Alternatives to Butter (and soy) in Baking–Spectrum Shortening and Earth Balance Coconut Spread

Today I bring you some information about alternatives to butter and regular shortening in baking.  Butter of course, makes things delicious and flaky, but it is made out of milk.  So it’s out for people with milk allergies or vegans.  But you can still bake wonderful treats without butter.  There is shortening, like Crisco, or your store’s generic brand.  This works very well in most cases.  However, it is made with soybeans and probably genetically modified ones at that.  So people with soy allergies cannot enjoy baked goods with regular shortening.  And some people like to avoid soy for other reasons.  (That’s another post for another day).

You may have noticed that my recipes with shortening in them say, “dairy and soy free shortening.”  It occurred to me, that some people may not be aware of this product, especially if they are new to the world of food allergies.  I use a dairy and soy free shortening for the sake of the blog and because I like to avoid soy for other reasons (again, another blog post for another day).  I also want to make sure the recipes turn out with a soy free option for all my soy allergic readers.

So the first option in baking is Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Shortening.  It is non-hydrogenated palm oil.  According to the nutrition facts on the container, 1 tablespoon of shortening is 110 calories, with 12g of total fat.  It has zero trans fats, as well as zero cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars and protein.  It is gluten free as well as dairy free, soy free, and egg free.  And of course, there are no peanuts or tree nuts.  This shortening is good for vegans, the food allergic, or anyone who wants to avoid soy and is Kosher. Blog-Spectrum Shortening

I love using this shortening.  It functions just the same as shortening made with soybeans.  I also feel like it’s a bit “healthier” because it is non-hydrogenated, organic, and not made with soy.  It is more expensive, but since I do not bake every day and sometimes not even every week, I do not mind.  I have made pie crusts, cookies, muffins, and frosting with this shortening and they all turned out wonderfully. 

Another option to butter and soy laden shortening is Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread.  I think it is relatively new to the market; new in the last year to year and a half.  This is not coconut oil.  It is a very hard spread in a small plastic container in the refrigerator section of Whole Foods.  If you do not live near a Whole Foods, I would ask your local grocer to carry it for you if you are interested.  While the Spectrum shortening discussed above is strictly palm oil, this spread is a combination of extra virgin coconut, palm fruit and coconut oils, as well as canola oil, filtered water and less than 2% of salt, natural flavor, sunflower lecithin and non-dairy lactic acid.  According to the package 1 tablespoon of spread has 100 calories and 11g of total fat.  It has zero trans fats, cholesterol, carbs, sugar and protein.  But is does have 70mg of sodium per 1 tablespoon.   The container states that it is “lactose and soy free” as well as “vegan, expeller-pressed oil, non-GMO and gluten free.”

Blog-Earth Balance Coconut

I have used this, but not frequently.  I usually tend to go for the Spectrum shortening, although I do not know why.  When I have used this Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread, I have had wonderful results.  I make corn muffins with it that call for melted shortening and this melts nicely and took my corn muffins from ordinary to extra-ordinary.  It lends a sweetness to your baked goods.  It does have a bit of coconut flavor to it, although it is mild.  As with most allergy friendly foods, the cost is a bit high, but I have often found coupons online or from Whole Foods.  I tend to use this in small amounts.  For example, if a recipe calls for 4 tablespoons butter, I would choose this over shortening.  I do this for two reasons.  One, because the recipe is asking for a small amount and I only like to use this spread in small amounts so I do not turn my food into overly coconut tasting.  And two, because butter is hard and so is this spread.  I figure it is better and more likely to turn out if I trade a “hard” ingredient for another “hard” ingredient rather than a “soft” shortening. 

Please be careful if you choose to use Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread.  The word is still out if coconuts are a “safe” food.  While they are not a tree nut, some people consider it a tree nut.  So if you have tree nut allergies, please check with your allergist or doctor to see if you can consume coconuts or products made with coconuts before using this product.

If you would like to share your experiences with either of these products, feel free to leave a comment below!

