What’s Shortening in Baking & Top Substitutes

Shortening is an essential ingredient in many recipes, especially pastries, and pies. Shortening is responsible for creating that delightfully flaky and crumbly texture. However, many people don’t know what shortening “actually” is, and some may seek a substitute.

Shortening is any type of fat that remains solid at room temperature. That said, lard, margarine, and hydrogenated vegetable oils are all considered shortening. Shortening, in baking, creates a flaky and crumbly texture. Suitable swaps include butter, bacon grease, and applesauce.

Hello, everyone! My name is Michelle, and I’m a baking genius. OK, I’m tooting my own horn here. While I might not know everything about baking, my ten years of experience have taught me a whole lot – and I’m here to share my knowledge on shortening (and suitable substitutes).

What’s up, shortie? Let’s talk about shortening!

What is Shortening?

First and foremost, let’s discuss what shortening actually is.

When most people hear the word “shortening,” they think of a product such as Crisco. And to be fair, if your recipe calls for shortening, I would highly recommend going the Crisco route.

What exactly is shortening, though? 

It’s not just Crisco. In fact, any fat that retains a solid form at room temperature is considered shortening. This can extend to other products like lard, margarine, and hydrogenated vegetable oils.

What Does Shortening Do in Baking?

If your recipe requires shortening, you might wonder if it’s really necessary.

While there are many great shortening substitutions (more on that later!), if you can get your hands on some shortening, I highly recommend doing so.

That’s because shortening has a higher melting point compared to other fats, like butter. It also has the ability to trap air bubbles more readily. This ensures that your dessert ends up with a soft, light, flaky, and crumbly texture. It will also be able to hold its shape better. 

Top 4 Shortening Substitutes

I don’t recommend throwing shortening to the wayside if you don’t have to.

However, I understand that you might not have a shortening on hand and need a replacement ASAP.

Luckily, a few top-notch substitutions will still get the job done (although the results may be somewhat different).

(Note: I did not add margarine or lard to the list below simply because they are classified as “shortening” and can be used in a 1:1 ratio without impacting flavor or texture.)

1. Butter

Whether baking a cake or a batch of cookies, I always use butter. There is simply nothing quite like the rich and slightly sweet flavor it produces. It’s an instant win for all types of sweets!

Can it be used in place of shortening, though?

It sure can.

Use butter in place of shortening in a 1:1 ratio. Yes, your dessert may have a slightly altered texture, but it’s not so noticeable that it’s unenjoyable. Plus, your treat will have an overall enhanced flavor. And who doesn’t want that?

2. Bacon Grease

I know, I know, this isn’t the healthiest option out there. But who said you had to be healthy, especially when creating an indulgent dessert?

The next time you bake a batch of bacon, save the grease in a jar. When the time comes to use shortening in a recipe, go ahead and use it in place of shortening in a 1:1 ratio. 

Like shortening, bacon grease is 100% fat – no water content. So, the texture will remain the same. The big difference will be in taste, with a generous splash of bacon flavoring. Who said that was a bad thing, though?

3. Applesauce

Are you looking for a swap that’s slightly healthier? Then consider applesauce!

Applesauce should be used in a 2:1 ratio. So, if your recipe calls for two cups of shortening, you’ll use half of that amount – one cup.

Applesauce will give your treats an edge in the nutritional department. It will also add some fruity sweetness to your goodie. Remember that applesauce contains no fat, so the texture will change quite a bit.

4. Vegetable Oil

Shortening is essentially vegetable oil, so it’s evident why I included it in my top four shortening substitutes.

Go ahead and use vegetable oil in place of shortening in a 1:1 ratio.

Vegetable oil will not impact the flavor whatsoever. It will affect the final texture, though, as it is not solid at room temperature. You may notice your treats are much denser!


Well, there you have it, folks – everything you’ve ever wanted to know about shortening and how to swap for other ingredients successfully! But wait – before you leave, I have a few frequently asked questions you should check out. Let’s keep learning!

Is it better to bake with butter or shortening?

That depends on what dessert you’re baking. I tend to use butter more often than shortening simply because I prefer the flavor development that butter provides. However, I tend to stick with shortening for pies and pastries to achieve the correct texture.

How much butter do I substitute for 2/3 cups of shortening?

Butter can be substituted for shortening in a 1:1 ratio. So, if your recipe calls for two cups of shortening, you’ll use two cups of butter. If the recipe requires three cups of shortening, you’ll use three cups of butter. So on and so forth!

What happens if you use butter instead of shortening?

There isn’t too much of a difference between treats baked with butter and goodies baked with shortening. The most significant difference will be in taste. Butter will provide a noticeable richness. Your dessert may also be slightly denser and less crumbly, which is fine for most goodies.

Shortening is a Great Option, But It’s Not the Only Option!

I always recommend following a recipe to a tee. So, if your recipe needs shortening, I suggest going out and buying some. If that’s not an option, butter will be the best replacement. You can also use lard or margarine as they are considered “shortening,” too.

Do you prefer shortening or butter in baking?

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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