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When is margarine ever preferrable to butter?

Unless making something vegan, I am wondering if there are times when margarine is a decidedly better choice than butter?

Granted, butter is higher in saturated fats but margarine has trans-fats, which in my opinion is actually worse.

While some butters have horomones, generally that isn't a major problem and butter has the added advantage of vitamins (K and E) that margarine does not.

Perhaps the one advantage I can see margarine having over butter is in the cholesterol department. But it's been generally shown that dietary cholesterol has little impact on HDL or LDL levels -- it's saturated fats (which, gratned, butter has chock full of).

But given all that the ONE deciding factor for me is taste and texture -- butter just wins hands down.

So, I am curious, unless you are doing something vegan, is there a time you choose margarine over butter when you take into account taste, texture and overall health factors?

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  1. To broaden the vegan exception, margarine is also important for kosher applications when you can't use butter. For example, in a meat dish or in baking a pareve (neither meat nor dairy) item. If you want cookies after your hamburger, must have margarine, no butter.

    1. In Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, he says that for some pannee-ing and sautee-ing applications, butter just doesn't have enough oil to accomplish what he wants, so he will use margarine as a substitute.

        1. For me it's often preferable as a spred on toast. I am not fond of the taste of butter alone (I like it in things), but there are several margarines whose taste I like on toast.

          1. There is also the dairy allergy exception as well. I have to make baked goods with margarine because my son and some kids at his school hav a dairy allergy.

            Personally, I prefer butter. :)

            1. IMNSVHO, it's never preferable for any reason other than allergy or other dietary restriction.
              And I'd avoid it then, too, using healthier oils instead.

              1. When your physician has ordered you to eat margarine instead of butter, and he's coming over for dinner.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Will Owen

                  I'd fire my doc if she were that dumb. And tasteless. :-)

                2. I used to use margarine to 'butter' the bread for my grilled cheese sandwiches, because it was always soft out of the refrigerator. Now I've discovered I can use mayo instead.

                    1. re: mr jig

                      Never...unless you are under occupation/at war...

                    2. allergies or dietary needs (like Kosher diet) only. I was raised on margarine, switched to butter as soon as I got my first apartment & haven't looked back. I can't bear to eat margarine now when I visit my parents.

                      1. If I'm baking something to give away to people that can't tell the difference, I use margarine, it's way cheaper. Also, some baked goods have a very different texture when baked with butter. For example, cookies are chewier and less crunchy when made with margarine as opposed to butter. I figure it's a treat, not something eaten regularly and is bad for you either way, so go with what works best for the application. Sometimes it butter, sometimes margarine, sometimes shortening, sometimes a combination.

                        1. Margarine without trans fats are common now, so that's not an issue. I thing butter tastes way better than margarine, so for spreads and such I'll always use butter. I think restaurants use margarine because it's cheaper. Also for broiled things butter can burn and taste unpleasant.

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: hsk

                            when using butter or sautee or other iems where smoke point is an issue, add some nice olive oil. The smokey flavor or discoloring will noit be an issu, plus tastes great.

                            Hello J :S

                            1. re: hsk

                              I respectfully ask what restaurants are you eating at? Afte 25 years in the biz, I never cooked in any restaurant that used margarine. However, many low-end restaurants and chains use butter-flavored oils, which showed up in the market in the early 80's, see link:
                              Delightful stuff. Nothing has the flavor of real butter.

                              Restaurants use clarified butter for sauteing, broiling, etc.; the milk solids are removed and just the butterfat is left. No burning. Clarified butter can also be browned, beurre noisette, for a wonderful hazelnut flavor.

                              1. re: bushwickgirl

                                Very true, bushwickgirl. I contend even a nice jar of ghee is actually a good investment at 6 or 7 dollars a jar, with all its whey and water removed just leaving the tasty butter fat. Butter has a smoke point of 350°F, whereas ghee is much higher at 485°F.

