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Butter versus Margarine

I'm considering switching back to butter from margarine since a recent medical study concluded margarine does not have an advantage over butter in preventing heart attacks and/or strokes.
(Annals of Internal Medicine) May 2014 (?)
Dietary saturated fats no worse than unsaturated fats in preventing vascular diseases.

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      1. I think is only reason this stuff became to be was that it was a cheap alternative to butter, way back in the day.

        5 Replies
        1. re: treb

          And it was thought to be healthier for you. "Experts" would tell you back in the 70's that it was better for you.

          1. re: treb

            It came to be because Emperor Napoleon the III was looking for an alternative to butter for his army.

              1. re: mike0989

                Though I don't have a source, I'm pretty sure trans-fats were invented by German organic chemists, the best in the world at that time. Yes, there was a fat shortage for European poor people then, with marg and shortening being a cheaper alternative.

                1. re: mwhitmore

                  Nope. Studied by the Germans but first invented\ patented by a Frenchman.


                  He never made any money off it and sold it to the Dutch.

            1. Like others, I grew up on maragine, but as an adult, started to weigh the hydrogenation factor of margarine vs. the fat scare factor of butter.

              Butter won for me and mainly what I use.

              I do keep a few stick of margarine around for some recipes tha have to jhave it, but, like Hostess Twinkies , will survive years in my fridge with no problem.

              Naturally made vs. overly processed dyed yellow vegetable oil and water.

              20 Replies
              1. re: jjjrfoodie

                What recipes can only use margarine?

                1. re: c oliver

                  Good question. I'd find different recipes, or adapt the ones that call for it.

                    1. re: Davwud

                      Yes, just use butter instead of margarine. Done.

                      1. re: sandylc

                        It does affect the texture of some baked goods - subbing different solid fats may give you a cookie that's chewier, or crispier, or spreads out more when baking.

                        1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                          Yup. Unless you're in a factory setting where you are looking strictly for consistent product, you'll probably still like the outcome - probably more.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    The original recipe for Buffalo Wings supposedly used margarine:


                    As for me, grew up eating Saffola margarine. I switched to butter the moment I stocked my own fridge the first time. Never looked back.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Potentially kosher meals to avoid mixing meat and dairy.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        The ones you are making for your kosher in-laws where the dessert you are bringing can be prepared in your heathenly dishes but contain no dairy. That is the only time I'll use margarine. Otherwise it's butter all the way for me. I prefer food over chemicals, thank you very much.

                        1. re: 16crab

                          I guess your in-laws aren't too fussy about the kashruth laws if they'll eat something that's prepared in "heathenly dishes."

                      2. re: jjjrfoodie

                        I too grew up on margarine and have had an extremely difficult time adjusting to the taste of butter. It really is a shame. I cook & bake with it but I put cream cheese on my toast.

                        Maybe I should try some butter from a local dairy instead of generic Kroger brand.

                        1. re: UTgal

                          You must!!! There is a huge difference in flavor. Try Kerrygold salted for everyday use, unsalted for baking.

                          1. re: Ttrockwood

                            I haven't bought salted butter in more years than I can count. No.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              Me either, though there is one exception which is a caramel frosting which works better for me with salted butter. But I have made it twice in my 40 years of cooking.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                For cooking, I agree that unsalted is preferable, so you can season to taste. But for spreading on toast, what's the problem with salted? I tend to use unsalted butter because that's what I have in the fridge, but sometimes I sprinkle a small pinch of salt on the toast as well, to compensate.

                                1. re: Scrofula

                                  I grind fresh, black pepper on my toast, on the rare occasion I eat toast, and my family thinks I'm nuts.

                                  1. re: John E.

                                    I grind fresh black pepper onto my buttered popcorn.

                                    1. re: The Professor

                                      I don't eat much popcorn anymore, but I do the same thing. I recently bought some Penzey's Whole Special Extra Bold Peppercorns that would be great on popcorn, and almost anything else too.

                                  2. re: Scrofula

                                    The problem with salted is that some of us, myself included, just don't like salted butter.

                                  3. re: c oliver

                                    Me either. When I need some salt I just sprinkle some kosher or sea salt to my liking or according to recipe.

                            2. I switched to butter - Irish Butter, yum!

                              1. Go for it! Your health won't suffer - real beats faux on every count.

                                Tastes better, too.

                                1. Actually it does have health benefits. it tastes bad enough that you will use less of it.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: mike0989

                                    I think modern margarine was the beginning of the use of transfats. That butter is better for you does not mean go ahead and eat a lot of sat fat. Americans get too much of that.
                                    For table use I have been considering a homemade butter/oil blend. For cooking many are using coconut oil, which is a solid. I really use too much butter, getting it from costco in four pound packages on a too regular basis. It is so good tasting.

