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Replacing shortening with butter

Cynthia S's picture

I don't like using shortening as an ingredient in baked goods, and wondered if I could substitute butter using the same measurements.

john's picture

Cynthia, you can replace shortening with butter in recipes for pastry and pie doughs, but you will need to add 25% more (butter has a lower fat content than shortening). You will also have to work a little faster, since butter has a lower melting temperature than shortening.

A recent contributor to our blog posted a recipe for an all-butter pie dough here: The dough recipe is at the bottom. Just remember, the end product might not be quite as flaky.

Hope that helps!
Is there a particular recipe you were thinking of?

Cynthia S's picture

Thanks! I was thinking of using butter instead of shortening or oil in banana bread and pumpkin bread. Do you think that will work ok?

john's picture

Quick breads are very forgiving. Pastry... not so much. The only appreciable difference is going to be a slightly drier crumb. That being said, I use butter regularly for the family banana bread recipe, which is absolutely delicious! Just add a touch more butter than the amount of shortening called for. To give you an idea, the family recipe calls for 6 tablespoons butter or 5 tablespoons of shortening... not that different. Here it is for you to try. Please let us know what you think!

One 81⁄2 x 41⁄2-inch loaf

Have all ingredients at room temperature, about 70°F.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 81⁄2 x 41⁄2-inch loaf pan.
Whisk together:
11⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Beat in a large bowl at medium speed until creamy:
2⁄3 cup sugar
1⁄3 cup vegetable shortening or 6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) butter, softened
3⁄4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Beat in:
1 to 2 large eggs, beaten
1 to 11⁄4 cups mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3)
Add the dry ingredients in about 3 parts, beating until smooth after each addition. Fold in, if desired:
1⁄2 cup chopped nuts
1⁄4 cup finely chopped dried apricots
Scrape the batter into the greased pan. Bake the bread about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly, then unmold.
Cool completely before slicing.

Renee's picture

What I like about this recipe is the addition of the lemon zest.
I used only one large egg and baked it for between 50 and 55 minutes. All in all, an excellent recipe. Will bake it again next time I have bananas that get a bit ripe.

Mona's picture

Do you know if using frozen bananas makes a difference when baking cupcakes or banana bread?

john's picture

We always use frozen bananas Mona. In our kitchen, any banana that's not looking so hot gets tossed in the freezer for making bread later.

enkida's picture

I recognized that recipe instantly when I saw it. Some classics never change :)

Julie's picture

You said it's okay to substitute in pastry and pie crusts, but what about cookies?

meg's picture

See the question/response just below your comment.

susan smith's picture

yes, you can substitute butter for shortening in cookies unless they are peanut butter. I'm not sure about those, but chocolate chip yes you have to add about 1/2 Cup more flour to keep them from melting and spreading out too much in the oven, but it can be done.

Nicole Kastner's picture

I have a banana cake recipe that I want to replace the shortening with butter. Does the 25% more rule apply to all baking or only certain things?

2 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts

john's picture

In this case, I would say to just use 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons of butter instead of the shortening. It definitely doesn't apply to all cases. You really have to analyze the recipe and figure out what role the shortening plays. Sometimes, shortening is used instead of butter because it's cheaper, but sometimes it is used to create a desired effect. Honestly, it's just a case by case basis.

Sarah's picture

I found a recipe for peanut butter cookies using a cookie press that calls for a 1/2 cup of shortening, but I think they would be more flavorful with real butter (also I never end up using an entire container of shortening once I buy it.) Do you think a butter substitution would work for cookie recipes, as well?

meg's picture

Sarah, The short answer is that, yes, you can substitute butter for shortening in cookies. It will, however, change the texture and appearance of the end product. Because shortening is 100% fat and butter is roughly 85% fat and 15% water, cookies with butter in them tend to spread more during baking. This is because butter has a lower melting point than shortening, so the melting butter makes the dough spread more before it sets up. So you can expect your cookies to spread more and be crisper if you use butter.
Shortening makes lighter, chewier cookies. There's no denying that butter has a better flavor than shortening (which is why I make my pie crusts using all butter), but it all depends on what texture you want in your cookies. Essentially, though, I think you'll be fine substituting the butter for shortening. My only concern is that they may not hold their shape as well, so any pretty cookie press designs may not come through. They will be tasty, though!

Megan's picture

If you are using butter, there are a few things you can do to assure your cookies don't spread as much. 1.) cut in the cold butter instead of using room temp. 2.) If your cookies call for baking soda-use baking powder instead. 3.) freeze the dough 30 mins before using. Then put back in fridge until you are ready to make another pan of cookies.

Marlene's picture

I know this may be a bit unorthodox but it's something I've discovered...if I substitute butter for shortening in cookies I also add a bit of Benefiber - just enough to "fortify" the cookie dough ; usually 1-3 T. , depending on the recipe, which helps keep your cookies from spreading. No body knows it's there and who doesn't need the extra fiber?

Dawn's picture

If my recipe calls for 1 c shortening and I sub in 1 c butter , is your benefibre equal amounts as well, ie: 1 T. to 1 c., or just a guess?

meg's picture

I would say yes, but to be honest, I'm really not sure.

HMKW93's picture

I am making some patties and I can't find shortening anywhere (I live in the uk) can I use butter instead?

meg's picture

Offhand, I would say yes--you can just use butter. What kind of patties are you making?

