Butter v Margarine: What’s the difference?

Excitement gathers in your stomach as you hear the toaster pop up your bread. It’s nice and flaky and at the perfect texture. You open up the fridge for a spread, and you see both butter and margarine staring back at you. Now you’re at a crossroads. “Pick me” they both say in surprising similar voices. And the questions start popping up in your head. What is the difference between the two? Which is better? Why did they both have the same voice?
Let’s answer some of these questions.

Where does it come from?

Classic butter comes from natural ingredients, namely dairy. That must mean it’s healthier, right? Well the science is still out on that. While it is true butter has higher saturated fats, using it sparingly is a-ok according to many health professionals.

Margarine is created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. When it first came on the scene, it claimed to have lower saturated fats than butter (which is true in most cases), but it is higher in trans fats, which some health professionals say is worse for you.

But not all margarines are the same. Solid (or stick) margarine has more trans fats than soft (or tub) margarine. And since trans fats lowers HDL (or good) cholesterol levels, opt for the easy-spread variety when you can.

Like most things, the recommendation is to use moderation regardless of whether you end up choosing butter or margarine. Check out the Nutrition Facts panel and look for less saturated fats and less (or no) trans fats. It’s like scoring golf, less is more!

Which is better for baking and cooking?

When it comes to choosing between butter or margarine during your next baking session, grab the butter. Butter’s higher fat content (about 80%) compared to margarine’s (about 35%) will result in better flavor, flakiness and deliciousness for your cookies, cakes and pies. You’ll also want to choose unsalted butter. Most baking recipes call for amount of salt and you don’t want your measurements to be off because you didn’t account for the salt already in the butter.

But if we’re talking about cooking instead of baking, you can usually use either butter or margarine, unless the recipe specifically calls for one over the other.

Hopefully this will help make your next trip to the fridge a more informed one. And if you’re looking for something that’s for sure on the healthier side, local Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen has you covered. Our Citrus Miso Glazed Salmon served over ginger rice with a side of steamed broccoli is not just delicious, it’s only 487 calories.

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