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Butter or Margarine?

mariahz Sep 26, 2013 06:59 AM

Growing up I was always told by my parents that butter is better for you than margarine. Today, I still feel that way because margarine seems so processed, but I won't argue that margarine does taste better! What is everyone's opinion on the butter vs. margarine debate? Which is really healthier?

  1. t
    truman Oct 15, 2013 01:07 PM

    Growing up, we only had margarine... except for the week of Passover, when my parents got the tub of whipped butter. That is the only thing that made the week of matza bearable!

    Now we use mostly butter, though we keep some margarine (tubs) around for DH to put on bread or toast.

    1. l
      Leper Oct 15, 2013 10:50 AM

      In answer to your question, Margarine is the only "food product" that cockroaches will not eat...

      1. s
        sandylc Oct 15, 2013 10:43 AM

        There is a lot of chatter online about health and butter and margarine and cholesterol. It is easy to find research that says butter is healthy, ingested cholesterol does not raise your cholesterol, and studies indicating the opposites were flawed.

        That said, places like the Mayo still support margarine, eating less cholesterol, butter blocks arteries ideas, etc.

        What's up with that? Anyone?

        1. n
          Nanzi Oct 15, 2013 10:25 AM

          Margarine seems to be processed plastic these days. We never saw butter when I was growing up except when Mom & Dad had dinner parties, nor were we allowed to eat any that was left over. My grandmother always had it, un refrigerated and ready to melt on toast with cinnamon sugar. I vowed as a child to always have butter when I grew up. Have been faithful to that for 47 years.
          What they put in margarine scares me. Wouldn't dream of eating it intentionally.

          1. c
            cleobeach Sep 30, 2013 06:41 AM


            I remember my cousin's wife saying she didn't taste real butter until she met my cousin and grew up thinking margarine was butter.

            1. SaraAshley Sep 29, 2013 09:49 PM

              Butter, always butter. It's what I grew up with and it's what I buy for my own household now. I can't remember ever knowingly consuming margerine, but it's likely I have at someone else's house, and from reading this thread, also in restaurants. Apparently, since I've never noticed, I guess I don't hate it. An ex bf of mine's family would always use Country Crock Spread when we went over to their house for dinner, this along with the always present instant mashed potatoes (fine eating at their house, I tell you), but I didn't hate it either, I just prefer butter.

              1. k
                Kashmirgirl Sep 29, 2013 08:41 PM


                1. Will Owen Sep 27, 2013 05:53 PM

                  I'm with Julia Child on this - she insisted on butter, but said "Just don't eat so much!" I stopped the margarine nonsense years ago and use Trader Joe's unsalted (or sometimes Challenge) as the everyday stuff, but it takes over a week to go through a quarter-pound unless there's heavy baking or holiday food going on. It take only half a tablespoon to cook an omelet if I'm using just butter, less if I start with a drizzle of olive oil.

                  1. LindaWhit Sep 27, 2013 12:28 PM

                    Grew up with margarine, but switched to butter in my stepfather's house (I moved in there when I was 18). When I moved out on my own, I did mostly margarine, as it was cheaper, but soon after I switched back to butter. It tastes better.

                    1. r
                      ricepad Sep 27, 2013 10:57 AM

                      For the last 20 years or so, it's been nothing but butter. The only drawback compared to margarine is that butter doesn't come in reusable tubs. I miss those tubs!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ricepad
                        Puffin3 Sep 27, 2013 11:34 AM

                        Butter is a natural product from dairy cattle. Margarine is a 'made-made' chemical. Nuff said.

                        1. re: ricepad
                          ohmyyum Sep 27, 2013 04:27 PM

                          Just tell yourself those tubs contained BPA and weren't intended to be reused, and stick with the real stuff!

                        2. l
                          LeoLioness Sep 27, 2013 10:23 AM

                          Butter. I think margarine itastes disgusting.

                          1. JungMann Sep 27, 2013 08:25 AM

                            The fat in margarine is generally hydrogenated to keep it solid at room temperature. These transfats are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and elevated levels of LDL cholesterol. While some margarines claim to be transfat free, they actually contain the maximum amount of transfat allowable under advertising guidelines for products which can be labeled "free." And these reduced-transfat products are still filled with stabilizers and emulsifiers to improve the texture of the product.

