Margarine vs. Butter

posted by Andrea | 02/6/2012

Ever since Dave and I got married and I started cooking and baking, I’ve had an internal conflict about whether to use butter or margarine.

I know this sounds ridiculous, but any time I’m at the grocery store, I always question which I should buy…

The Conflict:

Butter is more “natural”, BUT it’s also more expensive.

Margarine is much cheaper, I can buy 1/3 less fat versions, BUT I’ve been told it’s only 1 chemical away from being plastic! {not sure if this is true or not}

And because I can’t ever decide, I’ve always just kept both butter and margarine in the house.

We use butter for spreading on breads, pancakes, and for most of my “cooking” needs {sauteing veggies in butter, etc.} But I almost always use margarine or Crisco for all my baking needs {except butter cream frosting for obvious reasons!}

However, now there are all these new products like “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”, spray butters, spreadable butters, and many more. It’s kind-of overwhelming how many choices there are!

Since I’m definitely not qualified to give any sort of dietary or nutrition advice, I’m wondering what choices you make when it comes to butter, margarine, and all the many other products out there. 

Are you like me and use different products for different purposes, are you a straight “butter” person, do you always use margarine because it’s the most economical choice, or are you hooked on other butter substitues?

Also, I’d love to know if any of you have more knowledge about the health aspects of these different products! 

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89 comments

  1. Samantha

    02/06/2012

    In the summer put out margarine on your back deck and put out butter. The flies go to the butter not the margarine. Let nature guide your decision. The flies will not eat plastic!

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  2. Ann

    02/06/2012

    We use both and stock up when they are on sale and freeze them until we need them. However, the Imperial in your picture is not technically a margarine. It is a vegetable oil spread. Even the Imperial Cookie recipe won’t work with today’s Imperial. (It has changed over the years.) I do not buy these spreads for baking I only buy true margarine. (It will say margarine if it really is one.) Otherwise the water content is too high for baking with it. We use margarine for some baking, mac and cheese, etc. We use a spreadable vegetable oil spread for on breads because it is soft and less expensive. (I personally don’t eat butter on bread but those who do, get the spread.)

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  3. Joanna

    02/06/2012

    For some good nutritional information regarding all horrible things you’re doing to your body eating margarine check out marksdailyapple.com

    There are other healthy options for baking – coconut oil for instance – that are great for cooking and can be bought cheaply in bulk.

    One way to make butter last longer for daily use is an old recipe I found. Whip a pound of butter with 1 egg and 1/4 cup of whipping cream. This doubles the amount, is easy to spread, tastes terrific as well as being really healthy. But make sure you keep refrigerated and use a fresh egg.

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  4. Donna G

    02/06/2012

    I grew up on margarine, because a single mom with three kids had enough trouble keeping us in milk…

    But now I have butter in the freezer for baking, and we use Promise (light for spreading, regular for mashed taters & such). For pan frying I use olive oil. It was butter and olive oil only, untill the Boss had a heart attack and they gave us Promise in the hospital. And our nutritionist friend okayed it. I confess I have not done any research myself – somehow in the middle of making sure your husband is going to survive it falls through the cracks!

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  5. Karen

    02/06/2012

    I used to buy margarine, then I bought butter for everything except for baking, then read how margarine is made. Now I only buy butter, even though it is much more expensive. I get it on sale and put it in the freezer. Haven’t had margarine in my house for years now.

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  6. Kristen @ Joyfullythriving

    02/06/2012

    I use both – but Imperial margarine is still my standby. I use butter for my cooking, particularly for shortbread. Cost is a factor for this frugal gal, and I do like the taste of margarine, as that’s what I grew up with. Maybe I’ll use a bit more butter, but we’ll see if / when I make a total switch.

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  7. christy

    02/06/2012

    We only use butter. Salted goes in the butter bell on the counter and is used for buttering bread. The salt helps to keep it from going bad. Unsalted stays in the fridge and is used for everything else. I read a pin on interest that says you can slowly beat in a cup of water into a stick of butter to make 2 sticks out of one without losing flavor. It cuts down on expense and calories that way. I have yet to try it, but it’s on my list.

    Baking is a WHOLE other issue. Butter doesn’t cut it most of the time. So I end up using crisco or margarine. I don’t bake much, so I guess it’s alright.

