Shortening has been a common ingredient lying around American kitchens since the early 20th century. It’s great to use in baking, particularly when baking cookies, cakes, pie crusts or other pastries. This is because it gives the final product a more crumbly and flaky texture. Shortening is also popular for deep frying foods.
Palm shortening is popular for a variety of reasons:
- Unlike other vegetable shortenings, it doesn’t contain trans fat.
- It has a long shelf-life and is easy storable.
- It doesn’t have an odor and doesn’t affect the smell of the food
- It’s colorless so it will not change the color of the food either
- Doesn’t leave foods as greasy as when they’re fried in oil.
- Lastly, it has a high melting point and is more heat-stable than oil.
Whilst palm shortening is a useful ingredient in frying and baking, it’s certainly not the only option. In fact, there’s a number of reasons why you might want to substitute palm shortening for something else.
In this article, I’ll go into why you might need a substitute for palm shortening. I’ll then share the very best replacements and the correct ratios in which to use them.
- 1 Why Might You Need a Substitute for Palm Shortening?
- 2 Best Palm Shortening Substitutes
Why Might You Need a Substitute for Palm Shortening?
There are a fair number of reasons that you might need a substitute for palm shortening. They range from the concern for the environment and social problems to just the fact that you may not have any laying around your pantry. Let’s take a look at the different reasons you may need a substitute for palm shortening.
A Healthier Alternative
Shortening has been scrutinized for some time due to the negative health consequences of using it. Specifically, the high amount of saturated fats and trans fat (that used to be in almost all shortening).
Though most palm shortening doesn’t contain trans fat anymore, it still doesn’t provide any health benefits and contains a high amount of calories. So by using an alternative like coconut oil, you can make a healthier choice.
Environmental & Social Concerns
While it used to be just a health concern, nowadays palm shortening is being scrutinized for an entirely different reason: the environment. This is because palm shortening contains palm oil.
The agricultural practices behind palm oil plantations have been gaining increased notoriety for their destruction of rainforests and the death of endangered species in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. It’s estimated that 8% of the world’s deforestation between 1990 and 2008 was because of palm oil plantations. The slash and burn practice to clear the areas also is known to cause extreme air pollution.
In addition to the destruction of the rainforest, there is also the concern that child labor occurs in the production of palm oil.
You Don’t Have Any In Your Pantry
Lastly, another reason you want to use a palm shortening substitute is simply that you don’t have any of it in your pantry. If that’s the case, there’s a good chance you have at least one of the substitutes in your pantry or fridge.
This means that you don’t have to cancel your plans to bake or cook something if you don’t have any palm shortening to hand.
Best Palm Shortening Substitutes
As you will see, there is no shortage of available palm shortening substitutes. Depending on what you’ll be using it for, there is a replacement that’s right for you.
Whether you are deep-frying, baking, or cooking, there is a palm shortening alternative that can fit you. And if you’re vegetarian or vegan there are options for you too!
Coconut Oil as a Palm Shortening Replacement
Coconut oil is high on this list because of its similarities to palm shortening. Shortening is defined as a solid fat and coconut oil, like shortening, is solid at room temperature.
You can also use it in the same ratio as shortening and it helps to improve the texture of baked goods, similar to how shortening does. It is also a healthy alternative and contains a lot of healthy antioxidants and good fats.
If you’re deep-frying then it’s possibly the best alternative due to its stability and health aspects compared to other oils used for deep-frying.
A drawback of using coconut oil is the taste, however. If you’re not a fan of the coconut flavor, then you should avoid it as it will impart a nutty/coconut flavor. This may also be something to avoid if you’re cooking something salty.
However, it can complement the flavors nicely if you’re using it in something like a pie crust.
Substitute Ratio: 1 cup coconut oil for 1 cup shortening.
Butter is a great option as a palm shortening replacement if you’re baking something like cakes, pastries, or biscuits. This is only, of course, if you’re not avoiding dairy.
A perk of adding butter is that adds a rich, buttery flavor to any recipe. A word of caution, though, it adds a significant amount of calories and fat well.
