The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Basic white bread - Margarine vs Butter vs Shortening

cw's picture

Basic white bread - Margarine vs Butter vs Shortening


Does anyone know the differences in taste and texture that will result from making white bread from margarine instead of butter or shortening?

The majority of recipes that I've seen uses butter or shortening as fat, but rarely margarine.





jannrn's picture

HOPEFULLY that is because Margarine is ONE MOLECULE away from PLASTIC!! Ewwwwww!!! It really is nasty stuff!!

clazar123's picture

No doubt-butter is better. It has a better melt in the mouth sensation and aftertaste on the palate. I agree that margerine is a rather unhealthful substance and equal to vegetable shortening. Lard would be better tasting than margerine. Both butter and lard have the wonderful distinction of having saturated fats which need to be consumed in limited quantities. Margerine can be very high in transfats which should not be consumed at all.

Pick your poison.

jannrn's picture

Poison is right!! Personally I would rather deal with the ills of butter than something so processed and to me, nasty, as margarine. Even the FLY will choose butter over Margarine!! We use Olive oil when we can and Canola when olive won't do, so we DO try to minimize the butter we take in. But ya know...there just is NOTHING better on a home made roll!!

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

If I have to make a substitute (I hate shortening or margarine, love butter) I will sub 1:1 virgin coconut oil which is much healthier than margarine, shortening or butter. Sometimes I use half butter/half coconut but often all coconut and I love the results.

ericb's picture


If the recipe calls for unsalted butter but you need to use margarine, it might be necessary to adjust the amount of salt you add to the dough. If at all possible, use butter. It's sweeter than margarine, has a lower water content, and (I assume) is more acidic. All of these factors combined could yield a very different loaf than simply using butter.

For what it's worth, water is one atom away from peroxide. Carbon dioxide (necessary for life and a vital component in our blood -- it's the chemical that makes you breathe) is one atom away from carbon monoxide (deadly when inhaled).


flournwater's picture

Thanks, Eric, for tempering rumor with fact. Funny how rumors coupled with a lack of exposure to real chemistry can cause panic

merkri's picture

I'll echo the recommendation to use oil rather than margarine. address your question:

I've found that breads baked with butter have a sweeter, creamier--well, more buttery--flavor, but the texture tends to become more dry and flakey.

Margarine (and oil) tends to produce baked goods that are more moist, but less sweet and lack that creamy flavor. 

In cases where I have a choice between butter and oil, I usually actually prefer oil. The exceptions to this are cases where the firm flakiness of butter is needed, like in cookies or pie crust.

I like the butter flavor, but actually think oils result in a moister crumb generally speaking. Lots of times I feel like breads made with butter are too dry.

It really depends on the recipe, though, and your personal preference. You might want to experiment with both.

jannrn's picture

Ok...I was wrong...I admit it....I looked it up online and found BOTH that it is true (to an extent) and a Registered Nurse, TRUST ME, I HAVE been "Exposed to real Chemistry".....quite a bit of it.

I prefer the taste of butter in my breads and use it whenever I can. If I am making an herbed bread, I tend to use olive oil. As it was said earlier, Pick your Poison! Oh and don't assume things about other members.

Have FUN!!

Yerffej's picture

"What we have today is entirely different from the original oleomargarine invented by a French scientist in 1870. That was done quite naturally. Today, we get a highly unnatural process called hydrogenation in which liquid vegetable oil is converted into a solid or semi-solid grease.

In the jargon of the chemicals industry, this process of turning a liquid oil into a solid or semi-solid is called plasticisation."


Floydm's picture

The original poster asked about "the differences in taste and texture" of using margarine vs. butter in baking, not be lectured about the evils of  trans fats and plasticization.  Please try to respect that.

I almost always bake with butter.  I concur with merkri that butter tends to give baked goods richer, creamier, or flakier qualities whereas oil, margarine, or shortening impart less flavor (or, depending on the oil, can even give them an off taste or smell) but do keep them moist. 

I always think of the difference between a pound cake, which is full of butter, and the sponge cakes I get at the Chinese bakery, which are full of eggs and oil.  One is rich and creamy but pretty dry even right out of the oven, the other stays spongey and moist for days.  I love them both, but they are quite different beasts.

Dietary concerns aside, I've heard nothing but praise from folks who bake with lard in terms of what it does for flavor and consistency, but I can't say that I've tried it.

Good luck!

cw's picture

I appreciate everyone's feedback and responses to my question in such a short span of time.  I have personally baked with butter and shortening and will also concur with the general consensus that butter has richer aroma and deeper taste.  Shortening results in a lighter loaf (at least in my experience), so I've seen it more in sandwich loaf recipes.  I have not used margarine or oil before and will experiment for myself how it will turn out.  I will post my comments after if the baking is successful.  Thank you!

Darth Lefty's picture
Darth Lefty

I like the idea of using olive oil more than I like the actual result.  The taste is too obvious and sticks with me too long.  I prefer using peanut oil, which has some of the same health benefits to a lesser degree, withstands heat better, and tastes pretty good.

In any recipe that asks for solid butter to be folded in, stick with butter.

cw's picture

I tried making dinner rolls using margarine.  What I found was that the initial dough was still pretty oily, since margarine tends to be softer than butter.  After baking, there was not as much taste and aroma as butter-based rolls.  Texture seems to be lighter but a little drier.   So, in this instance, butter works better than margarine for baking white bread.

ananda's picture

The commercial consideration for basic white bread would surely be cost; butter is therefore immediately ruled out.   However, for flavour, I agree with other posters, butter cannot be beaten.   Additionally, cost may not be one of your parameters as a home baker; I don't know?

Historically, lard would have been used as the traditional bread fat.   As a vegetarian, I substitute white veg. shortening for lard.   From a performance point of view the fats should perform better than butter.   This is because butter has a 20% water content and therefore a relatively low melting point.   The idea of using fat is to lubricate the protein chains [gluten strands], thus allowing them to stretch to accommodate gas as fermentation proceeds.   Mass-produced bread is subject to so much stress in regard to this, that a small proportion of hard white fat is an essential ingredient, with a melt point in excess of 35*C.

Oil is down to personal taste; great for conditioning doughs, and handling tricky items like ciabatta for stretch and fold.   It does not have the same lubricating properties as fat, but it will give a preserving effect.

You have answered your own question with regard to margarine; I agree with your observations.   Remember, the formula for margarine is meant to replicate butter; as such there is a water content to deal with, as well as the fat being derived from a cheaper vegetable source

Hope this helps a little


Echristensen's picture

I wish I didn't have to scroll through 20 comments of knowitalls lectures on margarine, to get to a great answer!

Butter = flakey + taste 

Shortening = lighter loaf

thanks CW! 

elliemay's picture


Just to let you know ... I read your question and decided to make a loaf using margarine instead of butter....

And I can say without prejudice that the loaf is lovely... I used Olivina  (so non hydrogenated) margarine. The loaf is fluffy and has great flavour. I also absolutely recommend using margarine for sponge recipes especially when making a large number/quantity. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to afford butter ALL the time or has it to hand when the urge to bake takes hold :) I just used the Robin Hood standard white loaf recipe