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.

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So your sweet tooth is calling and it's time for a baking therapy session. You start gathering your ingredients and baking tools only to find you don't have any shortening to make the classic peanut butter cookies you're craving. Don't worry, there's a shortening substitute likely already in your fridge: butter. Whether you ran out of shortening or butter, want to use up a package, or simply prefer the texture or flavor of one over the other you can substitute butter for shortening and shortening for butter in your baked goods. Our Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen has tested hundreds of recipes using both of these baking ingredient substitutions. Fats and oils add flavor and contribute to the texture of baked goods, but they do work a bit differently. Here's what you need to know when using butter instead of shortening when baking.

How to Substitute Butter for Shortening

In general, you can use a 1:1 ratio when substituting butter in place of shortening. Making this substitution may slightly alter the texture of your baked goods. Why? Shortening is solid, 100% fat. Butter is about 85% fat and 15% 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?

These are the most common differences you'll notice 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 crisper than chewy cookies made with shortening, but the flavor is richer with butter. So if you need a substitute for shortening in cookies, a one-to-one butter swap will work great.
  • 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.
  • Piecrust made with butter or margarine will not 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 pie crust. See our tips for making an all-butter piecrust if you're set on using it.

How to Substitute Shortening for Butter

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

If a recipe calls for:

  • 1 cup butter use 1 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.

Get Our Free Emergency Substitutions Chart

Comments (2)

Better Homes & Gardens Member
November 24, 2018
Butter and margarine has about 15% moisture and shortening very little. I wouldn't use margarine because of the type of oil. Butter is a better alternative because it is closer to the shortening in consistancy. Lard is a good alternative as well. I add a little less liquid and a little more butter to compensate for the extra liquid in the butter and it works out very well. People forget to take this into account when substituting. I bake with whole wheat flour and this helps as well because you need more moisture with whole wheat substitution. Baking is a science more than an art, and the artistic side comes in when experimenting or trying new ideas...
Better Homes & Gardens Member
July 30, 2018
So would maybe putting in a little oil instead of equal parts butter for shortening help with the density issue? (Like 4/5 c butter & 1/5 c oil to sub for 1c shortening?