Butter or margarine, margarine or butter? What’s the difference? Which is better to use in baking? Can they be substituted for one another? There are a lot of questions out there about these two spreads. Some concern health, while others deal with convenience, as well as questions on using the best products to make your baked goods taste scrumptious.
We’re digging into the answers behind butter and margarine to help you know which spread is right for you, and which one you should use for certain purposes.
Aren’t butter and margarine the same thing? Nope. These spreads may look and taste similar, but they’re not quite the same. Butter is made from fresh or fermented cream or milk. The process of churning the cream creates a solid. Margarine is made from vegetable oil or plant oils that have been extracted chemically and refined. Both butter and margarine are types of fats.
Which one is better for my health? Overall, margarine is better for heart health, because it doesn’t contain cholesterol. However, it depends on your own personal health, and what fats you’re trying to avoid.
Butter contains cholesterol and saturated fat, which can contribute to high cholesterol. Margarine does not have cholesterol, but may still contain some saturated fats and can also have a high amount of trans-fats. Cholesterol comes from animal-based products, which is why butter contains cholesterol and margarine doesn’t.
Butter, however, is a great source of vitamins A, D, E and K, none of which are found in margarine. To find out if you are at risk for high cholesterol or heart disease, talk to your doctor to see if you need to limit butter intake.
Which is best for baking? The biggest role that butter and margarine play in baking is texture and taste. Butter is great for baking. It adds a nice flavor and texture for cookies and pastries, because of the fat it contains. Margarine can also be used for baking, but it doesn’t have as nice of a flavor as butter. Also, margarines’ fat contents vary, so read the label. The ones with the highest fat contents are best for baking. Ones with less fats will make your cookies tougher.
You may come across recipes that call for butter AND margarine. This is simply to enhance the texture. When combined with butter, the hydrogenated oils in margarine create a lighter texture that butter by itself cannot. If you don’t want to use margarine, a number of natural oil-based spreads that will do the trick.
Another thing to keep in mind is that butter burns more quickly than margarine. So if you decide to substitute butter for margarine in a baking recipe, the cookies, etc. will brown faster.
Can they be used interchangeably? Yes, butter and margarine can usually be substituted for one another. If they can’t the recipe will say so. You’ll also just want to be cautious that there may be some slight texture and taste changes, as mentioned above, if you decide to substitute.
Here are some great recipes that feature butter, margarine or both!
Hearty Breakfast Cookies
White Chocolate Cherry Chews
Peppermint Crush Chocolate Chip Cookies
Apricot Tea Cookies
Twice-Baked Potato Casserole
Sour Cream Pound Cake
Fresh Tomato Soup
Sweet Potato Casserole Biscuits