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40 Responses to Alternatives to Butter (and soy) in Baking–Spectrum Shortening and Earth Balance Coconut Spread

  1. Katie says:

    Thanks for this, I’ve seen a lot of vegan baking recipes that call for vegan margarines, and I just skip over them b/c I knew those spreads have soy in them. I avoid soy b/c so much of it is GMO, and with all the hype about it’s affect on estrogen, better safe than sorry. Anyway, maybe I’ll actually be able to make some vegan caramels out of one of these.

    • admin says:

      You are welcome. I avoid soy for many of the same reasons you listed. I bet you can make one of these work for you. Did you happen to see my ‘how to make caramel sauce’ post?

  2. Diane says:

    Thank you! I’ve had such a hard time with butter alternatives in baking, usually going for some kind of mixture of canola or coconut oil as I do have a pea sensitivity and soy allergy on top of avoiding dairy, so most butter alternatives are out. I’ve used Smart Balance Light spreads before, but they have so many chemical-sounding ingredients that I never really felt comfortable doing that. This is perfect!

    • admin says:

      I’m glad to help! I know what you mean about Smart Balance…I once tried to make a “crumble topping” for a fruit crisp with it and it was disasterous!

  3. I also like Spectrum Organic’s dairy free, soy free shortening. I also like Earth Balance’s Soy Free Butter Spread (which is also dairy free). It’s another great alternative for those with multiple food allergies – and it goes great spread on bread (tastes just like butter)!!

    • admin says:

      Oh, yeah…I like that one too. The one in the red tub right? Do you bake with it? Or just use in cooking and eating? I only use it in cooking and on bread etc.

  4. Bay area baker says:

    Spectrum’s website says that their oils are manufactured on equipment that also processes their nut oils. Is the shortening really safe from cross contamination? I’m running out of options for nut free, safe shortening!

    • admin says:

      With the link you provided, and the way I read it, it sounds like they are only talking about “bottled” oils and not their shortening. It sounds like they have a good cleaning procedure down. I do have almond and walnut allergies and I am not personally concerned about this. That being said, I wrote Spectrum to ask about cross-contanimation issues and exactly where their shortening is produced, and I will come back here to comment when I hear back from them. Thank you!

      • Bay area baker says:

        I called Spectrum and they told me that everything is processed on the same shared equipment so this will not work for our needs (anaphylaxis to peanut and all tree nuts). It does sound like they have thorough cleaning processes for those who are not so sensitive though.

  5. Sangelia says:

    I’m trying to avoid soy as well. My daughter was starting precocious puberty due to the amount of soy we were using in the household here.
    Thing is, I love to prepare various foods. I grew up however with shortening being made from animal fats, Not plant fats as many companies are doing these days.

    • admin says:

      Yeah…soy is not the “health” food it is often made out to be. I think you’ll find the Spectrum shortening to work just as well. If you are looking to replace soy sauce you can use coconut aminos. It’s not the exact same taste, but a very good stand in. Thanks for coming by.

      • Sangelia says:

        Also I learned I also have to avoid soy for myself.
        Due to the fact I had pregnancy triggered breast cancer. I was told that was also why I could not be on hormonal forms of birth control.

  6. Emmeline Viregge says:

    Where can I buy the top picture one… spectrum all vegetable shortening? Making a birthday chocolate cake for my son and one of his friends is allergic to dairy. Found a recipe that requires soy-free and dairy-free shortening. I found you and hope you can help me find this! thank you.

    • admin says:

      Whole Foods carries it. If your town has a high end grocery store other than Whole Foods, they may carry it or order it for you. A small health foods shop/specialty shop may have it. Amazon has it, but it is priced quite a bit higher than what I pay at Whole Foods. Hope this helps.

  7. MrsM says:

    I’m so glad I found this! My 5 year old with allergies has become friends with another child with completely different allergies. I’d like them both to be able to eat the same cupcakes for my child’s birthday so everyone feels included.

