It seems like more and more people are moving away from using shortening in their recipes. However, some still call for the use of shortening, and it is hard to know what to do if you don’t have any or if you simply don’t want to use any of it.
We all like to bake and we enjoy the process, but why use an ingredient that you don’t like? Or why add unnecessary fat to your recipe if you can spare some? There are ways to use a shortening substitute that won’t affect or change your final product.
But first, what is shortening? Is it unhealthy for you?
What is Shortening?
Shortening is a very saturated fat that is solid at room temperature. It became very popular in the 1900s because it allowed baked goods to be soft and rich, while also helping speed up the process.
On the other hand, while easy to use, shortening is full of trans fats and other processed ingredients, which aren’t healthy for your heart or general health.
Instead of using a very unhealthy choice, you can use other ingredients that will give the same shortening effect. Keep in mind that some of these will be high in fat, but the important part is that they aren’t as processed or full of trans fatty acids.
What Can You Replace Shortening With?
Time to get baking! Here are some of the best shortening alternatives you can find:
Oh, sweet butter! You’ve had it before, on toast, on corn on the cob, and maybe even as part of your daily cooking routine. But did you know that butter is a good substitute for shortening? This is a healthier choice and you can replace it on a 1:1 ratio without a problem.
If the recipe calls for a lot of liquid though, be careful, as the butter has more liquid in it than shortening. Also, butter browns faster and more, so you may want to adjust the baking time and temperature.
#2. Coconut Oil
This is a great choice and it’s also vegetarian. But not all coconut oil is the same, so make sure you pick the refined kind, which is solid at room temperature and a great shortening agent. The flavor, of course, is different, but coconut flavor goes well in most baking recipes.
You will find coconut oil as part of many Asian and Caribbean dishes, as it is a common oil in these cuisines. Another thing to keep in mind is that coconut oil does have a lot of fat naturally, but it is not processed, so it is a better option. Remember too, that coconut oil has a lower melting point, so you should consider this before picking the amount and temperature used.
This choice is not only healthy and vegan but also commonly ignored among bakers. The truth is that the texture will vary and so it should be taken into consideration when you are baking certain things. Applesauce is used as a snack or as part of certain gravies and sauces, but now you can use this instead when making sweet cakes or cookies.
Use around half of what the recipe calls for in shortening and consider that if the applesauce has sweetener in it you should cut the sugar as well. This a great way to make your dish healthier, but it can alter the final taste and feel.
#4. Olive Oil
Shortening is made from vegetable oils, so you can consider using these in your dish instead. You probably even have olive oil in your pantry, as it is common in salads, as a dressing, or as a cooking agent.
Olive oil is not an option for those products that are sweet, as the flavor is very unique. Also, this oil won’t replace the shortening if it calls to be melted, so keep it only for things such as a grilled sandwich or pot pie.
Animal fats are a good alternative to shortening in terms of texture and flavor. However, you should know that animal fats, such as lard, are very high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which isn’t good for your health, particularly your heart.
Also, you need to lower the amount used with lard, so if your recipe calls for 1 cup of shortening, use only about 2 tablespoons of lard. This alternative has been used for cooking meats and baked goods before, such as buns or biscuits, but you can also add it as a replacement for baking other foods.
Why Use Shortening?
Shortening is just a term referring to the general fat used in baking, but because it can coat the gluten in your dough before baking it, it can create a softer, crumblier, or flakier product. Shortening or any of these listed alternatives are great ways to keep your cookies, pie crusts, cakes, or frosting soft and chewy.
The answer depends. It’s all about how much and how often you use either. While butter is high in fat, it doesn’t have any trans fat, just saturated fats. Shortening is full of trans fats, so it may, in the long run, be worse for your health, as it can raise your cholesterol levels and lower the protective HDL levels at the same time.
We answered this question with olive oil, but you can use other oils too. The answer though is that shortening or solid fats are better in certain recipes because they add air to the batter when beaten, which is important for certain baked products.
The flavor will vary, but in terms of health and nutrition, using oil is better. It’s also a good choice to deep-fry as it is liquid and has a higher melting point, so consider using oil when frying instead of shortening.
Whatever the reason is, there are many options to substitute shortening when baking or cooking. You don’t need to look too far, as butter or coconut oil can be a good option if you want to keep it vegetarian. Save yourself the trouble of trans fat and processed ingredients, as these choices are healthier.
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