10 Shortening Substitutes In Baking

Mary and Brenda Maher

By Brenda & Mary

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Ever wonder what makes pie crusts flaky and cookies crumbly? Shortening is the secret! I usually keep a can or two of Crisco—a vegetable shortening—in my pantry to whip up my favorite cookie recipes whenever the craving strikes. 


But you know, sometimes, they just run out before I can restock them. And that’s when I discovered other ingredients that work in a pinch. Scroll down to explore the 10 best substitutes for shortening I’ve found!

What Is Shortening?

Shortening is a baking fat made of vegetable oil. The liquid oil is  hydrogenated and turns into a solid form that’s stable at room temperature. It is almost flavorless and will not alter the flavor profile of your baked goods. Crisco is a household name for us bakers when it comes to shortening.

The most important role of this fat is to prevent the gluten in flour from forming, creating those flaky layers that we all love. Shortening also has a higher melting point, allowing the batter or dough to rise higher and yielding a crumbly, tender texture. So, whenever your cookie batch comes out flat and hard, chances are that your dough is short on this magic fat.

10 Easy Shortening Substitutes In Baking

Before walking away with any substitute, here’s the catch: shortening contains little to no moisture. Any liquid or moist alternative will significantly impact the final texture of your treats, especially when you crave those flaky, crumbly baked goods.

1. Butter 


Who doesn’t have some butter around in their kitchen? Trust me, it should become your go-to replacement for shortening to save your baking day. You can easily swap it in frostings, cookies, and pie crusts with the same amount. 

I have to warn you that butter contains about 15-20% of water content, the finished product might not be as flaky but lean towards the tender side. But in return, the baked goods are infused with a delicious buttery note that water your mouth.

Also, tossing butter into cookie dough can yield crisper, flatter cookies than when using shortening. But that crunch is what keeps my kids licking their fingertips. 

2. Margarine

No need to ditch your baking recipe if fresh out of shortening! Margarine has come to the rescue. It is a relative of butter with a milder buttery taste, so I see no reason we can’t swap it for shortening. This shortening replacement is a bit trickier than with butter, though.

The reason lies in margarine’s higher water and lower fat content. To achieve the same flavor punch as shortening, you need to use a bit more, say 1 cup and 1 tablespoon of margarine for every cup of shortening. Of course, the results will be a touch crispy, but I think only a trained palate would pick it up.

3. Ghee

Unlike margarine, ghee is a concentrated form of butter due to the removal of milk solids and water during clarification. If you don’t mind its rich flavor, then its solid texture at room temperature is exactly what shortening leaves behind, perfect for creating flaky pastries and crumbly cookies. 

That’s my secret sauce for crumbly cookies that burst with rich, buttery goodness. You can also substitute it for shortening in recipes that crave that buttery richness, like pound cakes, coffee cakes, carrot cakes, and bars. A one-to-one substitution is adequate to mimic the texture and flavorful depth of shortening.

4. Bacon Fat

Ever thought of stirring bacon grease into the batter? It could be the wildest idea for us bakers, but it’s my favorite fat for savory baked goods like pastries and pies. 

Bacon fat imparts a distinctive meaty and smoky flavor to my treats, and sometimes, I even brush this grease on my puff pastries to achieve that glossy golden brown coat, adding visual appeal.

All you need to do is fry bacon strips on high heat to squeeze out its grease, cool it down, and stash it in the fridge for future baking adventures. Due to its strong flavor and aroma, ⅘ cup of bacon grease is enough to replace 1 cup of shortening.

5. Lard

You might not know this, but lard, an animal fat, was what bakers used before traditional shortening or margarine entered the scene. It seems quite off-beat in sweets, but trust me, it works like a champ in savory treats. 

Its texture is the closest thing to shortening. But when it comes to flavor, lard might have a subtly salty edge, while shortening is quite neutral. So, I find it a perfect match for savory biscuits, scones, cornbread, and pot pie.

If you are sensitive to scents, chances are you can spot a faint hint of the animal from which the lard is processed. To avoid this, cut back on the amount a bit, say ⅞ cup for each cup of shortening.