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  8. Peitra

    02/06/2012

    Butter, butter, butter! Everything in moderation… but stay away from the fake food!

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  9. Sharyl

    02/06/2012

    Butter. I was raised on margarine and I really do believe it is one chemical away from plastic! Euuuuuw! I also will blend softened butter with berries and roll into tubes and freeze, then use with frnch toast…delish!

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  10. Crystal

    02/06/2012

    Olive oil or Canola are best in most all cirumstances. Where applicable, with baking, substitute 1/2 the butter recommended with natural creamy peanut butter (Kroger brand is good) and the other 1/2 with Olive Oil. With chocolate desserts, it’s fabulous!! Great in cookies! I’ve also heard of substituting pureed prunes or pumpkin (super cheap if you opt for homemade puree) for butter in certain recipes. Good luck!!

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    Karen Reply:

    I use olive oil too, but never canola. It’s all GMO. The pureed squash (any kind) works in recipes without a strong other flavour. I haven’t used prunes but have heard it works for chocolate recipes. Applesauce or any other pureed fruit works too. I have also substituted yogurt, sometimes thinned with milk or water for oil in recipes that call for a lot of oil. I have one that calls for a cup of oil, but use about 1/4 cup and milk or other dairy for the rest.

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    Karen Reply:

    Correction: 80% of canola is GMO. 20% is non GMO. Canola has existed for thirty years. Any health claims made before statistics are available over a lifetime of consumption are speculation. I’m happy that some is not GMO. I still won’t use it, or commercial products that contain it.

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  11. Endless Baby

    02/07/2012

    Andrea,

    For the health of you and your family stick with unsalted butter and you can substitute coconut oil for recipes you don’t want to use butter in. Don’t use margarine it’s not a natural product plain and simple, it may cost a little more now but it will cost less where your health in concerned.

    To save $ just buy the butter on sale and freeze it, also you can buy organic, virgin coconut oil online for much less than most local grocery stores.

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    Lisa the Farm Lady Reply:

    I agree. Stay far away from margarine as it’s full of junk you do not need to put in your body! I’m also pretty leery of anything that needs to be sprayed out of a can first.
    Here in Canada dairy products are more expensive than in the US. I buy butter when it’s on sale for $3/pound and freeze what I don’t use.

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  12. Karla

    02/07/2012

    I used to use margarine for economical reasons, but have switched to butter for pretty much everything. Tastes so much better and better for you. (If you can say butter is good for you??)

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  13. Robin

    02/07/2012

    No Margarine here! Only the real deal….butter! I too stick with unsalted and we also freeze it as well. I also use Bob Green’s Best Life Baking Sticks. They work so well for baking and you’ll always find coupons for these. I only purchase butter when it’s a “deal” and stock up on it. My last purchase was a 20 pack case since the price was so good!

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  14. Alison

    02/07/2012

    Butter! It’s natural and it tastes better. :)

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  15. Simone

    02/07/2012

    Butter. There is never any margarine in our house. Margarine is stuffed full of trans fats that is guaranteed to harm your health. We use only real butter, and very sparingly at that.

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  16. Lee

    02/07/2012

    If you can show me the plant or animal margarin comes from I may change my mind…but for us and my family it is butter! I grew up on margarine and since I switched I love the difference. I am a baker and would not use margarine in place of butter unless it says specifically not too. Also we leave it on the counter, but it never stays longer than a day or two. We buy it from Costco it is about 7.85 for 4 lbs.

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  17. Fallon Gresham

    02/07/2012

    I really like Earth Balance margarine! I use it in almost all of my baking, but it also tastes really good on toast or melted on popcorn.

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  18. Stacie

    02/07/2012

    My husband is allergic to soy, so no margarine for our house. Butter has a richer taste, I find that I can use less and not sacrifice flavor.

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  19. Rene'

    02/07/2012

    Does anyone really know what is margarine? I know what’s in butter. So unless there is a cholesterol problem or an intolerance to dairy, it’s an easy choice for me. Yes, it can be more expensive. But the difference in taste is what keeps me using butter. YUM!

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  20. adrienne

    02/08/2012

    Like many here, I grew up on margarine (ewww!)
    In my family, we use butter too… but for sauteeing veggies I always use EVOO. I have one of those pourers right next to my stove b/c it gets used so much.
    But for baking, stove top things like pancakes, french toast & quesadillas- it’s butter :)

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  21. Julie S.

