General Question

jca's avatar

Do you ever use margarine instead of butter when you bake and if so, what is your opinion of the results?

Asked by jca (35976points) November 12th, 2012

I recently lost a whole lot of butter due to Hurricane Sandy. I had a few lbs of it in the freezer and had to throw it all out. I buy it on sale for use when I bake, not that I bake a lot but I’d rather get it on sale and be ready than have to run out and pay more for it at the last minute.

The other day I went to the store and saw margarine on sale and bought some. We were never a family that used margarine, either for baking or on the table. I guess my mom saw it as a “lower class thing” and we were always a butter family. However, seeing the price difference makes me wonder if the results will be satisfactory for baking.

What is your opinion of margarine for baking? Is the flavor as good? Are cookies more runny and loose than if you use butter?

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29 Answers

skfinkel's avatar

Check the ingredients of the margarine. Compare with the butter.
I never use margarine because ironically I think it is much worse for you than butter is—and the taste of butter is yummy. The taste of margarine will get into the baked food, and it won’t taste as delicious as things made with butter.

tedibear's avatar

I prefer butter for flavor and consistency. I haven’t had anything baked with margarine for so long that I don’t remember how it bakes up.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Your results texturewise will be similar, but I’m in agreement with the others, there’s no comparison on taste. Butter is way better. Plus I avoid those hydrogenated oils like the plague

Deshi_basara's avatar

I’ve never had a problem with it….

Lower calorie, lower LDL chlorestal content…. I’d say it’s better for you health wise. Taste is purely speculation and prefrence. As for Hydrogenated oil, they make margarine that is free of it now a days.

JLeslie's avatar

All the time. I use margarine more often than butter. Stick margarine will give you the same or very similar results as butter, you might notice a slight difference in taste though, depending what you are making. Tub margarine will not work well in baking recipes. If you usually use sweet butter (unsalted) the margarine likely has salt, so don’t add salt if the recipe calls for it. I only use Fleishmann’s margarine so I cannot speak to other brands in terms of taste. Some of them do taste more artficial than others.

deni's avatar


Cupcake's avatar

I’ve used Smart Balance with no noticeable difference.

gailcalled's avatar

Never. If I am going to the bother of baking something delicious, I would use only butter. Butter comes straight from the cow; margarine is a manufactured food.

Ingredients in unsalted Fleishman’s Margarine:

Corn Oil Liquid, Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Whey, Salt, Vegetable(s) Mono and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin Emulsifiers, Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Disodium EDTA, Phosphoric Acid, Vitamin A Palmitate, Color(s), with Beta Carotene, Flavor(s) Artificial, Vitamin D3

Analysis of ingredients in Smart Balance: Source Caveat: some editorializing. I was going to edit and shorten this info but decided not to.

The soybean and canola oils are almost certainly genetically modified. Frankenfood at its finest!

The olive oil isn’t even extra virgin olive oil. Can we say cheap, cheap, CHEAP?

Natural and artificial flavor – this must be where that “buttery taste you crave” part comes in. Excellent stuff if you dig tricking your taste buds (newsflash, you won’t trick your tummy though. At least not for long. You’ll be craving that “buttery taste” soon after and more than likely sticking your head in a big bowl of ice cream by 9pm).

Soy lecithin – yet another genetically modified ingredient.

Vitamin A palmitate – the synthetic form of vitamin A. Since there’s not much natural about Smart Balance in the first place, “fortification” with synthetic vitamins seems logical!

Vitamin D – the label doesn’t even specify what type, but I can pretty much guarantee it’s synthetic D2. Is this the wondrous vitamin D everyone – even Oprah is raving about lately? Brilliant marketing and wishful thinking doesn’t make it so.

Beta carotene color – the normal color for factory produced margarine like Smart Balance is a very unappetizing grey, so color is definitely needed here to fool the masses.

Potassium sorbate – a supposedly safe food preservative that inhibits microbial growth. Safe at least until they find it isn’t. Three cheers for being a guinea pig!

Calcium disodium EDTA – an organic pollutant which breaks down in the environment into ethylenediamine triacetic acid and then diketopiperazine. Diketopiperazine is a persistent organic pollutant, similar to PCBs and DDT. Not only does Smart Balance pollute the bodies of those who eat it, it pollutes the environment too!

Aethelwine's avatar

I bake a lot. There is a difference in taste and consistency. I use margarine when I don’t have the extra money for butter and my goodies never taste as well as they do when I bake with butter.

