Lesson #27:Butter or Margarine? How To Choose The Right One For Your Cookies

You decide to bake cookies and the recipe calls for margarine and you only have butter or vice versa–what now? Many bakers are lost about what the differences are between butter and margarine in baking. I am here to tell you which to use for the cookies that you want.

Health

As far as health, margarine is viewed as the better option. Margarine is made from vegetable oils or “good fat” while butter is made from animal fat. However, every margarine is different and contains different flavor profiles–same with butter. Look at the butter or margarine in your local grocery store or do some research online to decide which one is right for you in regards to health. In my opinion, you are baking cookies anyway so I’m not really thinking about my health. I am thinking about chocolate cookies.

Flavor

Butter wins in my opinion, but this is a personal preference. Since butter produces an animal fat flavor, this is going to infuse into your baking. Margarine’s vegetable oils, no matter how close, will never exactly obtain the flavor profile of butter. I use butter when I want the cookie to be appreciated as a whole such as a chocolate chip or sugar cookie. If you are baking cookies where a certain aspect of the cookie is the main attraction, and the cookie is more of a supporting role, such as with snickerdoodles or salted caramel cookies, margarine can be used.

Appearance

  • Before Baking
    • Butter usually produces a more solid batter that I can mix with my hands and not become a sticky mess. Margarine produces a more creamy, easy to mix batter that I can use a cookie scoop to make perfect rounds on my baking sheet. I prefer margarine in this aspect because it takes less time to mix the batter as the vegetable oils in the margarine easily combine with other ingredients.
  • After Baking
    • While most people say they do not notice a difference between the two, the first thing I notice when making cookies is the difference in appearance. When I use butter I find that my cookies are puffier or are more raised. When using margarine, cookies tend to spread out more. A positive aspect of this is since the batter is so smooth, the dough smooths out and creates those perfect “commercial worthy” circles. When using butter, I notice a crisp texture on the outside of the cookie with a soft interior. Margarine produces an all around soft cookie that is perfect in an ice cream sundae.

Lifestyle

Butter is a no-go for vegans or the super health conscious. There are options of vegan margarine and butter out there that one can use for baking but I have not personally tried this. I would caution to read labels carefully. Many products claim they are vegan but when you read the label, they contain a trace amount of animal byproduct. A brand that has constantly come up in the vegan baking community is Earth Balance. If you are looking for a vegan safe item, I would check them out.

Are you a wonderful baker? Do you want me to do research about an ingredient? Leave a comment and follow below!

-NYL

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