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Shortening vs Butter

I am trying to substitute butter flavored Crisco in some cookie recipes for someone with a lactace intolerance. (I know. But something imperfect is preferable to abstaining) Anyone have hints on making the substitution from butter/margarine to straight shortening? I wondered about the crispness issue. Is one type of cookie more forgiving of such a substitution? I am already trying biscotti and meringues which just avoid the issue entirely by default.

The Crisco site says to add a slight amount of water to compensate for Crisco's different texture.


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  1. As you mention, adding a bit of water is correct. If you want to be exact, I believe butter is around 18% water, 82% fat, so when you sub crsico (which, I think is 100% fat) take that into consideration.

    I don't make enough cookies to help on the other fronts, unfortunately!

    1 Reply
    1. re: adamclyde

      To substitute shortening for butter, use the same amount if it's measured by volume, 20% less if it's measured by weight. Personally I'd use natural coconut oil rather than Crisco.

      People with lactose intolerance should have no problem with clarified butter aka ghee. But there are other dairy allergies.

    2. I'm wondering if goat butter would work. Many lactose-intolerant folks can tolerate it.

      1. I cook for a dairy allergic person and IMO the "butter" flavor is horrendous. Please taste it first. I just use plain Crisco and/or margerine when baking.

        Admittedly, most of the time I am making pie crust not cookies.

        1. I am lactose intolerant, neither butter nor margarine affects me, though a tablespoon of cream in a coffee drink recently did. Some margarines claim to be lactose (whey) free.

          I am usually ok with dairy if I take a lactaid just after eating.

          I used to make cookies using the prune stuff. I used to buy a jar (~12 oz) of pureed prunes, made especially as a fat substitute in baking, costs ~$3. My objective was reducing the fat in cookies. I was making toll house cookies.

          1. I would suggest you use margarine as a substitute for butter, rather than Crisco. It's not difficult to find dairy-free margarines (usually labelled "pareve"). The texture would be closer to butter in the final result.

            I have had to bake and cook non-dairy quite often over the years and although I won't say it's just as good, the results are usually decent enough.

            1. My wife takes just about any cookie type recipe that calls for all butter and substitutes exactly half with shortnening. The best example is choco chip cookies.

              Her's are the best by far.

              1. Go to a second hand store and buy an older cookbook. Most of the cookie recipes are shortening based. Lard is another substitute, and makes fine pie crusts. Butter flavor, I agree with earlier post, is not particularly good, and plain crisco is okay. Look for substitutions using oil, if healthiness is an issue, it usually works ok but there are texture differences.

                1. Butter actually contains very little lactose compared to milk, most people who are lactose intolerant are perfectly capable of handling it in small doses (like a few cookies in a day). It's usually no more than 1% lactose by weight, compared to 4% or 5% for milk. Cultured butter (also sold as 'European style' butter) contains almost no lactose at all, the bacteria they add to it to accomplish the 'cultured' part eats the lactose.

                  Shortening, meanwhile, is a totally unnatural product which raises your bad cholesterol, lowers your good cholesterol, hardens your arteries, and tastes like crap in comparison anyway.

                  So even if the person you're baking them for is lactose-intolerant, using butter in the cookies probably won't affect them. If you're concerned about it, use cultured butter instead. Either is preferable to shortening from both a health standpoint and a taste standpoint.

                  1. Unfortunately for him, my friend has a lacTASE problem; in his case he breaks out in a nasty red rash in whatever part of him comes in physical contact with butter, cheese, or any cream/milk variant. I think as long as I stay clear of any cookies that rely almost entirely on the flavor of butter (shortbread comes to mind, and spritz) that I may be okay. I agree that the chemical taste of butter-flavored shortening is borderline vile, so I may go with the plain, relatively tasteless kind. This is just a holiday treat, so I leave it to him to exercise moderation when imbibing in a totally unnatural, bad cholesterol raising, good cholesterol lowering, artery-hardening box of home-made cookies which will probably even offend his religious sensibilities on top of it all.

                    Gee, why was I going to do this? Maybe he would like a tie.

                    Random Amblings

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: random amblings

                      Rice oil has a delicious, very buttery flavor, but it takes a substantial amount of trial and error to adapt recipes to use it. Here's one I worked out for a friend's allergic kid:


                      Natural coconut oil bakes just like Crisco. Some I've tried have a mild flavor that's nice in baked goods. Others seem pretty much tasteless.

                      1. re: random amblings

                        See if you like this recipehttp://www.aspoonfulofsugar.net/blog/2004/04...
                        or other marzipan based cookies with no dairy.

                        1. re: missclaudy

                          This almond macaroon recipe is great, preposterously quick and easy, and since it contains only almond paste, sugar, and egg whites, people with most allergies can eat them:


                          Works fine with generic bulk almond paste.

                        2. re: random amblings

                          Oh, I see. I thought you meant he was lactose-intolerant, but it sounds like he actually has a food allergy. That is much more serious.

                          1. re: random amblings

                            Although this conversation is long over, I write in case someone else stumbles on it as I did. Random Ambling's friend may need better medical advice. As someone suggested earlier, the symptoms described sound like a milk allergy, which is different and requires different management than lactose intolerance.

                            There is no such thing as lactase intolerance. There is no lactase in milk, so lactase could not cause the symptoms described. Lact-ASE is an intestinal enzyme (form of protein). It breaks down lact-OSE, a sugar in cow's milk. (See http://answers.google.com/answers/thr... ).

                            Lactase after infancy is found only in a minority of the global population, mostly descended from high-cow's-milk consuming populations in northern and central Europe (think butter vs. olive oil cultures). See e.g. www.nature.com/ng/journal/v35/n4/full... , http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/639... , and http://www.newscientist.com/channel/b...

                            Lactase or other lactose-breaking-down substances can be produced by bacteria such as in yogurt. Lactase is industrially produced via fungi -- I think this is what is used to make products such as lactaid that help lactose intolerant people digest cow's milk.

                            1. re: Chris Lowe

                              Thank you for the excellent explanations, Chris. You saved me the trouble of trying to figure out where lactase was coming from in a dairy product that's mostly fat.