  8. Maddy Soto says:

    Thanks for sharing. I am a baker, learning about allergies and substitutions. My 1 yo nephew is allergic/sensitive to soy, it looks like both ingestion and contact. I found the Spectrum brand at Target in my area, but was reluctant to use. I am glad to find your blog. I am on a learning journey. Thank you for the information!

    • admin says:

      You are welcome and thanks for coming by. I have never thought of looking at Target for Spectrum, but think I will check it out the next time I am there.

  9. DebMcC says:

    I have celiac, so have been gluten free for years; it’s my only issue, thank heaven. I love to bake and make top-notch stuff, and I use butter. But I’ve recently made friends who are GF and also dairy/soy intolerant , and I want to make things they can enjoy.

    I’ve wondered about using Lorann butter emulsion with shortening to improve flavor. Do you know how well this works, and do you have a ratio scale–i.e., say, 1 t. emulsion to 1 c. shortening?

    Thanks for any help you can give.

    • admin says:

      Well, I have not heard of Lorann butter emulsion so I had to google it. It looks interesting, although the website said it may not be completely vegan. That could mean there could be traces of milk product in them, I believe. It sort of depends on your friends and how sensitive to milk they are too I guess. As for ratio…I have no idea. Wish I could help.

      • stampsinblue says:

        You use the emulsions in a 1:1 substitution for extract (for example, if your recipe calls for 1 tsp of vanilla extract, you can substitute 1 tsp of the emulsion).

        I haved used the Princess, Almond, and Orange emulsions. All are fabulous in baked goods.

  10. Steve Distefano says:

    I was wondering if Spectrum Organic Butter Flavor Shortening is certified gluten free and dairy free. The packaging says it is but I need to know if it is certified or if it’s something they just state on the package. The reason that I am asking is because I will be baking for a gluten free, dairy free bakery and I need certification. I’ve tried Earth Balance butter spread but it leaves an off taste, where Sprectrum does not.

  11. Jude says:

    Big fan of Spectrum Organic Shortening.

    Just an update on the ingredients in the Earth Balance Coconut Spread. I originally was able to eat this with no problems, but recently at it and had a reaction. I checked the ingredient list and was very disappointed to see that they had added sunflower oil — I am allergic to sunflower. So once again — always read the labels as companies change the ingredients all the time and do not have to make customer’s aware.

  12. Joanne says:

    Where can you but spectrum shortening in Ontario.

  13. Susan says:

    I have a great recipe for cakey chocolate chip cookies. I used Spectrum shortening in them last night, and they got all spread out on the pan and became one giant cookie. I wonder if this is because the lack of trans fats removes some of the stability from the final product? They taste just as good, but they aren’t the cakey individual cookies I get from Crisco. Or could this have been caused by the oven somehow? Thanks!

    • admin says:

      I’m not sure, but I do find that Spectrum works better if it is chilled first. Sorry for the delay in responding.

  14. Nancy says:

    Can you use spectrum shortening instead of butter in almond bark or candy recipes?

  15. Paula Mautino says:

    Cannot you suggest a shortening I can use to make baked goods that is gluten free, soy free, and nut free. I have 2 grandchildren one is gluten free and the other is soy free and highly allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. I don’t know what to use anymore?
    Please help

    • admin says:

      Sorry for the delay in responding…usually I am notified of comments, and somehow this one slipped through.

      I would use Spectrum Palm Oil Shortening…it’s dairy, egg, soy, corn and nut free! I love it!

  16. Rose says:

    Can you use the spectrum buttery flavor shortening on toasted bread

  17. Charlotte says:

    What can I substitute for Spectrum? Vegetable oil.

    • admin says:

      I’m not sure what you are asking. Spectrum palm oil shortening is soy free. Regular vegetable oil is most often made of soy.

  18. Lita Watson says:

    How about Tropical Traditions Organic Palm Shortening ? I think it meet certain criteria that make it environment-friendly and people-friendly as well.

    • admin says:

      I trust the Tropical Traditions line so, yeah…go for it! By the way, have you seen my most recent post? I’ve written a cookbook and it’s available on Amazon!

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