.”

While the terms “shortening” and “vegetable shortening” are often used interchangeably, the two designations actually differ by the amount of saturated fat in the product. Vegetable shortening and other solid fats, including lard and coconut oil, are all considered “shortening.”


The best substitute for shortening is often something that gives you a similar, or better, end result than what you were working with before. For example, a recipe that calls for shortening may instead call for vegetable oil in order to offer a more distinct flavor in the results, but if you’d rather not have that, the original shortening can work well too. The same logic applies to the other options on this list – the best substitute for shortening is the one that works best for your situation and taste buds!

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