When baking cookies, one of the common key ingredients will be butter. Typically whether you’re an avid baker or not, most people are likely to have butter in their fridge. However, if you typically buy margarine instead of butter, or it’s all you have in your fridge at the moment. you may be left with something of a conundrum. So, can you use margarine instead of butter in cookies? 

What Purpose Does Butter Serve In Cookies?

When baking cookies or indeed many other kinds of baked goods, the recipe calls for butter more times than not. But why do so many delicious recipes from bread to chocolate cake require butter?

The answer is quite simple. Baked goods that contain butter will often turn out far richer in flavour. Additionally, the high-fat content of butter helps to give a great unique texture and golden brown colour that can ultimately be incredibly difficult to replicate when you replace butter with something else.

Can you use margarine instead of butter in Cookies?

Why Would You Want To Exclude Butter From Cookies?

Whether you use unsalted butter or salted butter, cookie recipes will often include it as a staple ingredient. The reason being that the aforementioned qualities of softened butter in cookies that makes them so delicious. If butter triumphs above all though when following a cookie recipe, then why would anyone want to forgo using real butter?

There are a few reasons why someone may want to use margarine instead of butter when baking cookies. People may have a wide variety of reasons for not wanting to use butter in cookies, however, some major reasons are shown below.

The reason that butter makes such good baked good recipes can actually be a massive issue for some. This is because butter contains high amounts of fat with large quantities of said fat being in the form of saturated fats and cholesterol. 

This is a big issue for those who already have high cholesterol as they will not want to exacerbate the issue. Additionally, saturated fats can be linked to heart disease and weight gain meaning that people may wish to avoid them due to other health concerns.

Another group that will want to avoid butter are vegans. This is because as we all know, butter is derived from cows milk. As such it is unsuitable for a vegan diet. As such when baking vegans will have to seek out alternatives to butter and indeed other animal products such as milk or eggs.

The third major reason though is that butter and indeed other dairy products such as milk are wholly unsuitable for people with either a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance. For these individuals, there can be adverse effects from consuming dairy products, as such they will have to find alternative options.

Butter Vs Margarine

Before you can think about replacing butter with margarine it is important to fully understand the difference between the two of them. This is because whilst they may look somewhat similar they are actually quite different. As such you can’t just substitute butter with margarine in the same ratios and expect the same results in most contexts.

What Is Butter?

Butter is a product derived from dairy, specifically cow milk. Real butter, whether salted or unsalted will mostly be made from fat derived from milk with roughly eighty percent of butter is made up of fat. Meanwhile, the remaining percentage consists of water along with some milk proteins.

What Is Margarine?

Margarine is derived from plant oils with a high amount of its contents being water. In addition, though margarine will contain some polyunsaturated fats, with some also being quite high in trans fats.

Rama Margarine, 500g

How Are They Different?

In the majority of cases, margarine is often considered to be much healthier than butter, especially when heart health is concerned. However, this is only true if the variation you buy has a reduced amount or no trans fats as margarine can in some instances contain more of these than butter does.

Can You Substitute Butter With Margarine When Baking Cookies?

As a result of it often being considered the healthier choice of the two, many people will be interested in trying to cook with margarine in place of butter. However, you may be wondering if it is possible to make cookies with margarine cookies instead of butter.

The short answer is that, yes you can. In fact, it can be incredibly simple to do so since the ratios to exchange them will be one to one.  

Can you use margarine instead of butter in Cookies?

How Does Using Margarine Affect Cookies?

So if you can exchange butter for margarine on a one to one ratio, they will produce the same results, right?

Wrong. Cookies made from margarine will be noticeably different from those made using butter. This is not like using melted margarine in place of melted butter when frying or on toast. If you know what you are looking for, you’ll easily be able to tell on sight. Even if you don’t know the difference though if pressed to guess you could also probably tell.

So what is the difference between butter and margarine cookies then?

As you likely already know, normal cookies made with butter have an excellently rich flavour and a golden brown colour. Additionally, thanks to the fat content of butter, it will melt incredibly slowly. This causes the cookie to spread out just enough so it has a crispy, yet gooey texture.

Margarine cookies on the other hand are a totally different beast. Whilst the role that margarine fulfils will be the same as butter, the effect it will have on your baked cookies is completely different. 

Due to being far more watery than butter, margarine will melt much more quickly. As a result, the cookies will spread much thinner and become significantly more crispy in texture. 

Additionally, due to these cookies spreading far more thinly on your pan, they will be ready far more quickly than cookies typically should. As such, it is wise to keep a close eye on them to prevent them from burning.

Using The Right Kind Of Margarine In Cookies

When debating which type of margarine to use between stick margarine and tub margarine, there is a clear winner. This being stick margarine. Naturally, you may be asking yourself why?

The reason is quite simple. The higher fat content in stick margarine means that they will provide a much closer result to butter cookies than tub margarine will. 

However, the caveat of this is that margarine will contain more trans fats which for some may defeat the purpose of using margarine in your cookie recipe in the first place. 