Vivian's picture

I wanted to make a pound cake with butter instead of shortening. Would that be ok and what would the difference in proportion and taste be?

meg's picture

By all means yes! I greatly prefer the flavor of pound cakes made with butter. Shortening does not have a flavor (unless you buy butter-flavored shortening), whereas butter gives cakes a lovely flavor. I would love to see your recipe just to know how much shortening it calls for, but for a pound cake I would just replace the shortening with the same amount of butter. Just for reference, most large pound cakes (made in a tube or bundt pan) use about 2 cups (4 sticks or 1 pound) butter. Smaller cakes use around half that amount.

Emily's picture

Can Replace shortening with butter for a cinnamon roll recipe? Would it affect anything?

meg's picture

Yes, you can. The pastry might be a little bit less flaky and tender, but I think the amazing butter flavor makes up for that. You could even use half shortening and half butter if you like. Just one question--in your recipe, are you melting the butter, kneading it into the dough like brioche, or folding it in like croissants?

veronica's picture

Hi, I'm making cinnamon rolls that call for shortening being beat into the sugar and 1 cup of hot water prior to adding the flour. Can I substitute butter for this? I'm guessing I would have to soften the butter first, but hope this will work as I'm all out of shortening. Suggestions?

meg's picture

I would say yes--you can use butter, but I would soften it first.

xuan's picture

hi can i use butter instead of shortening when making frosting

meg's picture

Yes! Absolutely. It all depends on what kind of frosting you're making, but yes you can do that--you'll probably need to soften the butter first. What recipe are you using?

maram's picture

i will make a buttercream fondant, can i use butter instead of shortening?

meg's picture

In this case, I actually wouldn't recommend using butter. Fondant recipes are pretty precise for a reason--you need it to behave in a particular way. Shortening and butter behave very differently. I would just follow the recipe and use shortening.

Jill's picture

Fondant usually tastes terrible and is never eaten BUT if you want an easy fondant that tastes awesome, use this recipe (and it does NOT use shortening):
16 oz. mini marshmallows
2 lbs. confectioner's sugar (aka "superfine sugar")
4 Tbsp. water
cooking spray to grease bowl and mixer hooks

Put marshmallows and water in a tall, large bowl Microwave for one minute. The mixture will expand greatly. Stir. Put into the mixer with half of the sugar. Mix. Keep adding sugar until the fondant is firm and not sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes or more before using. May be tinted. DO NOT SUBSTITUTE any other kind of sugar.

nickie's picture

If I use butter instead of shortening in a cookie frosting recipe, will the frosting still form a hard texture (so cookies can be stacked?

meg's picture

What does your recipe look like? My guess is that the frosting might get sticky if it gets too warm, but I'd have to take a look at the recipe first.

susan smith's picture

Hi, if you melt the butter first and then make the frosting after it dries it should stay dry on top.

Christine 's picture

Can I use butter instead of shortening for covered pretzel rods

meg's picture

I would need to see your recipe, but I'm a little confused why there is any shortening at all--or added fat of any kind--in your recipe. The only thing I can think of is that adding a little shortening to melted chocolate makes chocolate shinier. If this is the case, I would use coconut oil instead. Coconut oil is better than shortening and will make your chocolate shiny. I wouldn't use butter simply because butter contains some water, and water makes melted chocolate "seize" up.

Tonie Duryee's picture

I want to make an apple strudel but I would like the dough to be *less* flaky than usual. Should I use butter or shortening?

meg's picture

Hmm...that's tricky because pretty much all apple strudel recipes are written to produce flaky pastries. I don't think changing the butter in a recipe to shortening would make a difference in flakiness. If anything, the dough might even be crisper with the addition of shortening since shortening is 100% fat while butter has some water in it. You might consider simply using a different type of dough--maybe even a simple pie dough.

Smita chawla's picture

Hey i am making donuts and the recipe needs a combination of both butter and shortening. Would it be okay if i use only butter? I am little confused!

meg's picture

It would probably be just fine to use butter alone. It's hard to know without looking at the recipe, but I think you could just use butter.

Latoya's picture

Hello I'm making a yellow cake which calls for a 1/2 c of shortening how much butter should I use

meg's picture

I would use an equal amount of butter for a yellow cake.

Joan's picture

An old family recipe for Easter Bread calls for shortening, however, I have a hard time getting the dough to raise. I tried different types of yeast. Does the shortening impede dough raising. Should I convert to butter?

meg's picture

Yeast doughs with lots of fat and sugar are much slower to rise and never rise quite as well as plain yeast breads. However, using butter instead won't help. You might try using butter anyway, though, as the bread will definitely taste better.

JERI's picture

I am making peanut butter eggs for the first time and have all the ingrediants except shorting (for melting with the chocolate) can I use butter in stead of the shorting

john's picture

Hi Jeri. Hope everything went OK for the Easter egg candies. As you probably found out by now, it's probably not a good idea to substitute butter for shortening in the chocolate coating. Coconut oil is acceptable, as both it and shortening will harden the chocolate coating and make it shiny... butter would probably have the opposite effect, since it is an emulsion that contains water. Sorry again about the late response!

Fifi's picture

I wanted to know whether we can use butter instead of shortening in the chocolate fudge cake or not. Or is it more appropriate to use coconut oil or any other oil?

john's picture

Do you mean our Fudge Chiffon Cake Fifi? It should be fine. Just cream the sugar with the butter before adding dry ingredients, use 25% more butter than oil (butter has less fat than oil).

Sharon Jarvis 's picture

Can I use butter instead of shortening for dumplings?

john's picture

Most likely yes... it depends on the recipe.


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