What Exactly Is Vegetable Shortening?

Vegetable shortening was introduced in the earlier 1900s as a more cost-effective and nutritionally superior substitute to animal lard. It also offered a vegetable-based oil that vegans and individuals on holy diets could employ in food and cooking.

At a normal temperature or atmosphere, vegetable shortening is defined as a semisolid oil that is largely solid. It gets its name from the “short” or granular texture it provides in making food, especially in cookies, piecrusts, as well as puff pastries. Shortening from vegetables prevents the production of lengthy, tough threads of gluten inside the mixture and adds a smooth feel.

Usually, vegetable shortening is prepared using hydrogenated as well as partially hydrogenated vegetable fats such as maize, canola, or soybeans. It possesses a greater smoke point unlike butter or margarine, therefore is completely fat-free. A spoonful of vegetable shortening contains approximately 113 calories, 13 grams of fat intake, 3 grams of fat content, and 0 milligrams of cholesterol. Trans fats are included in 2 grams of vegetable shortening.

Definition and Uses of Vegetable Shortening

Vegetable shortening is a solid fat that is frequently substituted for butter or even lard in cooking and for slathering cookware. It’s produced by hydrogenating (contributing hydrogen to) soybean or flaxseed oil. At ambient temperature, veg shortening is solid, having an appearance similar to butter but no flavor or odor.

Vegetable shortening is frequently utilized in short doughs and doughs having a strong fat-to-flour ratio, such as puff pastry. This is due to the fats in vegetable shortening coating the wheat, prohibiting water from triggering the gluten production process. As a result, vegetable shortening is employed to literally “shorten” gluten threads, stopping them from forming in the batter.

Other benefits of adopting vegetable shortening for baking would be that because it is a solid fat, it’s doesn’t entirely blend with the ingredients and mix. This results in lines of fat distributed all through the batter, resulting in a light, flaky final result.

Shortening is often used in cooking from scratch for certain reasons. Crisco, a well-known product of shortening dating back to at least 1911, is certainly familiar to you.

To get a soft, flaky end result, shortening and other solid fats are preferred over liquid oils in baking applications such as cookies, pie crusts, and cakes. Wheat flour’s gluten strands stretch and create a matrix during typical mixing and baking. This imparts a chewy, elastic feel to baked foods such as bread.

However, when a fat-like shortening is mixed into flour before baking, it covers the gluten strands, stopping them from extending and producing a tough matrix. As a result, the food is delicate, brittle, and crispy.  Shortening originally comes from the shortening of gluten strands.  Whereas butter and lard may achieve the same outcome, vegetable shortening is less expensive and has a longer shelf life.

Till recent times, it was also regarded to be safer than butter and margarine since it contained less saturated fat. Nevertheless, we already understand that processed food shortening has no nutritional benefits over ghee or lard and may even be a less healthy option. Shortening isn’t just for baking; it’s also widely used in place of oil or other forms of fat when frying.

Alternatives of Vegetable Shortening

Despite vegetable shortening keeping its form properly and is excellent for making soft, puffy bread, it is heavy in trans fats. Trans fats are formed during the hydrogenation procedure and have also been related to cardiovascular disease. Even though several veg shortenings have indeed been modified to eliminate trans fats, but there are other vegetable shortening replacements that you may have already in your pantry.

Understand that the objective of utilizing vegetable shortening is to assist make pie toppings crispy, frostings stable prevents baked products from expanding too much while they bake since it is virtually completely built up of solid fat. When seeking an alternative, other solid fats like lard or butter are ideal.

The initial shortening used lard. This has the greatest shortening ability, together with vegetable shortening, at generating delicate pie crusts as well as cookies. Butter could be used in place of vegetable shortening; however, it includes water and therefore will result in a thicker dough because the water activates the gluten. Most chefs, however, choose to use butter because of its particular flavor. Coconut oil, which is a solid substance and heavy in fat, may also be used as a replacement for vegetable shortening.

1. Butter

Shortening’s most common substitute is undoubtedly butter. Due to the obvious delicious taste, it imparts, many users love butter. Also, it’s stable at room temperature, making it ideal for flatbreads, pastries, or cookies that call for solid fat.

Some individuals are wary about using butter since it contains a lot of saturated fat. Previously, health authorities said that consuming saturated fat was associated with an increased risk of heart disease.  Several subsequent scientific assessments, however, have not identified that relationship, with some data indicating that there is no connection between saturated fat consumption and cardiovascular disease.

Nonetheless, because information differs, you might follow the American Heart Association’s guideline that you consume no more than 5% to 6% of your daily calories from saturated fat.  That implies that if you eat around 2,200 calories per day, not over 132 of them should come from saturated fat.

