Difference Between Margarine and Shortening

Margarine vs Shortening

Margarine and shortening are both ingredients used for baking. In the world of cakes and other pastries, they are very much needed in order to make the perfect baking creation. They seem interchangeable but in reality, they are not.


Margarine is hydrogenated oil and saturated fat which is known to be the approximation of butter. It is comprised of flavoring, water, oil and milk ingredients. The creation of margarine is basically inspired by butter, sans the cholesterol that is usually present in real butter. So yes, we can call margarine as a butter substitute based on health reasons alone.


Shortening is basically 100% hydrogenated oil to make it solid instead of being liquid especially in room temperature. Hence, it is non saturated fat. For the ones in the know, shortening is like lard and fat but is vegetable-based in nature. In addition to that, shortening can be a great replacement to lard. When defined in the simplest way, it is any fat or oil utilized to make crust or dough.

Difference between Margarine and Shortening

Margarine is apparently a kind of hydrogenated oil; Shortening is hydrogenated to make it solid (in room temperature) in lieu of having a liquid consistency. While margarine is saturated fat, shortening is non-saturated in nature. Flavoring, oil, whey and water comprised the very composition of margarine; shortening is the kind of fat or oil that is used to make crust or dough. While Margarine is meant as a replacement for real butter, shortening is known to be basically vegetable based that is meant to replace hard animal fat or lard.

While these two ingredients might seem confusing to separate from each other but if you do have discerning eyes, you will easily know that they are very distinctive. If you are fond of baking, the information that is presented will definitely be of great help to you.

In brief:

• Margarine is saturated fat; Shortening is non-saturated.

• Margarine is a real butter replacement; Shortening is meant to replace lard.

  • Cygnia

    This article contains a number of errors and misstatements highlighting the substantial risks of discussing a complex topic without any scientific training or practical understanding in the topic. For an in-depth understanding of dietary fat, read Dr. Mary Enig’s book, “Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol” (2001). Dr. Enig is a world-renowned PhD researcher in lipids chemistry with 40+ years experience publishing scientific literature on dietary fats and oils.

    While margarine contains hydrogenated and or partially hydrogenated oils (both of which should be banned from the food supply), they do not typically contain high levels of naturally-derived saturated fat because they are primarily made of vegetable oils (polyunsaturated fats or trans fats due to hydrogenation). The reason margarine is known for not containing cholesterol is because there are no animal products (i.e. milk) in it. Substituting margarine for butter for “health” reasons couldn’t be farther from the truth. Butter, specifically organic butter, will always be a healthier choice than any food containing additives, chemicals, and most importantly hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils – fake, synthetic saturated fats the body is incapable of metabolizing that cause Omega 3 deficiencies and preventable diseases like cancer, diabetes type 2, obesity, digestive disorders, ADD/ ADHD, and heart disease. We need clean sources of naturally-derived, organic saturated fats in order to be healthy – saturated fats allow for optimal absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, notably Omega 3s, Vitamins E, D, A, K, and others. With that said, I don’t eat much butter because it is hard on my digestion. “Melt” is the only butter substitute I eat – it’s really rich and creamy, organic with a great oil blend, and doesn’t have artificial colors, weird chemicals, or garbage oils. It’s the real deal for great taste and optimal nutrition in dietary fat. You can check them out at http://www.meltbutteryspread.com. I have used Melt with great success for making thin, flaky pie crust as well.

    While vegetable oils high in polyunsaturated fats are used for hydrogenation (e.g., soybean, safflower, canola oils, etc), hydrogenated oils are far worse health-wise than lard, butter, tallow, etc. Margarine contains hydrogenated oils; it does not contain a different “kind” of hydrogenated oil from others found in shortening, etc. – all hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils are bad and should be eliminated from the diet and the food supply. Margarine is not saturated fat. Margarine is a collection of fats and oils each with different fatty acid profiles containing saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and trans fats (from hydrogenated oils). The hydrogenated oils in shortening and margarine ARE plant-derived, but forced to become a fake, synthetic saturated fat the body is incapable of absorbing – and far worse than any natural saturated fat.

  • MaggieSk8

    Shortening and other hydrogenated oils are saturated fat.