Vegetable shortening is a vegetable fat that is solid at room temperature. It’s one of those rare ingredients that you may not need until you’re making a pie or a double chocolate cake!
And you may not have shortening available at all times. But there are vegetable shortening substitutes out there that will stand in nicely when you really need one.
In this article, I’ll list out the 7 best shortening substitutes that you likely already have in your fridge or are easy to find at your grocery store.
Butter, coconut oil, margarine, vegetable oil, lard, vegan butter, and applesauce are the easiest shortening substitutes you can swap.
However, not all vegetable shortening substitutes are alike!
In fact, they’re quite different and each has its own unique distinction making them a good choice for various recipes. Keep reading to find out how!
- What Is Vegetable Shortening?
- 7 Best Shortening Substitutes
- What Does Vegetable Shortening Taste Like?
- Vegetable Shortening Uses
- Vegetable Shortening Benefits
- Related Questions
What Is Vegetable Shortening?
Vegetable shortening is basically fat that comes from vegetable oils, such as soybean and cottonseed. It’s solid at room temperature and has a neutral taste.
This makes it great for baking because when you want some parts of your baked goods to be flaky or crisp, vegetable shortening comes in handy.
While shortening doesn’t add much taste to baked goods, it does add a lighter texture. This is especially true when you’re baking pastries or pie crusts.
7 Best Shortening Substitutes
Keep scrolling to find out all affordable and easy-to-find ingredients that can be substituted for any recipe calling for shortening.
Butter is vegetable oil solidified with milk proteins (called casein) and salt added, but it’s widely available as a vegetable shortening substitute!
Butter can be substituted 1:1 for vegetable shortening in cakes, cookies, pastries, and other baked goods with no problem. It doesn’t make your baked goods flaky the way shortening does but it adds a rich buttery flavor.
Limit the use of butter as a shortening substitute, though. While it does add crispness to baked goods, it can also make things taste greasy.
So I wouldn’t recommend using butter as a vegetable shortening alternative for cakes that need to stay soft and fluffy.
Also, don’t forget to cut back on the baking time by 2-3 minutes if using butter instead of vegetable shortening!
2. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, just like regular vegetable shortening.
However, it’s much more health-friendly because coconut oil consists of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA). These don’t get stored as fat quite easily and are quickly used by the body for energy instead!
When it comes to baking, coconut oil will behave differently in different recipes. It’s a great alternative for the fat in pie crusts and cookies because of its flavor (it is sweet and coconutty) and crispness factor.
However, when it comes to cakes, they take on a whole new texture due to the slight greasiness of coconut oil. Meanwhile, if you’re using all-purpose flour in your cake recipe as well… then that’ll add an undesirable taste as well!
You might want to use this shortening substitute for baked goods only from time to time or stick with another type of vegetable shortening substitute.
You can substitute margarine for vegetable shortening in most recipes. In fact, that’s what it was designed for!
Margarine is made with vegetable oil and emulsifiers so it looks and tastes just like the real deal. The only thing you need to be aware of is its water content.
As opposed to shortening, which is 100% fat, margarine has water in it as well. How much? Different brands can have anywhere from 10% to 50%.
So do keep this in mind when doubling a recipe using margarine. You may need to adjust the liquids or flours accordingly to compensate for its added liquid!
4. Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oil is a generic term for cooking oils that don’t come from nuts or other seeds. Olive, canola, and other types of vegetable oils are common examples.
Olive oil has great flavor but it’s not the best choice if you want to use it as a substitute for shortening in baking recipes.
That’s because olive oil is a liquid at room temperature, just like water. You won’t be able to get it into the solid form you’ll need for baking!
On the other hand, canola and other vegetable cooking oils are great shortening alternatives – they’re solid at room temperature and neutral in flavor.
Vegetable oil, in general, is a good alternative to use when the recipe calls for a melted shortening.
But, if the baked good requires puffiness (pie dough, biscuits, or scones) – then it’s best to avoid it altogether.
Lard is pig fat made up of saturated fats like stearic and palmitic acid.
Many people are surprised to learn that lard was once the preferred shortening for making pie crusts and biscuits in America!
Even though it’s not suitable for vegan, vegetarian, or low-carb diets – it can work as a substitute for shortening in recipes that don’t need to be highly flaky.
Lard is quite sweet and has a faint pork flavor, so it’s not for everyone.
