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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Comments

  1. I agree. Shortening is made from vegetable oil, a natural substance, but it is transformed by a process known as hydrogenation into a totally unnatural solid substance that the body can’t figure out what to do with. Both butter and lard are much more wholesome than shortening. Lard has gotten a bad rap, because people are afraid it will clog your arteries, but when used in moderation it is perfectly healthy and the most delicious choice.

    1. Agree. If they re-named it perhaps it would sell better and lose the bad rap. Lol

  2. What about butter flavoured Crisco ? I have tried it in my recipe for CH.CH. Cookies and great results !

    1. We’ve used it in baking also, but it still doesn’t beat the flavor of 100% butter. 🙂 It definitely is a possibility though!

    2. I would challenge you to try half butter flavored Crisco and half margarine. 🙂 Refrigerated Crisco.. room temp softened margarine.. no dough refrigeration.

    1. Do you mean before baking? I’d refrigerate for at least an hour, but you can refrigerate them for 24 hours, or pop the dough into the freezer to store for longer.

  3. The crisco package says the conversion to substitute for a stick butter however, do you mix the water and crisco then add it to your recipe or do you just add the crisco and water directly to your recipe whithout combining first?

    I cannot find it anywhere and I’ve never used crisco instead of butter but want to try.

    1. I’m not sure why you are adding in water? I just use an even exchange for butter/shortening. If it calls for 1 cup of shortening, I use 1 cup of butter, etc.

    2. Recently (Jan 2020) I contacted Crisco…they no longer recommend adding the little extra water with the shortening to make up for the butter. The packaging may still say add water but it’s packaging that is being phased out. So swapping equal parts Crisco for butter is the way to go if you are trying to do that change over.

    3. my Moms recipe , from the old chocolate chip bag, called for shortening, and years later my wife liked to make them with butter, I liked the ones I grew up with better I would think half and half would be best for taste and shape of the cookie. The butter cookies are more flat, and I don’t like those as well

    4. This is my moms recipe too…I have been searching g the internet I. Hopes of finding the “original” original recipe she refers too. She has made them so much that (in my memory) she never uses a recipe. I finally went over one day and said “ok, tell me exactly how you make these”!

    5. I’ve baked cookies for the longest time and have never put water in, just Crisco. It works much better than adding water and the cookies don’t flatten as much.

  4. I rarely bake, but have a pregnancy craving for my dad’s homemade ccc’s. I REALLY don’t want to buy a bulky tub of Crisco, when I’ll rarely use it! And I am renting a place with NO storage, and we are moving in 4 months so even though I know the whole “it never goes bad” I’m not buying butter flavored Crisco till we’ve moved! But I CANNOT wait that long to make cookies so using butter is at the top of my list! In your first picture-you just said it was refridgerated vs no refridgeration, but how long? ANY refridgeration resulted in the thicker ones or just one hour/overnight? It just didn’t seem clear….

    1. Crisco is much neater than it used to be. Don’t have to store a “tub of it” as in days past. It comes in wrapped sticks which makes it easier for measuring and for storing. I use 1/2 Crisco and 1/2 butter when I make them.

  5. Lately I have been using the Crisco Butter flavor sticks in my chocolate cookies. I don’t add any water like the package says. Because there is no butter and butter has a salty flavor I add a little extra salt. My family (and co-workers) LOVE them. Plus they always bake beautifully. I think I’m the only one that really even notices the butter flavor missing (since I know there is no butter). I think I will do half and half next time and refrigerate. Only problem with doing that is the dough is accessible longer and fingers slip into it. LOL

  6. I use butter flavored shortening for my ccc’s and also add 1/2 tsp of butter flavoring. That solves the problem of “no buttery taste” — they always turn out perfect!

  7. Coming from someone who is dairy free not by choice, I use butter flavored shortening AND Nestle’s 3 ingredient chocolate chips that are dairy free. Soo good! My family eats them up! I use the butter flavored shortening to make my Christmas cookies also.

  8. My Mother used shorting too. However, she specified “Swiftning” which is half vegetable shortening and half animal fat (Lard). I haven’t been able to locate Swiftning, so I’m planning to use half Crisco and Lard this weekend in a batch just for the memories. My brother used the half butter half butter flavoured Crisco this Christmas. They were very good and close to Mom’s, but not quite there.

  9. I didn’t like the Toll House cookies when they switched the recipe from using shortening to using butter, so I went back to the original recipe with shortening and have used it ever since. I never had cc cookies elsewhere that were as good as mine, an opinion shared by my now-grown kids. Several years ago, my brother, who LOVES cc cookies, asked me why my cookies were better than those baked by his wife. The difference, of course, was that she used butter instead of shortening!

    However, I’m intrigued by using half lard in the recipe, so I may try that some day. I’d like to hear the results of those who have used lard.

  10. I stumbled on this thread trying to make my mom’s home made all purpose mix (like Bisquick). It was handed down from my grandmother. She used it during the depression to make biscuits, cakes, cookies and scones. It called for shortening. I wanted to see what the butter substitute would be. Got some ideas here. I also just wanted to say I tried your Pineapple Upside Down Bunt cake and it was the best cake I have ever made. Thanks.

    1. It depends on how quickly I want to get them cold. Freezing just makes them colder faster. But we don’t usually bake from frozen solid if that makes sense.

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