There are some things to keep in mind when using butter as a shortening replacement, however. While it’s one of the closest replacements to keep the same texture, the end product will be a bit different. It will have a darker color and it will also not be quite as flaky as when you use shortening.
Lastly, it’s not a good substitute if you plan on deep-frying with it. This is because it has a low smoke point and it can’t handle the heat. So, it will brown and burn before you reach deep-frying temperatures.
Substitute Ratio: 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of butter for 1 cup shortening
Margarine is a great palm shortening replacement as well. It has many of the same characteristics as butter, being used as an “almost perfect” replacement for butter with a very similar taste and texture.
However, when using it as a replacement for palm shortening, there are some things to keep in mind.
Generally, there are some additional benefits of using margarine over butter. For one, it’s healthier for you as it’s made from vegetable oils and it has less fat than butter. Also, it’s a suitable replacement if you don’t eat, or avoid animal products.
The drawback of using margarine comes from one of its benefits. Since it’s a healthier alternative and has less fat, you may need to use a little bit more or add a small amount of additional vegetable oil to supplement the missing fat.
There are some good things to know before you pick your margarine, though. Margarine that is more solid, like those in stick form, generally has a higher trans fat content than those that come in tubs. Trans fat is bad because like saturated fat, it increases blood cholesterol levels and the risk for heart disease.
So while margarine can be better for you because it has more “good” fats, if you are concerned about cholesterol levels and heart health you should be sure to read the nutrition information and pick out those that have the least amount of saturated fats and trans fats.
Substitute Ratio: 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (or slightly more) for 1 cup shortening
In terms of replacing the texture of the final product, lard is the closest in comparison to palm shortening. It also provides a great flavor. But there are quite a few things to consider before you use lard as a palm shortening replacement.
Since it’s derived from animal fats, it’s certainly not vegan. While it may be very flavorful, it has a salty and meaty flavor, which makes it unsuitable for sweet items like pie crusts, pastries, or cakes.
The lard that you can buy in a grocery store also will likely have trans fats and saturated fat which can make it unhealthy if you should be avoiding these fats. However, there is some research that shows that pork fat is actually quite healthy in other ways as it’s a good source of protein as well as vitamins and minerals like magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6, and vitamin b12.
Substitute Ratio: For every cup of shortening, use a cup of lard after removing two tablespoons from it. 1 cup shortening = 1 cup lard – 2 tablespoons.
Other Plant-Based Oils
Since there’s a variety of plant-based oils like olive oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil, etc. you have plenty of options to choose from.
Each of them can be better in certain situations, however.
For instance, olive oil is a good substitute for shortening in cooking most things but it should be avoided when baking. Vegetable oil is great to be used in baking and also when deep-frying. Lastly, peanut oil is a great option for deep-frying if you like the flavor of it.
Substitute Ratio: Three parts oil for every four parts of shortening. (If baking a cake or something with eggs and sugar, slightly increase the amount of eggs and sugar)
You may perhaps a bit surprised to see something like apple sauce on this list.
After all, it’s different from the others on this list in almost every way possible. However, apple sauce can make a great palm shortening replacement. With this option though, you should only use it as an alternative when you are baking. It’s best in sweet cakes and cookies.
When you use apple sauce, expect the finished product to be a bit different than it would otherwise be.
It will be denser than it would be if you used shortening. It will also be sweeter due to the additional sugar in the apple sauce. Lastly, it will also be moister because the flour will absorb more of the liquid. So it may require some trial and error to find exactly how much less water you should use.
Also, as you will see in the ratio below, it’s necessary to use an additional bit of fat. This is because if you cut out all of the fat in the recipe, it may result in the food failing to rise and/or altering the taste of the food as well.
Ratio: 1 cup shortening = ½ cup apple sauce + ½ cup oil (or other fat)
If the palm oil that is in the shortening is your main concern, then you can try to look for those options in your grocery store. Since social and environmental issues are becoming more prevalent, the increase in demand for palm oil-free or sustainable palm oil products is increasing.
Since these products bear a very high resemblance to the palm counterparts, you can use them in the same way that you would palm shortening.
Ratio: 1 cup palm-free shortening = 1 cup palm shortening