    02/08/2012

    I only use butter now because I learned that eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% according to a Harvard medical study. Margarine is also very high in trans fatty acids, triples your risk of coronary heart disease, increases total cholesterol and lowers HDL cholesterol (which is the good kind), increases the risk of cancer up to 5 times, lowers quality of breast milk, decreases immune response, and is one molecule different from being plastic. Also scary? Margarine shares 27 ingredients with paint! If you put an open tub of it in your garage and left it for a month, it would still look the same. I definitely don’t want that in my body!

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  22. Angie

    02/08/2012

    I agree with most, I am a mostly health-conscious cook/baker, and 99% of the time I use butter. Natural, tasty, and unless you’re a butternut (ha!) it is perfectly fine in moderation.

    I have a hard time justifying putting crap into my body just to save a few cents at the grocery store.

    Hubby likes spreadable stuff for his morning toastables however, so I keep some Earth Balance spread around the house for him. Uses all natural oils and has no trans fats.

    Good luck!

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    L. Reply:

    earth balance and smart balance have oil’s (palm, etc.) that are said to be bad for your heart. is that true?

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  23. Meredith Wnek

    02/13/2012

    Use the best freshest butter available to you! I can taste crisco in baked good…it sticks to the roof of your mouth. The “recipe” for margarine sounds like an industrial chemical formula. Yes it is less expensive and a whole generation thought it was better for you…my parents generation. That was the generation where so many men were dropping dead with heart attacks in their 50′s! My Grandmother’s generation…or at least my Swedish Grandmother would never have touched butter. Sadly less expensive and spreadable…makes some people feel like they can use margarine in excess.
    I am surprised that margarine has not gone “out of style” and “out of business” along with twinkies.
    Be good to yourself.

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    Meredith Wnek Reply:

    ERRATA!!! I meant my Grandmother would have never touched MARGARINE…she’d only use BUTTER!!! ;-)

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    Melanisia Reply:

    Twinkies aren’t out if business,

    Margarine is a generic term for butter substitutes, typically composed of vegetable oils. Specifically the principle difference between butter and margarine is that butter is derived from animal fats (typically milk fats) while margarine is derived from plant fats (oils) and skim milk.

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  24. Clever Couponer

    02/14/2012

    As a couponer I have a need to get great deals. However, I refuse to sacrifice quality. We only use butter in our home. Unsalted. Salt is added to preserve it. But we have freezers to do that for us now. Stock up price on a pound of butter is $1.99. When it goes that low I will stock up, put several in a gallon sized freezer bag (so it doesn’t take on the smell of the freezer or get freezer burnt) and freeze it. Also. Another trick I have learned is using heavy cream. Manager’s specials and sales on whipping cream then make your own butter. Its easy!

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  25. Dana

    02/15/2012

    I’ve been reading a bunch of America’s Test Kitchen recipe books lately (terrific tips!!) and they say that you should always use the “type” of butter mentioned when baking. For example, most butter should be softened (some recipes need to even be mixed a certain way for best results) but in their chocolate chip cookies, they say the key to a chewy inside and crisp outside is actually MELTED butter. So I always use butter for my baking and margarine on my toast/sandwiches, etc. (I actually recently gave up margarine for good after this.)

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  26. Molly

    02/20/2012

    We use butter. When my husband and I moved in together, that’s one of the very few food requests he had, so I honor that completely.

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  27. Cheyenne

    02/20/2012

    It sounds complicated, but I keep THREE types of butter in the fridge. We use Challenge because we like it the best and I can almost always find coupons that make it reasonably priced. The three types I get are: unsalted (for baking or recipes that already seem to be adequately salted), regular stick for general use, and a tub of the spreadable (its made from canola oil which helps it spread even when cold). They almost never run out at the same time, so I only have to replenish one at a time and if I run out of one type another can be used with ease. It may seem whacky, but its what works well for my husby and I. :) You BUTTER believe it. Haha. Right?? ;)

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  28. Amanda

    05/30/2012

    I was really interested to see what people had to say here because I am a Southern girl and have used butter my whole life, my mother never even had margarine in the house. My husband’s family did, so I keep a small bit of it to keep him comfortable. I also babysat for a lactose intolerant family who used Smart Balance, and I know she did lots of food research and would never have put something harmful in her children’s bodies.

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