Butter, margarine, shortening, coconut oil… the list of fats and oils we use in cooking and baking is endless. And with the growing interest in healthy eating, it’s becoming more important to know which fats and oils are better for us.
Shortening and coconut oil look and feel similar… but which one is better? Is one healthier than the other?
In this article, we’ll delve into the differences between shortening and coconut oil, and ultimately determine which one comes out on top. Let’s get started!
Comparing shortening vs coconut oil
|Shortening||Coconut oil, Virgin/Unrefined||Coconut oil, Refined|
|Solid or Liquid?||Solid||Semi solid||Semi solid|
|Smoke Point (Fahrenheit)||360 degrees||350 degrees||400 degrees|
|Good for Cooking…||Raw, low heat, moderate heat||Raw, low heat, moderate heat||Raw, low heat, moderate heat|
|Allergens||Depends on ingredients||Coconut, tree nut||Coconut, tree nut|
|Paleo?||Palm shortening only||Yes||No|
Differences between shortening and coconut oil
Shortening and coconut oil may look similar, but they have several differences, including their source, extraction methods, uses, and more.
Shortening is made from various hydrogenated vegetable oils or animal fat. It’s high in saturated fat and may contain trans fats, while coconut oil is a plant-based oil extracted from the flesh of coconuts.
Shortening is typically made through a process of partial hydrogenation of vegetable oil, which transforms oils into a solid fat. Coconut oil is extracted from the flesh of coconuts through a process of pressing and refining.
Shortening is a solid fat that is commonly used as a substitute for butter or lard in baking recipes, while coconut oil is an oil that can be used in both cooking and baking.
Virgin/unrefined vs refined coconut oil
When it comes to coconut oil, there are two main types: virgin/unrefined and refined.
Virgin coconut oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat using a cold-pressed method, which preserves its natural flavor, aroma, and nutrients.
Refined coconut oil, on the other hand, undergoes a process of bleaching, deodorizing, and refining, which removes its natural flavor and aroma. This process also results in a higher smoke point, making it more suitable for high-heat cooking.
While refined coconut oil may be better for certain cooking applications, it’s important to note that the refining process may also remove some of its health benefits.
Baking and cooking with shortening vs coconut oil
Shortening is a solid fat with a neutral taste, making it an excellent substitute for butter or lard for making pastries such as pie crusts, giving them a crumbly and flaky texture. As for cooking, shortening is a good choice for light searing and quick pan frying because of its moderate smoke point.
Coconut oil, on the other hand, has a distinct tropical flavor and is a great substitute for butter or oil in baking recipes such as muffins, bread, and granola. It’s also a good choice for cooking at low to medium temperatures and for stir-frying. However, its low smoke point means it’s not suitable for high-heat cooking such as deep-frying.
Can shortening and coconut oil be substituted for each other?
The answer is yes, but it depends on the recipe. For example, in baking recipes that call for shortening, you can substitute an equal amount of refined coconut oil, which is also a solid at room temperature.
However, for frying or searing meats at high temperatures, you’re better off using shortening or ghee due to their high smoke points. I don’t recommend unrefined coconut oil because it will start to break down and smoke above 350 degrees.
Nutrition: Shortening vs coconut oil
Shortening is a highly processed fat that is primarily composed of trans fats, which have been linked to numerous health issues.
In contrast, coconut oil is a natural, unprocessed fat that is high in saturated fat, but also contains beneficial medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
While both fats are high in calories, coconut oil has been shown to potentially have some health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and improving cholesterol levels. Therefore, in terms of nutrition, coconut oil is generally considered the healthier option. However, it’s still important to consume it in moderation and to balance it with other healthy fats in your diet.
|Per tablespoon (15mL)||Shortening||Coconut oil, Virgin/Unrefined||Coconut oil, Refined|
|Polyunsaturated||2.5 g||0 g||1 g|
|Monounsaturated||5.2 g||1 g||1 g|
|Saturated||4.6 g||13 g||12 g|
|Trans||0 g||0 g||0 g|
|Total Fat||12.8 g||14 g||14 g|
The primary fat source is bolded.
How to store shortening and coconut oil
It’s important to keep shortening and coconut oil in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Neither needs to be refrigerated, but if it’s really hot, you can pop them in the fridge to keep them from going too soft or turning into liquid (looking at you, coconut oil). Just be sure to let them come to room temperature before using them!
Shortening can be stored at room temperature for around 8 months, while unopened coconut oil can last up to two years.
Shortening vs coconut oil: The ultimate verdict
After comparing shortening and coconut oil, it’s clear that coconut oil is the winner.
While shortening is a good choice for certain baking and cooking techniques, it’s highly processed and may contain unhealthy trans fats.
In contrast, coconut oil is a natural, unprocessed fat that contains beneficial MCTs and can be used for a wide range of cooking and baking recipes. It also has a delicious tropical flavor that can add a unique touch to dishes. So, the next time you’re in the kitchen, consider swapping out your shortening for coconut oil and enjoy the benefits it has to offer!
Here are our top 5 coconut oil brands.
Coconut oil is a healthier alternative to shortening. It contains medium-chain triglycerides, while shortening is typically made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and may contain trans fats. However, shortening can be useful for specific baking applications like making pie crust.
No, coconut oil is extracted from the flesh of coconuts, while vegetable shortening is typically made from hydrogenated vegetable oils. Coconut oil has a distinct flavor and aroma, while vegetable shortening is more neutral in taste and commonly used as a substitute for butter or lard in baking.
The healthiest substitute for shortening depends on the specific context and intended use, but some options include using coconut oil, avocado oil, or grapeseed oil. These plant-based oils are higher in unsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats compared to shortening.