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The 9 Best Margarine Substitutes for Baking

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In case you want to replace margarine for health reasons, or if you have a recipe that calls for it, and do not have any, I’ve got you covered.

The best substitutes for margarine include (1) vegetable or olive oil spreads that contain no trans fats, (2) tofu, (3) unsweetened applesauce, (4) Greek yogurt, (5) Ghee (clarified butter), (6) canola oil, (7) coconut oil, (8) pumpkin butter, and (9) butter.

1. Unsweetened Applesauce

Bowl-of-Applesauce

Unsweetened applesauce makes a great substitute for margarine, oil, or butter in many baked goods, especially in quick breads and cakes, because it adds moisture without adding any fat.

Applesauce can be substituted for margarine, oil, or butter at a 1:1 ratio, which means that if the recipe calls for 1 cup of margarine, use 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce instead.

Replacing margarine with unsweetened applesauce adds fiber to the baked goods and eliminates many of the calories and fat. Here again is a healthier option to substitute for margarine, oil, or butter in your baked goods.

2. Greek Yogurt

Bowl of Greek Yogurt

Greek, plain, low-fat, and fat-free yogurt can all be used as a substitute for margarine. Not only does using yogurt in your baked goods create a moist and flavorful finished product, but is a great way to reduce fat and calories in your foods while adding the extra nutrition of calcium, protein, and B vitamins.

When substituting any type of yogurt for margarine, butter, or oil in your baked goods, substitute ¾ cup of yogurt for every 1 cup of margarine called for in your recipe.

A disadvantage of using yogurt instead of margarine is that yogurt contains more water and should be drained well before adding it to your recipe. In addition, Greek yogurt is much more tangy than margarine and could affect the taste of your baked goods even more so than using buttermilk. To avoid the taste change, using plain yogurt instead of Greek yogurt would be your best bet when substituting yogurt for margarine in your baking.

3. Ghee

Partially Melted Ghee on a Spoon

Using ghee, or clarified butter, as a substitute for margarine in baking is an excellent choice. There will be no difference in the texture of the baked goods from those made with margarine or butter. As a matter of fact, not only will the texture be the same, but the taste of the cake, cookies, or quick breads made with ghee will be the same rich flavor as that made with butter.

Ghee can be substituted for margarine at the rate of 1:1, and as an added bonus, the process used to clarify butter removes most of the lactose and is much better for persons who are lactose intolerant.

What is Ghee?

Ghee is butter that has been “clarified” or simmered and then strained to remove all the water, leaving the milk solids which will have begun to lightly brown and caramelize. This process gives a slightly nutty flavor to the milk solids, which are shelf stable and have a higher smoke point than butter. 

To make your own ghee, just follow these instructions:

  1. Put 1 pound of butter into a saucepan on the stovetop over low heat.
  2. Once the butter begins to simmer, cook for approximately 45 minutes.
  3. Skim the foam off as it rises to the top.
  4. The ghee is ready when the pound of butter has been reduced by 20%, which is the percentage of water found in butter. The finished product will be lightly browned and will have a slightly nutty flavor.
  5. Once the ghee is beginning to brown and caramelize, strain it through a fine mesh strainer.

Ghee is shelf stable and can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature in a cool, dry, and dark area for up to 9 months. Once opened, it will remain good at room temperature for up to 3 months. However, although it is shelf stable, ghee will last for up to 1 year if refrigerated.

According to WebMD, even though ghee is high in fat, “it contains high concentrations of monounsaturated Omega-3s…which support a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.”

4. Canola Oil

Crisco-Canola-Oil

Because canola oil is an oil, baked goods like scratch cakes that should have the fat and sugar creamed together to get the perfect texture, then canola oil is not your perfect substitute. But, canola oil is still a good substitute for margarine in baking with only minor differences in the texture and taste, and because it is a monounsaturated fat, the results will be a healthier finished product.

Canola oil is a mild-tasting oil that will not affect the taste of your baked goods like some of the stronger-tasting oils and should be substituted for margarine at a 1:1 ratio.

5. Coconut Oil

Coconut-Oil-on-a-Wooden-Table-Small

Coconut oil is a good substitute for margarine, butter, shortening, or any type of oil to use in baking, and because it is a solid at room temperature, it works very well in recipes like pie crusts that call for the fat to be cut into the flour. And even though coconut oil has a rather strong and unique flavor that could affect the taste of your baked goods, it is also full of health benefits, including promoting heart health, thyroid health, and weight loss, is antiviral, boosts energy, contains antioxidants, and guards against cancer and diabetes. 

