How To Substitute Margarine For Butter: The Easy Solution (2019 Edition)

You’re working on a recipe, but when you go to reach for the next ingredient, you suddenly realize that you’re out of it. So what do you do?

This happened to me recently. Somehow, I had run out of butter but did not realize this until I was halfway through making a batch of cookies. Rather than run to the store, I decided to use margarine instead!

Yes, it’s possible to substitute margarine for butter, but you need to understand what you are replacing and when it is okay to make this substitution.


What Is Margarine; What Is Butter?

The first thing you need to know before you decide if you can make this substitution or not is what each of these substances really is.

Here is a quick video to get you started on the differences:



Margarine is created through a chemical process. Extra hydrogen molecules are added to vegetable oil, and you get margarine!

Margarine has no cholesterol and is low in saturated fat while also behind high in the “good” fats. It’s possible to buy a both dairy and dairy-free margarine.

The fat content of margarine can be anywhere from 30 to 80%, and you usually buy it by the stick. Margarine that comes in a stick has the most trans fat, while margarine bought in a tub has nearly no trans fat.



Butter could be called a natural product because it is made from pasteurized cream that is churned until it becomes a solid. Besides pasteurized cream, the only other ingredient that is added to butter is salt, and it is option.

By law, butter has at least 80% fat. Since butter is made from animal fat, it has high cholesterol and saturated fat levels. Since people should not have more than 15 grams of saturated fat in a day, you will want to check this information before purchasing butter.

Can I Substitute Margarine For Butter While Baking?

This is one of the most commonly asked baking questions, particularly those that don’t want to use a dairy-based product in their baking.

The simple answer is that yes, you can use margarine instead of butter.

But before you make that substitution, you will want to understand why the recipe calls for butter and what it does for the recipe. Butter has a high level of fat (80%) while some margarine only have 30%. Using margarine instead of butter can lead to cookies that burn easily, spread out too much, or don’t get the right texture.

Still, it is possible. As long as you are careful! Here are some great tips on how to make this substitution successfully.

How Do I Use Margarine As A Butter Substitute?

When substituting margarine for butter, make sure you choose margarine that:

  • Has at least 80% fat content
  • Is not low fat
  • Is not calorie-reduced

By following these rules, you’ll be making a more accurate substitution in your recipe. You can use the same amount of margarine as you would use of butter when making your substitution.

Recipe Specific Tips For Cakes And Cookies

When you’re baking, you can use margarine instead of butter as long as the flavor of the butter is not important.



When you are making cookies, chill the dough before putting it in the oven. Margarine tends to spread out more than butter when heated, so margarine-based dough will spread out more, too. If you cool the dough, you will lessen the risk of this.

​Read more: How To Choose The Best Convection Oven



Make sure that margarine is well chilled before you start creaming the margarine and sugar. Margarine will start to melt during this process and can make the entire cake denser if this happens. Don’t overbeat your batter and only use well-chilled margarine.

When Should I Not Use Margarine As A Substitute?

You should never substitute margarine for butter when the flavor of butter is important to the final product, such as when making butter cookies.

Here are some recipes that call for butter and should never be made with margarine:

  • Butter cookies
  • Puff pastry
  • Pie crust
  • Shortbread
  • Spritz cookies

Why is it that margarine doesn’t work in these recipes?

It is because these recipes need a perfect balance of both moisture and fat to succeed. If you use margarine instead of butter, chances are very low that you will get the right balance.

Can I Use Margarine To Make Frosting?

Many people don’t remember that they need butter to make frosting until they’ve already run out of butter making their cakes or cupcakes. But can you substitute margarine for butter when making frosting?

Yes, you can, but you have to be prepared for how it will turn out.

Frosting made with margarine is much softer than frosting made with butter. If it is not refrigerated at a cool temperature, the frosting will stay soft. It will never set up properly. This can lead the icing or decorations to slide off a cake, which is never what a baker wants!

SEE ALSO : 3 Easy Ways on How to Make Store Bought Frosting Better

Is Margarine The Same Thing As Shortening?

Some people confuse margarine and shortening with each other because they are both similar, non-butter products. But they are not the same thing!

Shortening is a partially or fully hydrogenated vegetable oil, which might make some people think it is the same thing as margarine, but shortening is actually 100% fat. There is no water, no steam, no nothing added during the process.

This moisture difference makes a huge difference. Generally speaking, however, shortening is a better substitute for butter than margarine.

You Can Use That Margarine… Sometimes

There you have it - a full understanding of when you can use margarine as a substitute and when to avoid it. If you don’t have butter, you don’t have to give up on your recipe. Just be smart about when you make a substitution, and you’ll still end up with a great final product.

Do have more suggestions about how to substitute margarine for butter? Share with me in the comments, and then share this article with any friends who might appreciate the advice.

Sophia Gardner

I'm Sophia, food blogger, dog lover, homemade cooking and travel passion. I really hope you enjoy my blog, i'll do my best to share great recipes, healthy living tips and just general 'food' thoughts!

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