                                    1. Wow, where have you been?
                                      recent medical study? I thought everyone knew that margarine is bad for you.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Monica

                                        Yes, I thought that had been debunked years and years ago.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          Yeah, when I first read this, I expected the date of the original post to be from years ago.

                                          1. re: nedh

                                            Me too. This is probably decades old news.

                                      2. take the paper off of a stick of butter place on a small dish, now do the same exact thing with a stick of margarine.
                                        place them side by side-leave on kitchen counter on a warm day-
                                        which one melts?
                                        which one stays cube shaped?
                                        that oughta answer a question or two.

                                        1. What stopped you from making the switch years ago?

                                          14 Replies
                                          1. re: John E.

                                            Misinformation! Usually touted by the medical profession and dietitians.

                                            1. re: Doctormhl1

                                              Medical folks are the last people to go to for diet/nutrition advice.

                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                  Agree, fld. I spent a fair amount of my working years in and about the medical field. Perhaps 40 years ago when there wasn't much focus on that. But in the last 20+ years I haven't seen that at all.

                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                    It's good to have someone on the inside....:-)

                                                2. re: Doctormhl1

                                                  It appears from your profile that you live in Ontario. It's hard to believe that they're that far behind. We were on an Alaska cruise recently and I saw on a buffet both marg and butter. Other than that it's been maybe 20 years?

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    I'm from Ontario and have been well aware for years that margarine is no longer considered good for you.

                                                    This cannot be attributed to the full province of Ontario.

                                                    On top of going to a doctor/nutitionalist, all individuals must be responsible for their own health and do their own research.

                                                    I'm curious to know which medical profession and dietitians gave this incorrect information. Was it one person or many?

                                                    1. re: fryerlover

                                                      I just spoke with a woman yesterday who is currently taking a nutrition class at the hospital after her husband's recent heart attack.

                                                      She said that they told him to eat margarine.


                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                        That is interesting. I think after a heart attack, I'd not need to be told to eat butter or margarine. They'd both be out the door.

                                                        I listen somewhat to my doctor, somewhat to my common sense and try to read a lot of different articles/opinions from vegans to meat eaters and just go with my gut and/or craving in the end.

                                                        1. re: fryerlover

                                                          Except you are missing out on all of the current research that shows that butter has little to do with cardiovascular risk.

                                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                            It's not that I'm missing out, it's that I make decisions based on more than one research/article/idea. I don't always do things based on what research says as I try to take it all with a grain of salt and come up with what would work best for me.

                                                            Right now I eat 60% very healthy and after a heart attack, I'd take that up to 95% healthy eating which to me would be raw and from the ground. Mind you, I'd have to move to a place with more sun in the backyard for my large garden that I would eat from....lol.

                                                  2. re: Doctormhl1

                                                    Allow me to elaborate.
                                                    When I attended Medical School (1958-62) the accepted wisdom and teaching about the relationship between diet and cardiovascular diseases was based on the research studies of Dr. Ancel Keys, (Ph.D.)
                                                    This was considered gospel for the next 30 years or so.
                                                    Those old enough will remember when Dr. Robert Atkins challenged Keys in the early '70's his low carbohydrate, unlimited fat diet was considered heresy by the medical profesion and registered dietitians and fell into disrepute. Only in the last 15-20 years has the Medical profession come to accept Dr. Atkins' theory; but not completely. There are still many cardiologists and dietitians that cling to Dr. Keys' theory.
                                                    Of course, moderation and common sense should be the basis of any healthful diet along with exercise, weight control, and smoking cessation

                                                    1. re: Doctormhl1

                                                      Most cardiologists and dieticians cling to Dr. Keys' theory.

                                                      1. re: Doctormhl1

                                                        I understand what you were trying to say much better now. Thanks for elaborating.

                                                  3. This is old news. Margarine is terrible in all ways. Butter is just fine.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                      I can better you Sandy, butter is peeeerfect!
                                                      it's extremely loved around this house <3

                                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                                        You know, I looked at that word "fine" after I typed it, and decided I was understating.

                                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                                            me, too

                                                            maybe I should rethink my stingy use of emoticons...;-/

                                                    2. I'll only use unsalted butter in my cooking, but I do use Smart Balance 50/50 blend when I slather things like toast and English muffins. It tastes just fine to me. While my health is good, there has been heart issues in my family, so I just take tiny preventative measures where I can.