Coconut oil, as well as most other oils, can be substituted for margarine at a 1:1 ratio and provides good results in baking cakes, quick breads, yeast breads, cookies, and pie crusts.

For those who do not particularly like the taste of coconut oil, there is a refined version of coconut oil available that has a much milder taste.

As an added bonus, coconut oil is a Vegan-friendly oil for baking.

6. Pumpkin Puree

Squash or Pumpkin-Puree

Especially for pumpkin lovers, pumpkin puree is a good substitute for fat in many recipes for baked goods such as cakes, cupcakes, quick breads, cookies, and bar cookies.

Pumpkin puree should be used in place of butter, margarine, shortening, or oil by using ¾ cup of pumpkin puree for every 1 cup of fat called for in the recipe. Pumpkin puree will change the color of the resulting baked goods, and the texture will be somewhat dense.

The health benefits of using pumpkin puree include:

  • Low in calories.
  • Packed with the antioxidant beta carotene.
  • Provides calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
  • High in fiber.
  • Loaded with copper, folate, manganese, and Vitamins A, B1, B6, and C.

7. Butter

A Stick of Butter on the Counter With a Butterknife in Front

My vote for the best substitute for margarine in baking goes to butter. For the best texture and flavor of all your baked goods, such as cakes, pie crusts, quick breads, yeast breads, brownies, cookies, and bar cookies, butter will provide the best of both attributes.

While butter and margarine can be used interchangeably in most recipes and substituted for each other on a 1:1 basis, butter definitely provides the best flavor in the finished product. But, most people wrestle with the health issue of which is the healthier product, butter or margarine, so let’s take a look at each.

Butter is made from milk solids and is extracted from the milk by churning. Butter is high in fat and calories, having 102 calories and 11.5 grams of fat in each tablespoon of butter. But, that tablespoon of butter also provides vitamins A, B12, E, and K.

Margarine, on the other hand, is extracted from vegetable oil or other plant oils that have been extracted chemically and refined. One tablespoon of margarine contains 75 calories and 8.5 grams of fat, and provides some vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Even though margarine is lower in calories and fat than butter, my choice in most cases is butter because it is a natural product that is not chemically manufactured. But, each person must make that decision for themselves and weigh all the options to decide which product, butter or margarine, is the best option for their own personal baking needs.

8. Vegetable or Olive Oil Spreads  

While vegetable and olive oil spreads are quite similar to margarine, the primary difference between the two products is the fat content. While margarine is 80% or higher in fat, vegetable, and olive oil spreads are lower in fat and are marketed as a healthier product than margarine. 

When it comes to substituting vegetable or olive oil spreads in baking, there is some controversy on the topic. Some say that you can substitute the vegetable or olive oil spreads for margarine or butter on a 1:1 basis with only a slight difference in texture, and as far as olive oil spreads, a slight taste change. But, other cooks say that only spreads with at least 60% fat should be used in baking. 

My personal experience has been that because the vegetable oil spreads are lower in fat and higher in water content, their texture is softer, and they are easier to work into cookie, cake, or quick bread recipes than butter or margarine, but they do make a finished cake or quick bread that is denser than when butter, margarine, or oil is used, and cookies made with spreads will “spread” out and be thinner because of the high water content in the spreads. 

So, can vegetable or olive oil spreads be substituted for margarine in baking? The answer is yes, but only as a last resort and as long as you are aware of some texture changes that will be noticed in the finished products.

9. Tofu

Tofu, and especially silken tofu, can be blended and used as a substitute for oil or margarine in baked foods such as cakes, cookies, and brownies. But because of its dense texture and rather unique taste, it is better to use it in recipes that call for ingredients with strong flavors like banana, lemon, or chocolate. 

To substitute tofu for margarine when baking, use ⅓ cup of blended tofu or silken tofu for every ½ cup of margarine called for in the recipe. Or, better yet, when replacing 1 cup of margarine, replace that cup with ½ cup of oil and ⅓ cup of pureed silken tofu. 

One of the primary benefits of using tofu instead of margarine is that tofu has significantly less fat and fewer calories than margarine, oil, or butter and is high in protein and calcium, so would result in a healthier version of your recipe.