According to the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers, margarines with at least a 60 percent oil content are the most suitable for use as a substitute for butter in baking. However, even these spreads cannot replace butter in some recipes (such as puff pastry, pie crusts, and spritz cookies) that require specific ratios of fat and moisture in order to succeed.
In addition, if the margarine was fairly warm or if it got too warm while you were creaming it with the sugar, your baked good will go flat. If you can slice off a pat of the margarine without feeling any resistance, it is probably too warm to use. source

YARNLADY's avatar

I always use Country Crock Spreadable Butter and never use butter. I have never had a problem.

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled In your ingredient list you wrote vitamin D3, and then you guess it is D2.

I find it surprising there is any vitamins in margarine to begin with, maybe because butter has D they add it to margarine? I have no idea.

gailcalled's avatar

@JLeslie: The info I copied and pasted about “Smart Balance” is from this source, mentioned in my answer above.

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled Oh, I was looking at the Fleishman’s ingredients you wrote out.

I find it a little ironic that the woman in your link who probably thinks dairy is so much better than synthetic margarine fails to know that most dairy is fortified with vitamin D.

janbb's avatar

Butter all the way for baking. Nix on margarine.

gailcalled's avatar

Source for Fleishman’s marg.

Catlynn's avatar

I always used both if I was out of on I used oil or if I was out of oil I used butter. They work the same there both veggie oil :)

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Lightlyseared's avatar

For cakes (OK chocolate sandwich cake 4–4-4–4 recipe ie the only one I know) I use margarine (stork margarine).. Works perfectly well.

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Jeruba's avatar

When I bake cookies that start with 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, I replace one stick with margarine, and they’ve always come out great. Reducing the butterfat by that much made me feel better about the richness of the cookies without compromising in texture and taste.

Or I used to do that. It’s much harder now that you can hardly find any margarine in sticks any more. It all comes in those damnable tubs. The last time I did make cookies using a stick of margarine, it was an old brand—perhaps Blue Bonnet—but not one I’d ever used before (options were severely reduced). The cookies came out terrible, all melted down and flat in the middle, wafer-thin, and sticking to the cookie sheet as never before. They tasted all right but were all deformed because I couldn’t get them off the cookie sheet without their accordioning down into gummy, wrinkled blobs. I’ve been baking them to the same recipe since I was 12, in many different ovens, and never had that happen before.

My son read the label on the margarine package and compared it with the Fleischmann’s we used to buy (until it disappeared). The percentage of water was significantly higher and sufficed to explain the baking disaster. Imagine trying to make up cookie bulk with water. Pah.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba Now that they make all these lighter and low fat options the margarine is not the same. Full of water and whatever else they put in there. It is disgusting. If you spread it on bread you get soggy bread, let alone use it in a recipe. I only find Fleishmann’s stick margarine in Kroger where I live, no one else carries it. If you call their customer service they can probably help you locate a store near you. I once called their customer service years ago to ask them what they had done to the margarine, it tasted horrible. They said it had already been changed back they had received so many calls. It was just like the coca-cola fiasco years before, but of course the nargarine does not have as big a market. I doubt they would risk making a change again.

wilma's avatar

I only use butter. I have used margarine in the past and I felt it was inferior. I also don’t buy margarine anymore for all the reasons that @gailcalled noted.

glacial's avatar

I detest the flavour of margarine, and won’t have it in the house. At one point, a few years ago, I decided to finally try using margarine for pie crusts, since I’d heard so many people recommend it, and I was horrified by the results. Next I tried going half and half, just to use up the stuff, but I still hated the taste, so got rid of it. It’s butter or nothing for me.

Edit: That’s odd; I just realized I spelled “margarine” as “margerine”, which is incorrect. Why do we pronounce it with a soft “g”, I wonder?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I always use butter, and I have a confession. I’m a butter slut. Here’s one of the most amazing butters I have ever tasted.
This stuff is so so good.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

Ironically I was just told on the weekend that margarine is like one step away from plastic :/

I always used margarine in the past in baking and sometimes found the odd cookie recipe would bring forth hard cookies. I recently changed to using real butter for everything and have not had a problem with any recipe.

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RocketGuy's avatar

We used to run a bakery and certain items, like puff pastry, came out better with margarine.

But at home, I use only butter. Basically, I don’t make puff pastry from scratch anymore.

jca's avatar

Thanks for all the answers, guys! I think I am going to return that margarine to the supermarket and re-stock my butter supply!

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