                            Butter, while being a natural product, is still high in saturated fats and cholesterol. Certain makers like Kerrygold even manage to increase the amount of fat in their butter.

                            At the end of the day, though, you're asking which spoonful of fat I would rather eat on my toast. I'd just split the difference and go with bacon grease.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: JungMann
                              sandylc Sep 27, 2013 10:26 AM

                              "Butter, while being a natural product, is still high in saturated fats and cholesterol"

                              I have to ask you what your point is here. Maybe mcf can chime in with the studies and evidence, but it has been belabored on these threads for a while that the saturated fat studies of decades ago were flawed and that dietary cholesterol doesn't raise our cholesterol, etc.

                              The processed food industry has made billions on these myths.

                              1. re: sandylc
                                weezieduzzit Sep 27, 2013 04:10 PM

                                The fat (in butter,) is where vitamins A, D, E, and K2 are, as well as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), butyric acid, omega-3 fatty acids, and medium chain triglycerides.

                                Grassfed butters like Kerrygold have 5 times more CLA than conventional butter and has a much more favorable omega 3 to 6 ratio.

                                1. re: weezieduzzit
                                  sandylc Sep 27, 2013 07:08 PM

                                  Thanks! Wish I'd said that ! :-)

                            2. Monica Sep 27, 2013 07:47 AM

                              Almost all bakeries use margarine for their baked goods which is why I don't go to local bakeries. It's so hard to find good bakeries that use butter.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Monica
                                bagelman01 Sep 27, 2013 08:30 AM

                                You make a very broad statement. When I was in the bakery business (back when) butter cookies were made with 51% butter and 49% shortening (so we could legally call them butter cookies). Margarine was never used.

                                I still have a lot of friends in the business (owning local bakeries) and not one uses margarine in production. They all use a mix of butter and solid shortening (vegetable). The only time magarine comes into play is if they use 50 pound bags of danish pastry base mix (which often has soy based dairy margarine in it. If they make their own danish/pastry dough it is butter and/or solid veg shortening.

                                1. re: bagelman01
                                  sandylc Sep 27, 2013 10:20 AM

                                  We do have several artisan bakeries in the Twin Cities who use only butter. It's a great test to determine the level of quality that you're going to get at a bakery.

                                  1. re: bagelman01
                                    cleopatra999 Sep 27, 2013 10:45 AM

                                    I would consider vegetable shortening very close to margarine in terms of flavour, I can tell a cookie made with crisco or margarine blocks a mile a way.

                                    1. re: cleopatra999
                                      sandylc Sep 27, 2013 10:52 AM

                                      They are not worth eating and certainly not worth buying.

                                    2. re: bagelman01
                                      Monica Sep 27, 2013 11:11 AM

                                      I get my point was that it's hard to find bakeries that use all butter...I don't want vegetable based oil in my whipped cream or any other sweet cream.

                                  2. g
                                    GH1618 Sep 27, 2013 07:45 AM

                                    Buffalo wing sauce is generally made with margarine.

                                    1. Monica Sep 27, 2013 07:10 AM

                                      Anthony Bourdain said it the best way:
                                      Margarine? That's not food. I can't believe it's not butter? I can.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Monica
                                        mtlcowgirl Sep 27, 2013 07:40 AM

                                        AB and me both!

                                        1. re: Monica
                                          Will Owen Sep 27, 2013 05:46 PM

                                          I've always thought this indicated either faulty taste buds or a ground-level credibility threshold.

                                        2. Tripeler Sep 27, 2013 01:35 AM

                                          I haven't used margarine in, what, over 30 years.
                                          Butter is better, and there just really isn't any substitute for it.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: Tripeler
                                            Puffin3 Sep 27, 2013 05:31 AM

                                            Go into pretty much any restaurant kitchen, especially Ma and Pa owned/operated and you'll find a bowl full of 'butter-like' substance they bring in by the pail full.
                                            You order the 'breakfast special' and the toast is 100% guaranteed to have the 'butter-like' substance on it.
                                            TODAY'S TIP: Whenever you order toast in a restaurant ALWAYS say "I'd like the butter on the side". Then you'll either get a little tub of the 'butter-like' substance of if you're lucky you'll get some of those little real 'butter-pats'.
                                            BTW anything that you order that usually has real butter in it don't.
                                            I'm 'generalizing' of course but the exception proves the rule.

