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Jun 18, 2007 10:32 AM

Can I use just butter instead of a butter/shortening mix in my gingerbread cookies?

The recipe I have from Epicurious calls for 1/2 stick of unsalted butter and 1/2 a stick of vegetable shortening. I know each acts a little differently.

Can I get away with using just a full stick of butter (How paula Deen of me) instead of using icky hydrogenated oils? Will they turn out OK?

I want to make cut out cookies!

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  1. Butter is 15.6% - 17.6% water, so you would need to use a little more than 1 stick to get the same fat content and reduce the water content somewhere else in the recipe. I'm sure you can get an all-butter recipe to work, you'll just have to tweak it a little until you get the result you want.

    1. You could use a stick of butter in the recipe as is, just know that the finished cookies will be softer when baked than if you had used 1/2 shortening (due to the water content). The dough may be softer, as well, but you could chill it before rolling it out.

      7 Replies
      1. re: leanneabe

        I'll freely admit I don't know the chemistry behind baking with shortening vs. butter, but my experience with gingerbread cookies has been just the opposite. I have recipe that calls for Crisco, and it makes soft, cakey gingerbread men. The dough is kind of hard to work with, and yes there's the hydrogenated oil (although there are no longer trans fats in Crisco), but the cookies are really tasty. I've tried using butter instead, and the cookies come out more crispy, less cakey.

        1. re: cookie monster

          but I WANT crispy! Should I use all butter?

          1. re: Diana

            If you want crispy then yes, I would think you'll be fine with all butter.

          2. re: cookie monster

            I also don't know the first thing about baking. I think that butter qualifies as a shortening, however. I believe that shortening is just any edible fat. Some of them have the effect of making the pastry more crispy, and some make the pastry more flaky.

            The thing that I don't understand is that everything I've read about trans fats says that they are manipulated fats that are made solid (for ease of handling, and storage) by hydrogenating them. I have seen a few packaged items that trumpet "No Trans Fats", and then when you read the ingredients it says contains "Partially Hydrogenated Oils". So which is it?

            1. re: RIChowderhead

              The FDA allows food companies to say "no" on any ingredient if there is less than a certain percentage per serving.

              Vegetable shortening is Crisco. Animal Shortening is Lard.

              Butter is not hydrogenated like Crisco, and has a higher h20 content. Itacts differently when baking.

              Baking is like chemistry, really.

              1. re: Diana

                Oh, so that's it. I guess that means I'll just keep reading labels. That is until the government allows the producers to totally remove the labels.

        2. There are tons and tons of great gingerbread recipes with all butter (try Martha Stewart or Maida Heatter, or better yet, make your own recipe by combining 2 or 3). I would just get a new recipe. But yes, you can sub butter ... shortening typically makes cookies poof up like nothing else, which IMHO you wouldn't want in a cut-out cookie anyway ...

          Shortening is not allowed in my kitchen anymore, so I def think you should use butter ...

          1 Reply
          1. Crisco has changed its formula so that it now contains 0 grams transfats, so I now feel more comfortable using it. Perhaps you will, too. Here's the info from


            7 Replies
            1. re: Nancy Berry

              Yeah, but the oils are still hydrogenated.

              1. re: Diana

                But the oils are fully hydrogenated, NOT partially hydrogenated. There is a big difference! Here's a link to more info:


                1. re: Nancy Berry

                  Thanks Nancy. I will read this as soon as I get a chance. I have noticed products that list hydrogenated oils as opposed to partially hydrogenated oils. I figured they would be pretty much the same

                  1. re: Nancy Berry

                    I dunno, I just can't swing my way to trusting a hydrogenated oil over a churned butter product. I'd even prefer lard, which is just as fatty, but still totally hydrogenated oil free and natural/

                    Since I don't consume many fats to begin with, i'm sort of picky about what I will eat:

                    Olive oil, a little butter, maybe canola oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, and a dab or two of sesame oil for flavoring in marinades and such.

                    1. re: Diana

                      The process of hydrogenation turn unsaturated fat molecules into saturated fat molecules. A fat that has been completely hydrogenated is really no different than a product that is naturally saturated (lard, butter, coconut oil, palm oil) in terms of that fat being good or bad for you. Basically any oil that is a solid at room temperature has a large amount of saturated fat and make no mistake, saturated fats are still bad for you. The trans fat spotlight seemed to have made people forget that saturated fats are still very unhealthy.

                2. re: Nancy Berry

                  The label can say 0 grams as long as the real content is below 0.5 grams.