                                Simple facts remain, margarine is higher in trans fatty acid, decreses immune and insulin response, has less of a taste and is unnatuaral. The water present in margarine, about 20 percent, slowly destroys the double bonds in fatty acid chains, and is not good for frying because the polyunsaturated fats still present are further damaged by heat and oxygen. Margarine triples the risk of coronary heart disease. It increases total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL. It has no nutritional value naturally. Margarine actually increases risk of heart disease by 53% compared with butter.

                                And finally, margarine doesn't attract flies like butter does because flies do not recognize margarine as food. Ten thousand flies cannot be wrong.

                                1. re: DallasDude

                                  Ha ha, I always knew there was something to the wisdom of flies!
                                  Now for the serious question: I just don't understand why clarified butter and ghee have different smoking points. They are, in my world, pretty much the same animal. I always "cook" my clarified until all water has evaporated, in other words, I don't just melt the butter until the solids separate.
                                  I just noticed a Ghee-making site that claimed the smoke point of Ghee is 375F, then again, Wikipedia quotes the aforementioned 485F.
                                  BTW, I don't know if I would saute at upwards of 485F, that's a bit toasty. Broil, maybe.
                                  So, what's up?
                                  (Margarine bad, butter goooood!)

                                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                                    It is the milk solids that burn, the water merely evaporates. Ghee is a bit toasty, so a step beyond a clarified, and i think it has a delightful flavor. certainly not a profiule for everything. I liken it more to a beurre noisette.

                                    As to the variance in the smoke points, I gotta run with the higher version, just makes much more sense when you look at the properties of the product.

                                    Butter good, ghee and clarified butter gooderer.

                                    1. re: DallasDude

                                      So I guess that ghee is clarified butter taken one step further.
                                      At one particular place where I was employed, we clarified 60# of butter at a pop, leaving it on a very low burner overnight and straining it out the next morning. The milk solids would be a bit brown on the bottom of the pot. The end result was a slightly toast-colored butterfat, but nothing that would change the flavor profile of the item being sauteed. I would say that was Ghee.
                                      We used to make butter by forgetting about the mixer whipping the heavy cream. I'm afraid to think about how to make margarine.

                                      1. re: bushwickgirl

                                        Margarine is really a nasty prospect in the making. In the of making of margarine it is processed and comes out gray in color. It is then processed further by bleaching and the coloring agent is added. As you probably know, even butter does not have that sunny yellow tint in its natural state. It is yellow because... Americans enjoy the color yellow.

                                        If you want to get a bit ill, read on how margarine is processed:


                                        Butter makes me run faster, and my teeth sparkle.

                                        1. re: DallasDude

                                          When I was a lad, the state of Illinois forbade the sale of colored margarine, at the behest of the almighty dairy industry. Margarine makers got around that by putting the stuff in a heavy-duty plastic bag, with a blister containing yellow dye attached inside. The consumer would pinch the blister to break it, then knead the color into the goo before cutting the bag open. I accumulated many hours spent sitting in front of the fireplace in our badly-heated house, building upper-body strength by kneading a stiff, cold bag of oleo. If the stuff had tasted at all good it might have been worth it, but it was pretty vile. Its only advantage was its cheapness. Later on we found some farmers who would deliver pounds of butter for not much more, and the sun shone bright once again.

                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            Will, my mother has a story from her childhood about margarine with the coloring packet which had to be kneaded into it. Two of her brothers were doing the job, tossing the bag of margarine back and forth. Their throws became increasingly energetic until one of them eventually missed; the package hit the wall, broke open and splattered margarine around the kitchen. The cleanup was a nightmare. My mother tells me she doesn't recall ever seeing her mother so angry.

                                            1. re: kmcarr

                                              Hi all...I'm new here :-)

                                              I had to laugh when I read the fly comment....that is exactly the reason I don't use margarine for anything. Butter or olive oil is my choice, depending on what I am doing with it.

                                  2. re: DallasDude

                                    You had me til you called LDL "bad" cholesterol. All of your adrenal steroids, including sex hormones, are made from it, your body raises it when you need more, most often due to high insulin levels due to a high glycemic load, which lowers steroid production and it's transport protein.

                              2. Never, unless you have an allergy.