How to Substitute Shortening for Butter?

There are times when you may be working on a recipe and want to know how to substitute shortening for butter that is called for in the recipe. This could be because you are allergic to dairy or are on a vegan diet. It could also be that you have opened the fridge and you discover that you simply ran out of butter.

It is possible to substitute shortening for butter. This is especially true in baked goods. The texture and flavor will be slightly different, but the desired results should be quite similar.

The Difference Between Shortening and Butter

In terms of fat, shortening and butter do differ significantly. Shortening is generally 100% fat, while butter is a combination of fat, milk, and a little water. Butter tends to melt when exposed to heat at a faster rate than shortening.

When baking with shortening, the end result will be a softer product with more height. This is great for risen breads and cake batters with dense ingredients, such as fruit, carrots, or zucchini. Most shortenings are flavorless, making them a good choice for when you don’t want any additional flavor in the recipe.

Butter has a rich, creamy, and slightly sweet flavor that is ideal for cakes, cookies, and savory dishes. The texture is also creamy. In general, butter is a bit more versatile in that it works well in baked goods, sauces, and savory dishes.

How to Swap Shortening for Butter

When you need to substitute shortening for butter, you may want to add a little more salt to the dish or baked good for additional flavor. And, be mindful that butter adds a tiny bit of moisture to any dish. Shortening does not have any moisture, so the recipe may require a splash of little more water or dairy free milk.

Here is a guideline for how to substitute shortening for butter in many recipes:

  • Use 1/4 cup of shortening with a pinch of salt in place of 1/4 cup of butter.
  • Use 1/2 cup shortening with 1/8 teaspoon of salt in place of 1/2 cup of butter.
  • Use 1 cup shortening with 1/4 teaspoon of salt in place of 1 cup of butter.

One tip that may be useful is to add a pinch of turmeric or nutritional yeast to savory dishes if you are hoping to get that golden color that butter imparts. Vegan scrambled tofu comes to mind.


Shortening and butter are two distinctively different food products. However, it is possible to use them interchangeably in many recipes. The flavor will and texture will vary. The most successful way to substitute shortening for butter is in baked goods. Pie crusts, in particular can really benefit from using shortening instead of butter for a super flaky shell.