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Can I Use Margarine Instead of Butter for Baking?

I have never been a fan of margarine and have always preferred to use butter in my baking recipes. However, some people cannot eat dairy, and substituting becomes necessary. I wanted to make some cookies for a few friends and wanted to make sure everyone could eat them, so I extensively tested a few recipes with margarine instead of butter. This is what I learned.

Margarine can be substituted for butter in baking, but the final product may turn out differently than anticipated. Baked goods may be less moist, tougher, and burn more easily. Be sure to use stick margarine because soft or tub margarine will usually not hold up as well in recipes.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the subject and decide when and how we should be substituting margarine for butter in our baking recipes.


Pros and Cons of Substituting Margarine for Butter

Butter and margarine have a similar taste and texture, but the main difference is that margarine is usually lower in saturated fats and higher in water content. So, if you are simply looking for something to spread on your toast or pancakes, either margarine or butter can be used. However, when margarine is used instead of butter for baking, the results can be much different than anticipated.

Here are a few common issues:

  • The texture of cakes may be tougher
  • Cookies can spread more when baking. Recipes that call for cold, hard butter, such as pie crusts or laminated doughs, will usually not turn out well if softened margarine is substituted.
  • Baked goods that rely on the taste of butter for their flavor, such as shortbread cookies, will be negatively affected by substituting margarine.

Due to the lower fat content in margarine, don’t expect your baked goods to ever be as good. The cold hard truth is that the fat in butter is what makes it taste so much better and adds a chewier, more palatable texture to the food.

Basically, if a recipe calls for butter, it is usually the best choice to use always use butter unless it explicitly states that margarine may be substituted. Replacing butter with margarine almost always leads to major differences in the final product.

In fact, using margarine in place of butter without knowing for sure that it will work is probably not a risk worth taking. It is crucial to evaluate each recipe carefully to determine whether margarine will produce the same results as butter.

Pro Tip: In recipes that call for melted butter, melted margarine can generally be replaced with no change to the baked good.

Related The 8 Best Margarine Brands For Baking.

Why is Margarine Inferior?

One of the main issues is that many brands of Margarine labeled “low fat” or “light” may have very high water contents, which can ruin your baked goods. Not only will the texture of your baked goods be affected, but the spread and the flavor will be as well. Butter can provide a rich and creamy flavor that is difficult to replicate with margarine.

Soft margarine will often significantly alter the outcome of the recipe, and not in a good way. Expect your baked goods to be less moist and tougher than usual. The final product will also often be flatter than if it were made with butter, sometimes making it more likely to burn.

What Kind of Margarine Is Best for Baking?

Stick margarine will almost always work better than the softened variety.

Health Considerations

A couple of health considerations:

  • On one hand, some margarine brands can be healthier than butter because they contain less saturated fats. On the other hand, they may also contain trans fats, which can be even worse for your health.
  • For those that do not or cannot eat dairy, margarine can still be a good substitute.

Can I Use Margarine Instead of Butter for Frosting?

The result of substituting margarine for butter in frosting will depend on what kind of margarine you use. Softened margarine, or margarine that comes in a tub, is not suitable because it has a very high water content. It also will not hold up well and may even slide off your cookie or cupcake.

Therefore, go with stick margarine, and you will have more of a chance of it holding up better on top of a cake or cookie. Just keep in mind that butter has a lower melting point than margarine, so it will be runnier no matter what kind you use.

Final Thoughts

So, there ya have it. While margarine can be substituted, it must be done with great care and only in certain recipes. I hope you have found this info helpful.

Thanks for stoppin’ by for a visit!

Jelly Grandma

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