Substitutes for vegetable shortening

Vegetable shortening is often hard to get your hands on in Australia, so here are some simple alternatives - and it's likely you've already got them in your pantry.

Vegetable shortening is essentially a flavourless, odourless fat made by hydrogenating vegetable oil. It is commonly used in baking recipes – often to give pastries, scones and pie crusts a flaky texture that butter cannot replicate on its own.

Vegetable shortening is available in a few Australian supermarkets and specialty stores, but it is often hard to get your hands on. Luckily there are a few easy to find substitutes.

Test out some popular shortening substitutes by cooking this recipe for chocolate peanut butter balls. Vegetable shortening is listed as an ingredient, but remember you can easily substitute any of the following.

Here are several alternatives that are easy to find on supermarket shelves.

Copha

Copha is the closest product to all-vegetable shortening available in Australia. It is a type of vegetable shortening made exclusively from hydrogenated coconut oil with a little soya bean lecithin added. Being similar in consistency and colour it should achieve the same results as an all-vegetable shortening.

Unlike vegetable shortening, Copha needs to be melted down for use rather than left to soften to mix in with other ingredients.

Vegetable oils

As all-vegetable shortening is hydrogenated vegetable oils and natural fats, this is an easy substitute. Vegetable oil does however contain more liquid and may change the texture of the final baking product. If using vegetable oil, extra dry ingredients such as flower, or a lesser amount of oil may be needed for the desired consistency.

Coconut oil is more openly available and used in vegan and paleo friendly treats and also acts as a great substitute for shortening. However, it may add a sweeter taste and change the texture of foods.

Lard

Lard was the original shortening and has similar properties to all-vegetable shortening. It will not add meaty flavours when used unless rendered with meat products. Like shortening it will work with flaky pastries and delicious baked goods.

However, lard is only suitable if the person eating it is able to consume animal fats. It should be avoided if those consuming the goods are vegetarian or vegan.

Butter or margarine

The most common substitute for all-vegetable shortening is butter. For the desired result more butter may be called for than the recipe states to get the desired textures and flavours. A combination of butter, margarine and Copha can be considered to add rich, creamier consistencies to baked goods.

If all-vegetable shortening is the best way to cook for you, many websites and even specialty stores now sell US favourite Crisco for use in Australia. However, any of the above are excellent, accessible alternatives as a fixative in baking, greasing pans and trays, and frying up food in the pan.

To find the right vegetable shortening substitute for you, experiment with these options and see which one works best in your recipe. You might find that your preferred substitute will differ depending on what you are baking and the intended outcome.

Check out these substitutes for eggs.