A compromise though may be to use tub margarine that contains more fat than would be typically be expected. This is because whilst it will have a higher fat content than other tub margarine, it will still likely have less trans fats than stick margarine. 

How To Use Margarine When Baking Cookies 

When making cookies you can follow a recipe that, would call for butter and just swap it for margarine. This will still produce cookies that I’m sure you’ll love eating. However, does it not make more sense to follow a margarine cookie recipe that intends for you to use margarine?

Of course, it does!

With that in mind below we will go through the process of making chocolate cookies from scratch with margarine. 

Naturally, this recipe could work great with butter as well. However, as mentioned it is intended for margarine and using butter will invariably alter the resulting cookies. Additionally, using butter will also greatly influence the nutritional content of the finished cookies. 

Can you use margarine instead of butter in Cookies?

Ingredients

  • One cup of margarine (ideally a high fat variant)
  • One cup of brown or muscovado sugar
  • Half a cup of baking soda
  • Half a cup teaspoon of salt
  • Two large eggs (alternatively use chia egg or another vegan alternative)
  • Two and a half cups of all-purpose flour
  • One cup of cocoa powder
  • Half a teaspoon of cinnamon (optional but recommended)

Instructions

  1. Before beginning it is important to preheat the oven to 375°F. This will allow your cookies to bake at a more even rate. This is important because if not done, some cookies will burn whilst others may be undercooked.
  2. In a large bowl, thoroughly beat the margarine for approximately a minute.
  3. Add in your dry ingredients aside from the flour. This will include brown sugar, white sugar, baking soda and salt. 
  4. Add in your eggs (or egg substitute) and cinnamon. Once again, beat the mixture until everything is combined.
  5. Gradually add your flour to the mix. Doing so in increments of halves of quarters whilst beating helps spread the flour out more evenly.
  6. Add your chocolate/cocoa powder. Gently but thoroughly stir whilst observing to see if your mixture is either too dry or too wet. 
  7. Once combined, line a baking sheet with baking parchment or grease it. 
  8. Following this, use an ice cream scoop or deep spoon to scoop out some cookie dough and place it on the baking tray. Repeat until all the dough has been put on the baking tray, ensuring there is plenty of space between them so they can expand.
  9. Bake the cookies for roughly ten minutes or until they look a nice golden brown colour.
  10. Serve, potentially with a garnish of lightly sprinkled cocoa powder.

Other Butter Substitutes

Whilst margarine can be used as an excellent replacement for butter when making cookies, it is not your only option. Depending on your preferences or what you have to hand at the time, one of the following choices may be a better option when making your cookies. 

Olive Oil/Vegetable Oil

If just out of butter olive oil or vegetable oil can be a fast and quick replacement in a pinch. This is especially true since margarine is made from vegetable oils typically, although it can also be made from olive oil. 

Out of the two, olive oil is likely best from a health perspective as it will convey many benefits to your health. This is to the point where olive oil is often seen as one of the healthiest fat sources you can have.

The main difference that you will notice when using one of these oils is in terms of texture. This is because cookies made with olive oil or vegetable oil tend to be slightly chewier. 

When using one of these in place of butter or margarine you should only use three-quarters of the amount required in a recipe. For example, in our cookie recipe, instead of a cup of margarine, you should instead use three-quarters of a cup of oil.

Mashed Avocado

A slightly more expensive but exceptionally healthy source of fat for your cookies is avocados. Particularly, mashed avocados should be used since they won’t melt but will still fulfil the role of butter or margarine adequately. 

A quirk you will notice with avocado-based cookies is that they also tend to be rounder in shape due to avocados not melting in the oven. Additionally, when substituting mashed avocado for butter or margarine you will need to use twice as much avocado to get the desired effect.

Can you use margarine instead of butter in Cookies?

Vegetable Shortening 

Similarly to margarine vegetable shortening is derived from vegetables. However, unlike margarine, it doesn’t really have much of its own taste and contains little to no water. 

For this reason, it is often a favourite secret ingredient amongst seasoned bakers as it will provide baked goods with a brilliantly tender and soft texture. If you can get your hands on butter flavoured vegetable shortening, the results will be even better. This is because you’ll have all the benefits of the vegetable shortening with some added buttery goodness.

When using vegetable shortening instead of butter or margarine, you can do so on a one to one ratio. However, many bakers will be inclined to add slightly more shortening than they would butter to further enhance the texture. 

Peanut Butter

Like olive oil and cooking oil, many households will often have peanut butter to hand if out of butter or margarine. As such, this can be an excellent substitute for both since it is made from peanuts and butter. 

Moreover, peanut butter will add an extra layer of flavour to your cookies whilst potentially being healthier than butter. Although this is only the case when using peanut butter that has doesn’t have large amounts of added sugar.

The only real issue with using peanut butter is that you have to be conscious that no one eating the cookies has a nut allergy. This is because consuming something like peanut butter can potentially have lethal consequences.

If planning to use peanut butter in cookies doing so is very simple. This is because when replacing butter or margarine, you can swap in peanut butter at a ratio of one to one.

