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Substitutes for Shortening

Shortening is a solid fat that is derived either from plant or animal sources. Shortening derived from animals comes from lard, while those derived from plants undergo a process known as hydrogenation that changes the chemical composition and allows a normally liquid oil to remain a solid. Shortening is used for many purposes in cooking.

In baking, shortening is used with pastries, pie crusts and biscuits to make them flaky. It is also used in frying or deep-frying as a liquid. However, there may be times when you want to substitute shortening in a recipe with something else—whether it’s for health reasons, principles, or lack of shortening on hand. What you substitute shortening with usually depends on what you need it for. Here are a few substitutions for shortening and when they are and aren’t appropriate.

Cooking Oil

When substituting shortening with cooking oil, you should use 1 cup of oil for every 1 cup of shortening needed. It is not appropriate to use oil unless shortening is to be used in a melted form, such as for frying. Olive oil is generally the best oil to substitute for shortening, as it is healthier than most. However, olive oil is not appropriate for baked goods which are sweet. In these cases, go with a different vegetable oil.

Lard

Many shortenings are based on lard, so this makes a good substitution for shortening. When using lard as a substitute for shortening, use 2 tbsp less than 1 cup—this makes ⅞ cup—for every 1 cup of shortening called for. Lard as a substitute may alter the flavor of your finished product, so you may want to try a smaller version of your recipe first to make sure you get a taste you enjoy.

Butter or Margarine

Both butter and margarine can substitute for shortening in a pinch. When using butter or margarine as a substitute, you should use 1 ⅛ cups of butter or margarine—or 2 tbsp more than a cup—for every 1 cup of shortening needed for the recipe. When using butter or margarine as a substitute for shortening, use less salt in your recipe.

When using butter remember that it browns easier than shortening. When using butter as a substitute during baking, you may want to bake for a short time at a hot temperature, then bake longer at a cooler temperature—a method known as flash browning.

Cooking Spray

If your shortening is just used to grease your pan during frying, you can substitute it with cooking spray. For any other use of shortening, cooking spray is not appropriate.

Applesauce or Prune Puree

When shortening is used in a baking recipe, you can substitute 1 cup of shortening with ½ cup of applesauce or prune puree. However, this is not an appropriate substitution in any other use of shortening.

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