5 Excellent Substitutes For Shortening
Shortening is used primarily in baking to make flaky and flavorful baked goods. Shortening is typically made from vegetable oils and is either pure white or a pale yellowish color. When chilled or at room temperature, shortening is a solid (similar to butter) and is often sold commercially in one-pound blocks.
It is much cheaper than butter so it is often used in commercial baking or the production of fast food or in large-scale pastry productions.
Since shortening is almost pure fat, it is very neutral in flavor and works great in baked goods. In fact, unlike many of the other fats on this list, shortening is used almost exclusively in baked goods.
It is very affordable and you will be able to find it in most stores, probably in the baking aisle. Some people prefer to steer clear from shortening as it is high in fat, and is therefore not recommended for those with health concerns. It is also heavily processed and made from vegetables and/or canola oil, which some dietitians recommend avoiding.
Shortening is also known for its waxy aftertaste, particularly if you’re using shortening in large amounts. Some bakers will use half shortening and half butter, which cuts the cost of using all butter, but increases the quality when using all shortening. You can try this at home, or try combining or substituting shortening with any one of the items on this list!
Either way, shortening is an important ingredient in many recipes especially in baking. If you choose not to eat shortening, or cannot find it, here are some other options for you to try!
1. Vegetable, Canola, or Olive Oil
Vegetable oil is essentially the melted version of shortening, so depending on what your recipe calls for, vegetable oil would make a great alternative. Like shortening, it is fairly neutral in flavor.
Olive oil is another healthy fat that will work in place of shortening because it becomes firm when chilled. However, olive oil will burn if cooked at a high temperature, and will also impart its signature olive flavor to whatever you’re cooking.
Use olive oil as a 1:1 ratio for shortening, or use half olive oil and half neutral-tasting oil like avocado or canola.
2. Butter or Margarine
Butter is probably the number one choice for a shortening substitute by chefs and pastry chefs because it is very similar in fat content (slightly lower) and texture, especially if your recipe calls for chilled shortening or butter.
If using butter as a substitute, it is important to note that butter is unsuitable for those who eat a plant-based diet or those who are lactose intolerant, so butter might not be the best alternative depending on who you are cooking for. However, butter does make a great substitute for shortening (and is often preferred in high-end bake shops!) in most pastry recipes, including savory and sweet options.
When shopping for butter, check the label to see if you are buying salted or unsalted. Like shortening, margarine is pale yellow and made from processed vegetable oil, and it also gets firm when chilled because of its high-fat content.
Margarine is also neutral in flavor and can be used 1:1 to shortening in sweet or savory baked goods and is probably the closest substitute on this list, other than butter.
Like shortening, margarine is not the healthiest of ingredients and is very highly processed. It is less firm than shortening, so if you need very firm shortening to cut into doughs, freeze the margarine first.
Make sure, if trying this, that you cut it into small cubes or balls before freezing, otherwise it will take too long to freeze. Because margarine is made of plant-based oils, you can use it for all dietary restrictions.
3. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can be used in place of shortening to make your recipes more healthy because, unlike most fats, coconut oil can actually reduce cholesterol! For this reason, it is a wonderful alternative to shortening!
When chilled, coconut oil is solid, like shortening. You can add it to recipes in a 1:1 ratio, or better yet, use half coconut oil and half butter or margarine for a flaky and decadent result. The only downside of using coconut oil is that it can have a strong flavor, which gets stronger if cooked at high temperatures.
Most baked goods are not baked at such high temperatures (as with cookies, cakes, muffins, loaves, etc) but some doughs do call for a high temperature, in which case, coconut oil may not be the best alternative. In those cases, we recommend choosing butter or margarine instead.
4. Flax Seed
Although flax seeds is often thought of as an egg replacement, it can be used in baked goods as a replacement for shortening because it is very high in fat. To use flax seeds, you will need to select finely ground flax meal, or grind it yourself in a coffee grinder or high powered blender.
You will also want to choose a pale colored or light flax seed as using a dark variety will modify the color of your final recipe.
Next, mix the flaxseed with warm water using a 1:3 ratio, seed to water. Let this mixture sit for a few minutes until it becomes very thick. You can then add this mixture to any recipe that calls for shortening.
Note that with this replacement, you may need to play around with the exact amounts for replacing, but in some applications, as with simple loaves or quickbreads, this substitute will work well and result in tender, rich, tasty baked goods!
Lard is made from pork fat which is cooked on an extremely low heat and strained over and over to produce a clear (pale white when chilled) and edible fat. Lard is known for making pasties rich and tender because of its very high fat content.
Lard has a robust meaty flavor that goes great with savory recipes and is the top choice for European pastry shops because of its richness. It is of course not suitable for anyone who does not or cannot eat pork for cultural or religious reasons, and is obviously not suitable for anyone who does not eat meat!
Shortening is an excellent option for all baking applications for its neutral flavor and low cost. You can substitute shortening for many of the options on this list at a 1:1 ratio and it will not impact your recipe much. Shortening comes in a variety of brands, such as Crisco brand vegetable shortening, but most shortening is the same.
If you are looking to make something a little more high-end and cost is not an issue, you may prefer butter or coconut oil. If you do not want to cook with processed ingredients, then any one of the substitutes on this list will make a great alternative to shortening in your next recipe!