Vegetable shortening is one of those old-fashioned ingredients that you might not reach for too often—until it's time to make pie! Ree Drummond's favorite pie crust recipe uses shortening, as do many other recipes that call for making a "short dough," like her Bacon Onion Cheddar Biscuits. So what if you're making a recipe that calls for shortening (like Ree's famous Skillet Cornbread) and you don't have a tub of it on hand? Don't worry! There are lots of other baking fats that can be used as an easy shortening substitute. Read on to learn more about them—and which you can use in baking recipes.
But first, you may be wondering: What is vegetable shortening? It's a hydrogenated form of vegetable oil, which means it was turned from a liquid to a solid state (hydrogenated oils tend to give foods a longer shelf life). Shortening was invented in the early 1900s as an alternative to animal lard, which has a very similar consistency. Unlike butter, shortening doesn't have a ton of flavor, but it's great for making baked goods super flaky. These best shortening substitutes won't give you the exact same texture—but they'll work in a pinch.
If you don't have any shortening on hand, try reaching for butter instead—you can use the same amount. Your baked goods may not turn out quite as flaky, but they'll have a rich, buttery flavor.
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Coconut oil is another great shortening substitute. It has a similar texture and is also vegan, too. You can swap it in one-for-one, but just remember that it will likely give your baked goods a very slight coconut flavor.
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Remember margarine? It's still around, and if you happen to have some on hand, you can use it to replace the shortening in baking recipes. Be sure to add an extra tablespoon of margarine for every cup of shortening: Margarine contains water and has a lower fat content, so using a little more will yield a better result.
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You might not think to reach for lard often, but it is actually a great substitute for shortening. It is best used in recipes that can go savory, like biscuits, cornbread, savory scones, or pot pie.
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If a recipe calls for melted shortening, vegetable oil is a good swap. Just don't use vegetable oil as a shortening substitute in recipes like pie dough, biscuits, or scones—you won't get pockets of fat, so the dough won't puff up properly.
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There are so many vegan butters on the market now, so feel free to reach for one when you need a substitute for shortening in a recipe. Just add one to two extra tablespoons per cup of shortening so you get the right fat-to-water ratio.
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