6. Coconut oil

Calling all vegan bakers, it’s your time from now on! The first plant-based substitute for vegetable shortening I want to introduce is coconut oil. Unlike other vegan oils, this type comes in a solid form (at 76°F or lower) with zero moisture. 

So, the texture will be almost the same as shortening. The only difference is that it infuses a mild coconut note into your baked goods, but it will introduce a summer vibe to cookies, bars, pie crusts, and cakes. If you want to remove this noticeable coconut flavor all together, try using refined coconut oil. 

If this extra note doesn’t bother you, just swap it with an equal amount. Otherwise, dial it down a bit to keep the coconut flavor low-key.

7. Vegan Butter

Vegan butter is a creamy blend of vegetable oils, such as palm oil, canola oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil, with water. That added moisture makes it semi-solid rather than firm like shortening. Though slightly different in texture, it can replace shortening in a pinch without altering the flavor profile that much. 

To ensure your baked goods receive enough fat, I recommend tossing in an extra tablespoon or two for each cup of shortening. Note that vegan butter might not achieve the same level of flakiness due to its moisture content. You can cut down on other liquids a bit and see how the dough feels as you mix—it will tell you what to do next.

8. Olive, Canola, Or Vegetable Oil

Olive Oil and Soy Milk

Olive oil is a staple in most American households, so it’s an easy-to-find substitute for shortening in baking. Keep in mind that its liquid form won’t deliver the flakiness you desire. However, it’s still fat, so swapping it for shortening is acceptable. You will want to use less olive oil, say ¾ cup, for 1 cup of shortening because of its distinct grassy, fruity flavor.

I sometimes use canola oil when in a hurry, and the results are not bad. Its neutral taste is comparable to shortening, but it makes my cakes and cookies a bit moist and chewy. So, it’s best to start with a small amount and adjust as you whisk the dough or batter.

Similarly, other plant-based oils will work in a pinch. That said, its liquid nature gives my cookies a denser texture. Also, the cookies won’t be as airy and fluffy as with shortening; they will come out flat but taste good.

9. Applesauce

Is applesauce the worst swap for shortening one could ever think of? Hear me out: this is the most effective way to cut down on your fat intake without ditching your sweet treats! Cooked from apples, this puree bears a delightful fruity sweetness and moistens your baked goods without using fat. 

It’s important to note that the texture of your treats might be slightly denser or chewier than using all fat. Now, more flakiness or lower fat, which one do you choose? If the extra moisture isn’t a big deal for you, then applesauce surely gets the job done. 

Substitute ¾ cup of this puree for each cup of shortening. I find applesauce shines best in banana bread, giving it a wonderful fruity burst.

10. Prune puree

Here is a wild car on my substitute list: prune puree. It’s derived from dried plums, imparting a pleasant sweetness and moisture to your recipe. The best part? It helps reduce the fat and calories in your baked goods, which is a godsend for those watching their weight. 

And yeah, you have to forget about the flakiness that shortening brings. Instead, expect a tender and moist treat that tastes equally good. To replace 1 cup of shortening, start with as little as ⅓ cup and adjust if needed. 


What To Substitute For Shortening In Cookies & Biscuits?

As shared earlier, butter is a match made in heaven for cookies. It adds a heavenly buttery flavor while keeping them crunchy. Biscuits are a different story, though, as we aim for tall, fluffy treats here. Lard can get the job done here, but butter will also introduce a delightful twist.

What Can You Substitute For Shortening In Bread?

Breads are quite forgiving when it comes to fat. If the recipe calls for shortening, you can use vegetable oil, butter, or lard instead. These subs add moisture and flavor to your baked goods.

Is Shortening Bad?

Shortening is not bad if you use it in moderation. This solid oil is packed with more trans fat than other healthy choices, which can affect your liver health and body weight. However, a small amount will not be a big deal.

Whether vegan or non-vegan shortening substitutes, the key is to maintaining a moisture balance in the recipe. Good luck with your baking!

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Mary and Brenda Maher

Mary & Brenda Maher

Mary & Brenda Maher, are the founders of Cake Girls, a Chicago-based online baking shop specializing in cake supplies, party decor, and DIY cake tutorials. They are known for their elaborate and artistic cake creations, which have been featured on the Food Network Challenge and in a reality show, Amazing Wedding Cakes.

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