                                            1. re: Puffin3
                                              Tripeler Sep 27, 2013 07:15 AM

                                              I can tell right away when I am being fed margarine in a restaurant, and am confident in my ability to judge it. I just never go to breakfast at places that do not use butter.

                                              1. re: Puffin3
                                                cleopatra999 Sep 27, 2013 07:19 AM

                                                I went to a highly recommending crab shack in San Diego once and was absolutely mortified and disgusted that they served melted margarine for their dipping. I would never return!

                                                1. re: cleopatra999
                                                  Tripeler Sep 27, 2013 07:23 AM

                                                  Wow, that's amazing. Especially since butter is SO much cheaper than crab.

                                                2. re: Puffin3
                                                  sandylc Sep 27, 2013 10:18 AM

                                                  Plenty of places use butter. You just have to seek them out. In fact, it might be an expedient way to somewhat determine the values and standards of a restaurant.

                                              2. i
                                                Isolda Sep 26, 2013 02:07 PM

                                                Margarine kills people. Butter makes them happy.

                                                1. v
                                                  Violatp Sep 26, 2013 02:03 PM

                                                  After reading the thread, even the word margarine looks funny and artificial now!


                                                  nope, doesn't work

                                                  1. k
                                                    kcshigekawa Sep 26, 2013 01:57 PM

                                                    Butter for me, all the way.

                                                    I grew up with margarine, and still eat it when I visit the parental units, but I'd really rather have butter!

                                                    1. h
                                                      Harters Sep 26, 2013 01:51 PM

                                                      I've no idea which is healthier if, indeed, there is a difference.

                                                      I generally use sunflower spread for most things, including sandwiches and for some cooking (although most times for a fry, I would use butter if not using an oil).

                                                      I started using sunflower many years back when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol. It has a much lower level of saturated fats than butter so, in that respect, it is healtier but there may be other aspects which are less healthy than butter.

                                                      I know the OP isn't asking about this but, FWIW, with regards to taste, I have no preference between the spread and butter.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: Harters
                                                        sr44 Sep 26, 2013 06:24 PM

                                                        For those of us on the left side of the pond, what is sunflower spread?

                                                        1. re: sr44
                                                          Harters Sep 27, 2013 03:54 AM

                                                          I think that, on the western side of the pond you also have the product "I Can't Believe it's not Butter" - a spreadable butter looking product. That's the easiest way to describe it, but the product uses mainly sunflower oil instead of the more generic vegetable oil. We have a lot of these spreads including at least one made from olive oil. I use the supermarket own brand as I can't taste any difference between that and the various branded spreads.

                                                          1. re: Harters
                                                            coney with everything Sep 27, 2013 05:41 AM

                                                            I'm reminded of Sheldon on Big Bang Theory addressing his toast: " I have no difficulty believing you're not butter"

                                                      2. g
                                                        GH1618 Sep 26, 2013 01:49 PM

                                                        "Processed" doesn't mean anything. Margarine is probably healthier because of the difference in fats, but I like butter. It's best not to overdo it, but fats in moderation are ok, in my opinion.

                                                        1. PrinceZuko Sep 26, 2013 01:41 PM

                                                          Margarine is inferior in every way to me, taste and health-wise. The only reason I would keep margarine in the fridge is that it works better for buffalo wings if you plan to refrigerate some leftovers.

                                                          1. Candy Sep 26, 2013 01:40 PM

                                                            Butter, it is much healthier.

                                                            1. fldhkybnva Sep 26, 2013 12:53 PM

                                                              Butter, no question in my book

                                                              1. Monica Sep 26, 2013 11:40 AM

                                                                My MIL who keeps Kosher uses margarine to bake and cook....so I guess some people have no choice.

                                                                I have never in my life bought any form of margarine in my life and will never in future. I have President brand butter and Chimay brand butter in my fridge right now. Both I think are better tasting than Kerrygold.

