How to Substitute Butter for Shortening in Baked Goods

If you've ever wondered, "If a baking recipe calls for shortening, can I use butter or margarine instead?" you're not alone. Here you'll find our Test Kitchen's best tips for replacing shortening with butter when you're in a pinch.

So your sweet tooth is calling, and it's time for a baking therapy session. Unfortunately, when you've gathered your ingredients and baking tools, you don't have any shortening to make the classic peanut butter cookies you're craving. Don't worry; butter is a shortening substitute likely already in your fridge.

Whatever your reason, you can use shortening as a substitute for butter in cookies or substitute butter for shortening in your baked goods. Our Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen has tested hundreds of recipes using these baking ingredient substitutions. Fats and oils add flavor and contribute to baked goods' texture, but they work a bit differently. Here's what you need to know when using butter instead of shortening when baking.

pressing shortening into measuring cup with spatula
Kritsada Panichgul

How to Substitute Butter for Shortening

In general, you can use a 1:1 ratio when substituting butter instead of shortening. However, making this substitution may slightly alter the texture of your baked goods. Why? Shortening is solid, 100 percent fat. Butter is about 80 percent fat and 20 percent water. This additional liquid may change the consistency of the sweets you bake.

Test Kitchen Tip: Because margarine and buttery spreads contain water, this reduces the fat in your recipe. There's no guarantee using margarine as a substitute for shortening or butter will yield desirable results.

What differences will you see in your baked goods if you use butter instead of shortening?

You'll notice these differences if baking with butter instead of shortening.

  • Cookies made with butter or margarine may be softer and spread a little more. Cookies made with butter are usually crispier than chewy cookies made with shortening, but the flavor is richer with butter. So a one-to-one butter swap will work great if you need a shortening substitute for cookies.
  • In cakes and breads, the substitution is rarely noticeable when using shortening vs. butter. You shouldn't have any issue when substituting butter for shortening here.
  • A piecrust made with butter or margarine won't be as flaky as one made with shortening. If you're a fan of flaky, you may not want to substitute butter for shortening in piecrust. See our tips for making an all-butter piecrust if you're set on using it.

How to Substitute Shortening for Butter

Shortening with a little salt makes an excellent fat substitution on the rare occasion that you run out of butter (how could you let this happen?!). Adding the optional salt will give you more of a salted butter result than unsalted butter.

If a recipe calls for:

  • One cup butter, use one cup shortening plus, if desired, ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup butter, use ½ cup shortening plus, if desired, ⅛ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup butter, use ¼ cup shortening plus, if desired, a dash of salt

Test Kitchen Tip: If you've got open packages of both shortening and butter, you can use a combination of the two in your baking. Just combine to measure the amount called for in your recipe.

Now that you know you'll be set to go if you're in a bind and need to swap butter for shortening, you can keep practicing your baking skills with less worry. Get a headstart on your holiday baking with some freezer-friendly cookies. Or to see both butter and shortening work their magic together, try our best-ever chocolate chip cookies.

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