                                                      1. A lot of contemporary margarines have stopped using trans fats, so it's not like the bad old days. Still, butter.

                                                        I'm just amazed at the number of people who think stuff like Country Crock is the same stuff as butter. One friend mentioned online that he'd read that a dab of butter was good in coffee. When he said that made his coffee oily I had a sad realization.

                                                          1. Read the list of ingredients in butter.

                                                            Now read the paragraph of "ingredients" in the margarine. How many of them are really food??

                                                            There's your answer.

                                                            You should also re-evaluate your aspartame intake ;)

                                                            1. As other people have noted, that butter is better for you than margarine is not new news. Butter comes from cows. Margarine is a chemical sh*t-storm. Besides, it tastes waaay better.

                                                              1. Recent? This is old news. Please use butter.

                                                                1. Margarine is useful in kosher cooking, for meals where meat is present.

                                                                  The lipid profile of dairy fat from grass-fed cattle is relatively healthy; if and when you can, obtain your dairy products from such cattle, rather than grain-fed cattle.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                    Indeed it is. When I both kept a kosher kitchen and ate meat (many years ago), I always had butter and margarine in the fridge. The margarine was always Mazola because it was pareve--not all of them are. I think the fact that it was made with corn oil helped its taste because I remember it as being one of the more palatable margarines (and let's face it, Nyafat just wasn't appropriate for everything).

                                                                  2. Health issues notwithstanding, margarine is preferred for those who do not enjoy the taste/flavor of butter.

                                                                    30 Replies
                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                      Are there a lot of those people do you suppose?

                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                        Yes, many Asians do not enjoy the taste/flavor of butter. Not all, certainly. But many.

                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                            And there's a lot of lard used in Mexican dishes. And the cookies.

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              Lard is not margarine, in terms of health effects.

                                                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                It does often contain partially-hydrogenated oils, however, which was the problem with margarine.

                                                                                1. re: ennuisans

                                                                                  Many foods with fat contain natural partially-hydrogenated oils. The issue we are facing currently in public health relates to the onslaught of artificial trans fats.

                                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                    Sorry, Armour lard has what they call hydrogenated lard in the list of ingredients, not partially-hydrogenated. I have no idea how similar the two are, so maybe it's not trans fats in lard after all.

                                                                                2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                  Thanks. I understand that. I was thinking lard vs. butter but is margarine all kinds of artificial things? Is lard trans fat free? I'm remain confused about a lot of these things. Thanks, fld.

                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                    There are naturally occurring trans fats which are present in very small quantities in various foods with fat - animal fats like lard, cheese, meats. However, the health-related issues of trans fat are related to the significant increase in the consumption of trans fats through the introduction of artificial trans-fats into food products.

                                                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                      I sincerely SO appreciate the information you bring to this site.

                                                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                Really? I haven't met any of these Asians. Perhaps it's just Asians in a specific location?

                                                                                1. re: LMAshton

                                                                                  I can't speak for butter but given the preponderance of Chinese colleagues who are disgusted by cheese, I'm not surprised.

                                                                                  1. re: MacGuffin

                                                                                    But Chinese people are only a subset of Asian. Granted, a large subset, but still.

                                                                                    1. re: LMAshton

                                                                                      Which is why I specified "Chinese." They'll fill up on plain slices of baguette at wine-and-cheese events but they loathe cheese and won't touch it.

                                                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                              I don't get it. Margarine is like bad tasting butter. I can understand not liking butter, but why would you like something that tries to replicate the taste of butter, but fails miserably?

                                                                              1. re: TroyTempest

                                                                                Or maybe butter is like bad tasting margarine?

                                                                                I mean I can understand not liking margarine but why would a person like something that replicates the taste of margarine, but fails miserably.

                                                                                Inquiring minds, as they say, want to know.

                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                  Hydrogen used for hydrogenating fat has been the biggest use for hydrogen. Not sure if that is still true with the cutback in trans fat.
                                                                                  Even food l a belief no trans fat can contain a certain amount. Which easily adds up. Does anyone know how they choose that labeling amount?

                                                                                  1. re: divadmas

                                                                                    If there's less than 0.5 grams of a nutrient in the US the label can read 0 grams which is why you have to read the ingredients as well. The food you're referring to are not "trans fat free" as the front of the package says but it's legal to write that and people will buy because food manufacturers know that consumers don't actually read the ingredients or know what most of the words even mean.

                                                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                      Exactly! And some people, upon reading this, will say, "well, if it has just that little bit in it, I'm not going to worry about it!"

                                                                                      They don't consider that they will probably eat a larger serving/more than one serving or that if they don't watch it they will be eating those "little bits" in several foods every day. Or, that it just shouldn't be in their food in the first place and they should vote against it with their dollars.

