Is There Actually Any Difference Between Butter And Shortening?

Sometimes, especially in baking, you'll see recipes that call for either butter or shortening. Since they can be swapped for each other in some recipes like cookies or pie crusts, you might assume that they're basically the same. However, there are a few key differences between butter and shortening, and they'll behave a little differently when you bake with them.

According to Taste of Home, butter and shortening are both fats, but that's where the similarities stop. Butter is a fat made from churned, solid cream, and it's a combination of about 80 percent fat, milk solids, and water. Shortening, on the other hand, can technically refer to almost all fats and oils, but the word is usually used to describe vegetable shortenings like Crisco. Unlike butter, shortening is made through a scientific process, combining a plant oil (usually soybean, palm, or cottonseed) with hydrogen. Also different from butter, no matter which plant it comes from, shortening is pure fat with no other elements like water.

How butter and shortening are different in baking

Even though they're both fats, you'll notice a difference if you swap butter for shortening, or vice versa. According to MyRecipes, baking with butter adds a richer flavor, but since butter melts more easily than shortening, it can also make your baked goods flatter. As far as texture goes, baking with butter will usually give you crisp, flaky treats. Shortening is flavorless, so it won't add anything taste-wise to a baked recipe, but recipes baked with shortening are usually taller, since it doesn't melt as easily, and more tender than recipes with butter.

Which one you choose to use all depends on what you want in a recipe. According to Kitchn, when it comes to cookies, if you use butter, the dough will spread out more as it bakes, resulting in flatter, crispier cookies. Using shortening will give you puffier cookies, but they won't be as flavorful as ones made with butter. Both can be delicious, it just all depends on what you like best.

King Arthur Baking also compares the two used in the same cake recipe. While the cakes baked with butter and shortening looked about the same, the one made with shortening was lighter and more tender, but didn't have the same flavor as the recipe made with butter. Both can be used to make baked goods that are downright mouthwatering; which one you select centers on what you're making and your personal preferences.