Shortening vs Butter in Cookies

Have you ever wondered what makes the best chocolate chip cookie? We’re here to face off shortening vs butter in cookies using Original Nestle® Toll House® Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

Butter vs Shortening in Cookies - Which bakes better?

Do you love to make cookies? Have you read our post where we answer your question, “Why are my cookies flat?”

If you’re ready to perfect your cookie-making game then you’ll love that article. But while my fingers were flying across the keyboard typing that post, I found myself thinking of so many more things I could tell you {or even show you} about cookie baking if we were sitting across the kitchen, chatting over a cup of coffee.

So let’s pretend I’m pouring you a cup of coffee and sharing a cookie with you, and let’s chat about chocolate chip cookies.

One of the biggest things that affect the texture and look of cookies is the choice of butter vs shortening in cookies. It’s a fierce battle, really. Some strongly stand on the shortening side, and others claim 100% that butter is the best.

I decided to put the Nestle Toll House Original Cookie Recipe to test here and made several batches of cookies with different combinations of butter and shortening, and also refrigeration and no refrigeration. Because we all know with 100% butter cookies that’s what works best, right?

But before we get into comparison pictures, let’s talk a little bit about the difference between shortening and butter.

  1. Shortening is 100% fat.
  2. Butter is also fat, but also has milk and water in it.
  3. Because of the milk and water in butter, it will melt more quickly under heat than shortening will.
  4. Shortening has no dairy in it at all, which makes it an option for those who can’t have dairy.
  5. Shortening generally makes baked goods softer.
  6. Shortening is flavorless. Butter adds a rich flavor to baked goods.

So that is what the pros say about shortening vs butter in cookies.

Now for the real results. Get ready, friends…we’re on a cookie-eating roller coaster. Buckle up!

We made the following batches of cookies:

  1. All butter (no refrigeration)
  2. All butter (1 hour refrigeration)
  3. All butter (overnight refrigeration)
  4. All shortening (no refrigeration)
  5. All shortening (1 hour refrigeration)
  6. All shortening (overnight refrigeration)
  7. ½ shortening and ½ butter (no refrigeration)
  8. ½ shortening and ½ butter (1 hour refrigeration)
  9. ½ shortening and ½ butter (overnight refrigeration)

That’s a lot of cookies, right? You wish you were my neighbor, don’t you? 😉

First, the results in pictures, then I’ll sum the results.

Butter vs Shortening in Cookies - Which bakes better?

These were no surprise. Butter spreads quickly, so if you choose butter, refrigerate your cookies.

Butter vs Shortening in Cookies - Which bakes better?

I knew cookies baked with shortening didn’t spread as much, but look at those results!

Butter vs Shortening in Cookies - Which bakes better?

Refrigerating cookie dough with shortening didn’t do anything in my eyes. It almost made the cookies worse because the cookies didn’t brown as nicely and took longer to cook.

Butter vs Shortening in Cookies - Which bakes better?

Again, overnight refrigeration with shortening doesn’t do much for the cookies. 1 hour refrigeration was better than overnight here.

Butter vs Shortening in Cookies - Which bakes better?

You can tell now where what we were zoning in on….half butter and half shortening.

So here’s the results of our fun. If you’re going looks, shortening won, hands down. The cookies stayed plump, nicely brown and soft. The flavor was very good, but the cookies were a little more sweet than rich butter cookies.

Butter vs Shortening in Cookies - Which bakes better?

Our favorites? ½ shortening, ½ butter, refrigerated for one hour. Why were these our favorites?

  1. They look pretty.
  2. They browned nicely.
  3. You get some of that butter flavor, but the cookies still hold their shape and don’t run all over the pan.
  4. By refrigerating the dough for an hour and baking for about 9 minutes, the cookies stay crisp on around the very edges and a little soft & chewy in the middle.

Just the way we like cookies.

Shortening vs Butter in Cookies - Which bakes better?

Now remember that we ran these experiments with the Nestle Toll House Cookie Recipes. Different cookie recipes will lead to different results, but you can use these results as a guideline for what may happen.

Have you ever wondered about freezing cookie dough? We’ve got tips here!

These Bakery-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies are our go-to cookie recipe. Find out why here!

Do you love soft-baked cookies? Try this recipe.

About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

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Caroline
2 years ago

Just wondering: shortening as in Crisco or margarine?

Joyce Dailey
1 year ago

Is Chrisco still good that has been refrigerated for over a year?