                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                        Yup! If anything hydrogenated is in the ingredients, it goes back on the shelf. I don't eat many packaged foods so it's not too challenging to find food to eat but that's one rule I follow 100% of the time.

                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                      How can the fake knock off be the default taste to the natural product?

                                                                                      1. re: rasputina

                                                                                        When your first exposure is to margarine.

                                                                                        It's like those people whose first exposure to Chinese is Pei Wei. Take them to a non-Americanized Chinese restaurant, and they recoil like you've just fed them lukewarm castor oil.

                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                          My first exposure was to margarine. There was NEVER a spec of butter in our house while I was growing up.

                                                                                          When I left home, I began buying butter and never looked back.

                                                                                          There is just no comparison, tastewise.

                                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                                            Same here. I also gave up garlic in the salt form, only fresh and powdered for me now.

                                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                                              Same here; butter was a special treat growing up. Like you, sandy, when I got out on my own, it was butter all the way; has been for over four decades. Accept no substitutes.

                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                Same here. My mother only used margarine, hamburger (for meat dishes!), canned vegetables, canned soups, etc. She grew up during the depression and WWII and probably had to stock up for armageddon. Sadly, she never outgrew that way of thinking for the kitchen, even though her circumstances changed and the limits of her resources all but disappeared.

                                                                                                When she baked (a rarity) she used canned shortening for the fats in recipes. When she made dinner it always included pre-ground hamburger. We ate a lot of chili, goulash, tacos, meatloaf, etc. Oddly enough when it came to spaghetti, she used bacon and ketchup in the sauce. For lunch, it was a tuna sandwich made with canned tuna. When she ran out of tuna she would open a can of Campbell's bean with bacon soup and spread it straight from the can onto wonder bread and make sandwiches.

                                                                                                Before this becomes a therapy session... you know now why I'm all about good food, including real butter!

                                                                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                "When your first exposure is to margarine."
                                                                                                I know what you're trying to say, but speaking as someone whose first exposure was to margarine and margarine only, and who loved margarine so much as a child that she had to be prevented from eating it straight from the dish - once I ate actual butter it was like all the angels descending from heaven at once, with fireworks in the back ground. The next bad behavior I had to be prevented from exhibiting was stealing all the little cold butter pats out of the restaurant dish.

                                                                                                So while I don't have a problem believing that not everyone is going to be a butter lover, I don't think just initial exposure to margarine vs. butter is the reason for it.

                                                                                      2. I have heard stories about margarine from the old days from my parents. Way back when, the dairy industry was strong enough in Minnesota and Wisconsin so that yellow margarine was not legal to sell in those states. Back then, margarine was supposedly more healthful than butter. We had relatives in Wisconsin and the Twin Cities and my parents went to Iowa (I grew up eight miles from the Iowa border) and bought cases of yellow margarine for our relatives.

                                                                                        The margarine in Minnesota and Wisconsin was sold with yellow food coloring that could be stirred in (tubs, I guess) to make the margarine yellow instead of white. That must have been a poor substitute for commercially colored margarine.

                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                          I'm from Texas, and i can remember my mother saying when she was young that they added coloring to the margarine also.

                                                                                          1. re: TroyTempest

                                                                                            My grandmother told me about having to add color to margarine back during WW2. They couldn't get butter so they had to use margarine.

                                                                                            1. re: Njchicaa

                                                                                              Originally, I believe it was illegal for margarine to be butter colored- (at least in Ontario, where I'm from). White margarine was sold packaged in a plastic bag and in the bag was a separate little "bubble" containing a dark orange -colored liquid. The bubble was "popped", releasing the coloring. The plastic bag of soft white margarine was then kneaded with the coloring diffusing until ithe margarine achieved a butter-like color.

                                                                                              1. re: Doctormhl1

                                                                                                Technically this is still the law in Missouri as well, but unobserved.

                                                                                                The closest I've ever come myself to kneading margarine is to stir a tub of it when the oil separated.

                                                                                              2. re: Njchicaa

                                                                                                Yes, this is what my dad and his siblings (growing up in N.Dakota) have told me. They used to fight over who got to mix in the food coloring and were very excited about the margarine. Probably not coincidentally they all HATED HATED HATED churning butter, which was a standard hugely boring kids' chore in their family and took forever. They'd all get angry decades later, just talking about churning butter.