Throughout most dishes, butter may be used in place of shortening. Just keep in mind that the little quantity of water in butter may cause it to have a bit distinct consistency than shortening.  A viable option is clarified butter or ghee, which contains very little water.

2. Shortening Made from Palm or Coconut Oil

Because coconut and unprocessed palm oils have a high percentage of saturated fat, they are stable at ambient temperature. Because of their firm, rich and creamy texture, they are excellent substitutes for shortening. Many firms now produce shortening substitutes manufactured from 100% palm or coconut oil, that may be used instead of shortening in a one-to-one ratio.

Coconut oil may also provide some health advantages. However, these solutions are not without downsides. Coconut oil may provide a creamy or tropical flavor to meals, while palm oil has been under scrutiny since its extraction has significant environmental consequences.

3. Other Types of Plant Oils

Since many plant oils are heavy in monounsaturated as well as polyunsaturated lipids and are fluid at ambient temperature, they’re just a good substitute for liquefied shortening in dishes that demand it.

Liquid oil will not produce a similar flaky outcome in dishes wherein solid fat is mixed into the flour, such as puff pastry. Employing liquid oil instead of shortening in baking may produce good results that are too hard and has an irregular texture. According to several studies, substituting saturated fat in your nutrition with unsaturated fat may lower your chance of cardiovascular disease.

However, many vegetable oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which might lead to aggravation in persons who do not consume sufficient omega-3 fatty acids. A few of the greatest plant oils for food and cooking include avocado oil, olive oil, as well as coconut oil.

Health Concerned with Vegetable Shortening

Once oils are completely hydrogenated, they are altered from unsaturated fats to saturated lipids, resulting in no trans fats. However, full hydrogenation produces a really tough fat that no longer does have a gentle, rich, and creamy texture. As a byproduct, completely hydrogenated oils are frequently combined with liquid oil in a technique known as interesterification, resulting in a smooth and creamy texture.

The consequences of interesterified lipids on health are yet mostly unclear. Simply said, there hasn’t been sufficient study done to determine how these fats affect our wellbeing in the long run. Unfortunately, new rat research on the benefits of interesterified lipids is not promising.

In one experiment, researchers discovered that these lipids caused inflammation, fat cell growth, and fatty liver illness in mice. An additional study discovered that eating interesterified lipids boosted fat growth while affecting blood sugar regulation in mice.

In contrast, one evaluation of the consequences of interesterified fat intake in humans found no negative impacts. The additional human study is required, however, to fully assess the health impacts of these lipids.

Nevertheless, shortening remains is heavily processed and is normally employed mainly in the preparation of fried dishes or pastries heavy in additional fat and sugar as a result, while it’s fine to enjoy a shortening-containing treat now and then, it’s a good idea to minimize your total consumption of shortening.

Pros and Cons of Vegetable Shortening


  • Shortening is inexpensive and also has a long-life span.
  • Shortening-based biscuits are big and delicate.
  • It may be simpler to deal with than margarine, which can get too heated very fast.


  • This is not organic.
  • Even though the shortening is “butter-flavored,” it cannot compete with the flavor of butter.
  • The absence of water results in a somewhat flakier texture.

Difference between Butter and Vegetable Shortening


Vegetable Shortening

Butter, often known as butterscotch, is a milk product prepared from the fatty froth of regular milk.

Shortening is any partly hydrogenated vegetable oil-based cooking oil.

Butter is made up of 80% fat, 16% water, and 2% milk particles. It is a semi-solid dispersion at room temp, but it may be melted to suit our demands.

Shortening is made entirely of fat and contains little to no water. It also features a frothy texture, making it ideal for all forms of baking and frying.

Small-batch margarine is manufactured by vigorously spinning (agitating and mixing) cream until butterfat splits from the cream's water-based part.

This procedure converts the oil's chemical structure from predominantly saturated to mainly unsaturated fats, resulting in a variety of uses in cooking.

Butter manufacturing is now totally industrialized. Buttercream is extracted from the remainder of the fresh cow's milk in a huge spinner at enormous facilities, the cream is siphoned off and spun, and any surplus humidity is eliminated throughout the procedure.

Once pure vegetable oil is bombarded with hydrogen atoms, it solidifies, boosting the smoke point as well as durability.


When it comes to cooking oils, there are a plethora of options. You do not need to use shortening. When cooking at high temperatures, it’s critical to use oils that keep their stability. Oils that have been heated beyond their smoke point degrade and can generate harmful chemicals. Olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and flaxseed oil are among the healthiest cooking oils that can sustain higher cooking temperatures. Some oils are better suited for use in cold remedies or as food supplementation.