What Are The Best Margarine Substitutes For Baking Bread?

Canola and other pure vegetable oils are the best substitutes for margarine in baking quick breads such as biscuits, muffins, and cornbread. The oils provide a perfect texture and a good taste for the baked goods.

But, for making cookies and homemade yeast bread, real butter wins hands down. Butter will create a more fluffy and flaky texture and taste in the cookies and yeast bread, and butter’s high fat content will give the yeast bread what it needs to rise light and fluffy.

What Are The Best Margarine Substitutes For Baking Cakes And Brownies?

My vote for the best margarine substitute for baking cakes and brownies goes to butter. The taste and texture of cakes made with real butter can’t be beaten. My pound cake recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, and when margarine or oil is used in its place, the flavor of the cake just isn’t as good, and the texture tends to be heavier and denser.

What Are The Best Margarine Substitutes For Baking Cookies?

The best margarine substitute for baking cookies is butter, which gives the cookies the best structure, shape, and flavor of any fat that can be used in baking. But, if you are looking for the healthiest substitute with the least amount of fat and calories, then unsweetened applesauce, tofu, yogurt, or pumpkin puree will be your best bet.

Can I Substitute Butter Or Margarine For Oil In Baking?

When baking cakes, cookies, or quick breads, whether those cakes, cookies, or quick breads are from scratch or whether you are using a packaged mix, you can use either margarine, butter, shortening, or any type of oil, in the amount called for in your recipe. There may possibly be slight differences in the texture and flavor of your baked goods made with the different products, but the results should all be good.

What Are The Healthiest Alternatives To Margarine?

The healthiest alternatives to margarine will have to be from baked goods made with unsweetened applesauce, tofu, yogurt, or pumpkin puree because of the reduced levels of fat and the added bonus of healthy nutrients found in each of those alternatives.

Is Real Butter Better For You Than Margarine?

Whether real butter or margarine is better for you has been a highly debated topic for many years. There are some people who declare that margarine is better for you because it is plant-based and contains no cholesterol. There are also many people who would be willing to swear that butter is better for you because it is a natural product and contains no chemicals.

The health community has also gone back and forth on this topic. Their controversy stems from the debate over which is more harmful, saturated fats or unsaturated fats, and their effect on body weight and heart health.

My personal opinion after many years of study and observation on these topics in my search for a way of providing the best and healthiest meals possible for my family, is that I would prefer to use natural products and not something that has been created or manufactured by man. So, I make it a habit to use butter instead of margarine, but to use less butter and, where possible, to use some of the other substitutes mentioned here such as unsweetened applesauce and yogurt rather than using butter or margarine.

But, never mind my personal opinion, according to MedicalNewsToday, “there is no 100% healthful option when it comes to butter or margarine. However, a person can choose the most beneficial option for their diet and needs.”

As I mentioned earlier, butter is a natural product extracted from milk solids, while margarine is solely plant-based. And while butter does contain cholesterol, margarine does not, but margarine does contain some trans fat. 

So, I tend to agree with the article in MedicalNewsToday, which encourages each individual to take a look at the facts and to make their own informed decision, while keeping in mind that if the decision is to use butter, then they recommend using a grass-fed variety. But, if their decision is to use margarine, then look for a margarine with the lowest amount of trans fat and no preservatives or artificial flavors.

Final Thoughts

Although when my mother was learning to cook in the 1920s, she and her mother used only hog lard or home-churned butter for all their cooking and baking, when I was learning to cook in the 1950s, we used either Crisco or Oleomargarine, and occasionally butter

Oleo margarine was developed in France in 1858 as a butter substitute for the men in the armed forces and for the poor, and eventually migrated to the United States. Made from beef tallow, it was an affordable substitute for butter, but, as a result of shortages of beef fat, it was later made from a combination of animal fats. However, during the Great Depression, when everything was in short supply, and because of rationing during and following World War II, the transition to making margarine solely from vegetable oils and fats was complete by the 1950s. 

And now, many people consider margarine, especially those kinds of margarine that are completely vegetable-based, to be a healthier option in addition to being more affordable and easier to find than butter.

There are many options available to use as a fat when baking, and if you find that you are out of what you normally use, whether it is butter, margarine, or unsweetened applesauce, this article should be able to direct you to a substitute that you can find in your own kitchen when the need arises.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss The 8 Best Margarine Brands For Baking.

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