                                                                1. i
                                                                  itsmejessica Sep 26, 2013 11:36 AM

                                                                  I only use butter now ,but growing up it was margarine. I admit that I loved slathering country crock margarine all over a fresh hot homemade tortilla my mom made.
                                                                  I just can't do margarine . the taste is so off. the memory is still good.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: itsmejessica
                                                                    James Cristinian Sep 26, 2013 01:37 PM

                                                                    Actually, Country Crock is not margarine, it's a spread.


                                                                    1. re: James Cristinian
                                                                      itsmejessica Sep 26, 2013 05:30 PM

                                                                      OK, thanks didn't know that.
                                                                      I just knew it wasn't butter. And that is all I remember my mom having in the house.

                                                                      1. re: itsmejessica
                                                                        James Cristinian Sep 26, 2013 05:36 PM

                                                                        We ate it all the time. Now it's Land O' Lakes butter olive oil mixture, or regular old butter. Does anyone smarter than me have a take on the butter olive oil mixture?

                                                                      2. re: James Cristinian
                                                                        sandylc Sep 26, 2013 06:20 PM

                                                                        Spread is a verb, not a noun....!

                                                                        1. re: sandylc
                                                                          James Cristinian Sep 26, 2013 06:24 PM

                                                                          Yeah but nowhere on any of their tubs says it is a margarine, if it is I think they would say so.

                                                                    2. Chemicalkinetics Sep 26, 2013 11:31 AM

                                                                      <Growing up I was always told by my parents that butter is better for you than margarine. ...but I won't argue that margarine does taste better! >

                                                                      This is opposite from any typical belief.

                                                                      Anyway, I don't hate margarine, but I prefer the taste of butter more. In term of health, I think butter is a bit better.

                                                                      1. The Professor Sep 26, 2013 11:18 AM

                                                                        I think that it has been pretty well established that butter is healthier. Not to mention far,far better tasting.

                                                                        The only 'margarine' I would ever eat _might_ be Smart Balance (though technically, It's not really a margarine since there are no hydrogenated fats in it). The taste is still a bit funky compared to butter, but it's more palatable than other 'spreads' or margarine.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: The Professor
                                                                          C. Hamster Sep 27, 2013 06:48 AM

                                                                          I use butter, but my partner is milk allergic so we always have Smart Balance on hand.

                                                                          IMO the vegan SmartBalance is the best. Not really that bad.

                                                                        2. weezieduzzit Sep 26, 2013 10:49 AM

                                                                          We only eat grass fed butter (usually Kerrygold.) Margarine is frankenfood and tastes horrible, butter is real food that your body understands.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: weezieduzzit
                                                                            INDIANRIVERFL Sep 26, 2013 11:15 AM

                                                                            If you like margerine, use margerine.

                                                                            If you like butter, use butter.

                                                                            When the cook is on a diet, everybody diets. In Chicago, I grew up on butter. When Dad was transfered to Pittsburgh, we started using margerine. Grandparents come to visit for the month of December and Mom tells Nana but not Pa about the switch.

                                                                            So on the drive back to Chicago, my grandfather tells Nana that he is worried about us. We could no longer afford butter, but he didn't want to embarrass Mom and Dad by telling them he noticed the difference.

                                                                            So much for Mom and Nana chuckling that Pa never noticed the switch.

                                                                            If the taste of butter is a key part of the recipe, I purchase 500 g or 1 kilo logs of d'Isigny Normandy butter. My day to day butter is $1.99 per pound from a restaurant supply store.

                                                                            But I largely grew up with the taste of butter. Which is why it is my preference.

                                                                            1. re: INDIANRIVERFL
                                                                              Isolda Sep 26, 2013 02:10 PM

                                                                              Margarine is no more a diet food than butter. It's worse for your blood lipids and contains the same number of calories. Don't get why people persist in thinking it's somehow dietetic.

                                                                              1. re: Isolda
                                                                                cayjohan Sep 26, 2013 04:15 PM

                                                                                My sister is a Type 1 diabetic. After her diagnosis at about age five in the early seventies, our family went through a lot of educational meetings. It seemed, in retrospect, that we were admonished repeatedly about the margarine>butter issue. I was just a kid myself then, and didn't think overly much about it, but margarine it was for our household thenceforth. My husband's family (save him) are all Type 1 diabetics from an early age, and he reports a similar dietary advice. It took me awhile to get him to even consider butter at the start of our relationship.