Can you use margarine instead of butter in Cookies?

Coconut Oil

If wanting to add something of a tropical nature to your cookies, coconut oil is an excellent choice. This is an excellent choice for a butter or margarine substitute since along with the extra flavour it can provide your cookies with a bit of extra crunch that other options simply can’t provide.

If you’re wanting to avoid the flavour of coconut though, you can use refined coconut oil instead. This will provide the same benefits as regular coconut oil but lack the flavour.

In addition to the crunchy texture it provides, another benefit of using coconut oil is that it is simple to do. This is because you can use an equal amount of coconut oil as you would butter or margarine. 

Pumpkin Puree

If you love the flavour of pumpkin and want some particularly sweet cookies, then pumpkin puree is the ideal choice. It acts as both a fat and sweetener for all sorts of baked goods meaning that you could potentially reduce the sugar content of your cookie recipe if too sweet. 

In addition to adding sweetness though, pumpkin puree will often result in baked goods which have something of an orange colour to them.

When using pumpkin puree instead of butter or margarine, things are slightly more complex than prior options, however. This is because you need to use three quarters more pumpkin puree than you would butter or margarine. For example, if following the recipe above, instead of one cup of margarine, you would instead use one and three-quarters of a cup of pumpkin puree. 

Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin, 15-Ounce (Pack of 8)

Apple Sauce

Apple sauce has long been a popular butter substitute when making a variety of baked goods, with cookies being no exception. This is because it is often used as a healthier alternative to butter without compromising too much on taste.

A quirk that using apple sauce does add, however, is that cookies made with it tend to be deliciously chewy. Additionally, whether using unsweetened or sweetened apple sauce, the cookies produced will be sweeter. 

With this in mind when using apple sauce it is best to use unsweetened apple sauce. This is because there will already be enough sweetness added by the added sugar meaning anymore may be overpowering.

When using apple sauce in place of butter or margarine, simply use half as much apple sauce as you would for the ingredients being replaced.

Greek Yoghurt

Greek yoghurt might be one of the most versatile ingredients in your kitchen. As such it can often make an excellent substitute for a wide variety of ingredients. 

In cookies, when replacing butter and margarine it will often provide something of a creamy taste whilst also leaving a delectably soft texture to your bakes. However, some brands may also provide a somewhat tangy taste which may or may not be appealing, depending on your palette. 

Another advantage of using Greek yoghurt though is that it is incredibly simple to swap butter or margarine for it. Like with some of the preceding options, Greek yoghurt is usable in a one to one ratio when replacing butter or margarine.

Mashed Bananas

For a particularly healthy a somewhat convenient option, mashed bananas can make an excellent butter or margarine replacement.

These will change the final result of your cookies somewhat as they will be denser and have a slight banana taste, similar to banana bread. However, if wanting unique and somewhat healthy cookies this is often seen as a boon.

When using bananas in place of butter or margarine, this can easily be done. One mashed banana will be roughly equivalent to a stick of butter. As such margarine and butter can be swapped for margarine at a ratio of one to one.

Should you use butter or margarine in chocolate chip cookies?

As established above, margarine can be used to replace butter in cookies. However, when doing so you need to be conscious that the cookies produced will likely have a different taste and texture than you may expect. This can somewhat be mitigated by using margarine with more fat content, however, if trying to be more healthy this may be defeating the purpose.

If the description of margarine cookies isn’t appealing though, there are other replacement options available. Although, just like margarine, these will inevitably have produce cookies with unique quirks.

Ultimately, which you end up going for is down to you. If you’re not sure though, why not try experimenting with a few different options? You never know, they may even be better than butter.

FAQ’S – Can you use margarine instead of butter in Cookies?

Does margarine affect cookies?

Margarine will have a noticeable impact on the final result of your homebaked cookies. Margarine cookies tend to be wider, flatter and more crunchy than cookies made using butter. However, if you use margarine that contains more fat than usual then the results will be closer to butter, although these will still not be identical.

What can I use instead of butter for cookies?

When making cookies, there are plenty of options for what you can use instead of butter. Naturally, margarine is an obvious choice, however olive oil, apple sauce, pumpkin puree, Greek yoghurt and many others can work as well. However, it is important to bear in mind that when replacing butter that the ingredient ratios may change and the final result may be different than you are expecting.

Should you use butter or margarine in chocolate chip cookies?

When you have the option butter should always be used in chocolate chip cookies as it will provide the crunchy bite and chewy texture that you will be anticipating. If slightly conscious of health when making cookies, however, margarine is a viable choice. Although, the cookies produce tend to be wider, flatter and more crunchy than cookies made using butter.

Do you use the same amount of butter as margarine?

When using margarine instead of butter you should do so at a one to one ratio. The benefit of this being that the quantities involved for the various ingredients in your cookie recipe won’t change. However, the final result of baking cookies with margarine instead of butter will be different. This is because cookies made using margarine tend to be wider, flatter and more crunchy than cookies made using butter.