                                                                                                1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                  My grandmother grew up on a hardscrabble dairy farm in a desolate corner of County Leitrim in Ireland at the turn of the century before last. She knew her butter, and wouldn't touch oleomargarine. My mother kept butter on hand for her, but served us Nucoa margarine for our health (in the 1960s and 1970s). Grandmother would butter her steaks and salt her ham; my mother, having adopted many of the health neuralgias of Right-Thinking New Yorkers of the era, was duly horrified (Grandmother would grimace a smile at my mother as she did these things). Grandmother was still walking a mile a day up and down hills until 88, and lived to a ripe age of 91. Mother has been feeble for the last 20 years, but has reached 90 two months ago. Two different paths to 90....

                                                                                          2. Related:
                                                                                            Record american consumption of butter, approx 22.5 sticks per year

                                                                                            1. I can't even remember the last time margarine touched my lips. Although I grew up eating it, I remember that country crock stuff my mom bought.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                For us, it was initiallty sticks of store-brand "oleo", then later plastic bowls of Nu-Maid Margarine. I do remember the Shedd's Spread/Country Crock at my grandparents' house - that was a bit later on, I believe.


                                                                                              2. It's years since I've generally used butter. Medical advice then was to use sunflower spread or some other similar "lookalike" product, whether actually called margarine or not (even the brand leader, Stork, calls itself a spread these days).

                                                                                                I've seen the recent research but there's nothing there, on taste, to tempt me back to regularly using butter, in place of sunflower spread.

                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                                  Does the sunflower spread have trans fats?

                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                    I don't think I know what trans fats are.

                                                                                                    Principal ingredients are Sunflower oil (37%), water, palm oil, linseed oil, reconstituted buttermilk (3%), vitamins, etc

                                                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                                                      I wonder what the labeling laws are over there regarding hydrogenated ingredients.

                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                        Well, food labels in the UK need to specify what's in the product - except they can use a generic term like "seasoning", instead of specifying salt & pepper.

                                                                                                        I see an online article from the National Health Service suggesting that, on average, we eat about half the recommended maximum of trans fats - but, as I say, I have no real idea what they might be or if the principal ingredients I mentioned would be regarded as trans fats.

                                                                                                        Can't recall the issue ever being mentioned in British food magazines, although it may have been tucked away somewhere (probably on the "special diets" pages which I generally can't be arsed to read). Presumably, with the NHS's comments about our low level of consumption, it is simply a non issue here for the general public. That said, I know from reading Chowhound, Americans seem very much more concerned about food health (and hygiene) issues than we Europeans.

                                                                                                        By the by, I also see that McDonalds in the UK has not had hydrogenated fats in its products since 2007. Would that reflect the company's position in the US?

                                                                                                      2. re: Harters

                                                                                                        I'm no expert, but when hydrogen atoms are added to the fatty acids in vegetable oils, the process is called hydrogenation. Basically, it takes a liquid vegetable fat and makes it solid at room temperature. In the process, trans fats are created and apparently, they are even worse for health than the saturated fats contained in butter.

                                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                                          While palm oil is from plants it is a saturated fat. It can make margarine hard and Skippy natural peanut butter not runny. How good or bad it is I don't know. Long ago it was much more common but it was replaced by supposedly healthy trans fat.
                                                                                                          I think saturated fat refers to it being saturated with hydrogen atoms.

                                                                                                        2. re: Harters

                                                                                                          The palm oil is being used as the solidifying agent.

                                                                                                          Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat via hydrogenation, a process by which fats that are normally liquid at room temperature are instead able to hold to a (somewhat soft) solid state at room temperature. (The classic, or ur, hydrogenated fat in the USA was Crisco.) Trans fats were targeted by health officials in the USA years ago, and have now been declared no longer safe for human consumption so that they will need to be eliminated from processed foods in the coming years.

                                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                            I wonder what bakeries are going to use instead of shortening?

                                                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                                                              Crisco has gone to a trans fat "free" formulation. Saturated fat is used instead.

                                                                                                              I don't know that trans fats have been banned as unsafe. They just have to be labeled and because many avoid trans fat manufacturers reformulated recipes. Even though McDonald's quit using trans fat for fries you can still buy big boxes of solid fry oil at Costco.

                                                                                                    2. I grew up on butter and that's what I use today. Margarine tastes very different and is generally known to be unhealthy for you so I see no need to use it.

                                                                                                      Interestingly, I don't mind it when I'm in Mexico. I notice that a lot of cooking that I've had in Cozumel uses margarine. But that's just 1 week out of the year...

                                                                                                      1. Me @ 14
                                                                                                        "Mom can you please get me some Parkay? I can't wait for this butter to soften and it tears my toast to pieces."

                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: zackly

                                                                                                          If you think it's butter, but it's not, it's chiffon