                                                                                Anyone waaaay smarter than me who can shed light on that particular issue of margarine being better for T1 diabetics back in the day?

                                                                                For the record on the OP: butter here, never margarine.

                                                                          2. a
                                                                            autumm Sep 26, 2013 10:47 AM

                                                                            My grandparents were dairy farmers. It's always butter in my kitchen.

                                                                            My MIL on the other hand calls blue bonnet "butter" and has served us melted blue bonnet to dip crab legs into. See also: crimes against food.

                                                                            1. g
                                                                              gourmanda Sep 26, 2013 07:20 AM


                                                                              Especially if you can get locally made from grass fed, hormone free cattle.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: gourmanda
                                                                                Isolda Sep 26, 2013 02:09 PM

                                                                                The butter I buy is probably made from cows with raging hormones consuming corn and old shoelaces, but it still tastes better than margarine.

                                                                              2. tiffeecanoe Sep 26, 2013 07:16 AM


                                                                                I know my aunt prefers to bake certain cookies with margarine and my Oma (grandma) uses it to brown her meat - it must be Imperial ;) - and then it's basically slow cooked on the stove top in a stick of melted margarine, salt and pepper and it's damn delicious... but aside from those two uses for margarine in MY family - I've never met anyone that prefers the taste of margarine over butter! I most certainly do not.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: tiffeecanoe
                                                                                  cleopatra999 Sep 26, 2013 07:28 AM

                                                                                  There is ONE place where I like margarine, it reminds me of my childhood. smothered on saltines and dipped in instant chicken noodle soup. It is what mom would give me when I was sick. Funny how memory/taste works.

                                                                                  1. re: tiffeecanoe
                                                                                    bagelman01 Sep 26, 2013 11:25 AM

                                                                                    we've never met. But I do like the taste of Imperial brand margarine spread on toast better than butter.
                                                                                    In fact, the only time I use butter is in baking.

                                                                                    I grew up in a home where Fleischman's Margarine was served and hated it. It tasted like I was eating corn. The only time my mother bought butter was when her mother came to visit. Seems maternal grandmother got hepatitis from 'bad' oleomaragrine during WWII, and would only eat butter after that.

                                                                                    It's all a metter of taste, I don't think too much of either is particularly healthy.

                                                                                    1. re: bagelman01
                                                                                      tiffeecanoe Oct 15, 2013 09:55 AM

                                                                                      Interesting! There must be something to that Imperial, seeing it's all that my grandmother will use, if using! :)

                                                                                      I have a friend who only uses country crock spread. Weird to me, but right to her!

                                                                                  2. r
                                                                                    rasputina Sep 26, 2013 07:12 AM

                                                                                    People actually eat margarine?

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: rasputina
                                                                                      Baskerville Sep 26, 2013 07:17 AM

                                                                                      I did in my college years, when I was still brainwashed into thinking that it was healthy. Used to have a tub of Smart Balance in the fridge at all times; nowadays, I have blocks of Kerrygold grass-fed butter. :)

                                                                                      1. re: rasputina
                                                                                        coney with everything Sep 27, 2013 05:32 AM

                                                                                        I can see it in a kosher household, but otherwise, I just don't know why they would.

                                                                                      2. honkman Sep 26, 2013 07:05 AM

                                                                                        Margarine tastes better ? Then you are eating the wrong butter. Margarine is lousy tasting, highly processed crap

                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: honkman
                                                                                          cleopatra999 Sep 26, 2013 07:09 AM

                                                                                          ^^^^^ +1

                                                                                          1. re: honkman
                                                                                            treb Sep 26, 2013 07:13 AM


                                                                                            1. re: honkman
                                                                                              thedryer Sep 26, 2013 11:20 AM

                                                                                              I couldn't gag down margarine if someone paid me. And for people who "pass off" margarine like butter on a butter dish, give me a break!

                                                                                              1. re: honkman
                                                                                                mike0989 Sep 26, 2013 11:36 AM

                                                                                                Agreed. My Dad put's butter on everything, including pizza. My mom used to be concerned about it and his weight. I suggested switching to margerine to get him to cut back. He immediately replied "that would do it"

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