If you do use lard as a substitute – then remember that it doesn’t melt as well as other types of vegetable shortening and will leave your baked goods looking oily and greasy.
6. Vegan Butter
Vegan butter is a great substitute for shortening (or butter) in most recipes. It comes in stick form and has the same texture as regular butter.
It is made from oils, usually palm or soybean oil, and some type of water-binding agents like starches or gums. It makes vegan butter quite greasy, just like regular butter.
You may notice that your cake takes on a different texture when compared to shortening. This might be good (for things like carrot or banana cakes) or bad (if you’re used to the lightness of shortening or real butter).
Applesauce is a great shortening substitute if you’re looking to reduce the fat in your recipes.
It’s quite sweet and flavorful so it can work well in deserts where texture (shredding, grating, crushing) trumps flavor (candy bars, pie crusts).
You might be worried about using applesauce for baking – but it won’t make baked goods soggy or chewy. That’s because its moisture content is very low, around 50% lower than most fruit purees!
It can also replace vegetable shortening in frosting and glazes with great success. Use equal amounts of applesauce for each cup of shortening required by the recipe.
What Does Vegetable Shortening Taste Like?
Vegetable shortening is essentially made from hydrogenated vegetable oils. This process solidifies the fat in oils, turning liquid into a solid that can be used to replace butter and make baked goods flaky.
So the taste is bland and neutral – similar to margarine or butter. Vegetable shortening is often referred to as “pure fat.”
Vegetable Shortening Uses
Because shortening doesn’t have much of a taste, you can use it in sweet and savory recipes alike. It’s also popular for making pie crusts, biscuits, and pancakes.
Popular recipes that call for shortening are vanilla bean scones, sugar-crusted shortbread, and onion cheddar biscuits.
Vegetable Shortening Benefits
Vegetable shortening tastes better than butter in baked goods – and it’s not as high in saturated fats. Here are some of the culinary benefits that vegetable shortening provides:
- Vegetable shortening is essentially pure fat, so it makes baked goods flaky and moist.
- It keeps foods from becoming soggy or mushy after a prolonged period of time.
- It’s gluten-free and can be used in many recipes that call for wheat or other grain flour.
- It’s made from natural ingredients, not chemicals.
- Vegetable shortening can be used in kitchen and baking recipes that require solid fats (such as shortbread cookies or scones).
- It doesn’t have a taste of its own. This means you can use vegetable shortening in everything from frostings to pie crusts without changing the flavor of your food.
Is Coconut Oil A Good Substitute for Shortening?
Coconut oil is a good substitute for shortening in some recipes. It is solid at room temperature but melts quickly and easily once it hits the heat of your oven.
Use coconut oil in recipes that call for shortening or butter to create a chewy texture (like sugar cookie dough or cinnamon rolls).
Moreover, coconut oil is trans-fat-free. It also contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are known for improving heart health and reducing body weight.
What’s A Good Shortening Substitute for Cookies?
The easiest swaps will be 100% butter or margarine. These can help you replicate the short, mind texture in cookies that you get when using shortening.
However, since they have more water content, you should consider reducing the amount of liquid in some other parts of the recipe.
What’s A Good Shortening Substitute for Pie Crust?
Go for coconut oil, lard, butter, or margarine. All of these will work as an appropriate shortening substitute for pie crust.
Each will provide a different flavor to the pie crust – but they all work well for creating flakiness and tenderness.
What’s A Good Shortening Substitute for Biscuits?
Use 1:1 butter or margarine as a substitute for shortening in biscuits. Both will help in creating the same flaky texture you get when using shortening.
Coconut oil is another good option.
However, since butter contains more water, consider cutting back on the liquid in your recipe by 1/4 cup for every cup of fat that’s replaced. This will ensure that you don’t end up with mushy biscuits.
What’s A Good Shortening Substitute for Frosting?
Use a butter-based frosting recipe (made with 100% butter or margarine) to create the same texture and flavor you’d get from shortening.
Is Vegetable Shortening Healthy?
Vegetable shortening is 100% fat. This means it offers no essential nutrients like vitamins A, E, or K; fatty acids such as omega-3s; or minerals like calcium, iron, or magnesium.
Moreover, the ingredients used to make vegetable shortening will vary between brands, which means that one product’s health benefits could differ from the next.
So, is vegetable shortening healthy?
The answer is: it depends on what it’s made of and how you use it. The fact that it lacks essential nutrients makes most types of shortenings poor candidates for good nutrition.