My husband has just had stints put into his heart and is now on a fat/salt/sugar diet. I do all the cooking and enjoy making things from scratch. I am trying to adjust my recipes for his new diet. Shortening is used in rolls, biscuits, cakes, etc. (you get the idea) what can I use in place of shortening? I need something that will not be greasey or tasteless. I do not mind if I have to use a different ingredient for different applications (sweets, breads, etc.) I just need a way to make the food compliant with the prescribed diet without losing flavor.

  • possible duplicate of Are there any substitutes for Shortening?
    – razumny
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 10:24
  • 1
    "Healthier" is off topic here, as there is much pseudo-science and it is almost impossible to find real facts. If you give specific constraints as to what is permitted or not permitted, we may be able to give recommendations based on criteria.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 11:49
  • Hello Kim, SAJ14SAJ's comment is correct, we don't allow question on what is "healthier". It is however allowed to ask how to make food which conforms to dietary restrictions, as long as the asker explains these restrictions. After reading your first sentence, I assume that you mean that in this case, you are trying to make the food lower in fat, salt and sugar, so edited this accordingly into the quesiton body. You can edit more detail into your question too.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 14:30
  • @razumny I think the title was misleading. The other question is generally asking for substitutes; here, the question body explains that the food has to be low in fat, so the answers from the other question (which are other types of fat) won't fit here.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 14:33

4 Answers 4


If you can find a copy, Graham Kerr's "Minimax Cookbook" has guidance and several recipes for low-fat baking. He used to be the galloping gourmet, and produced recipes with outrageous amounts of fat, sugar, and so on. Then his wife had a stroke and he re-examined how he cooks in order to be able to meet her dietary requirements while not losing flavor, texture, and mouth-feel. It covers much more than baking, and is a good guide to low-fat cooking in general. Unfortunately it's out of print (published in 1992), but there seem to be lots of copies available from second-tier distributors.

  1. what you are looking for does not exist.

    a way to make the food [low fat] for him without losing flavor

    This is impossible. Fat is very important in baking for both taste and texture. Assuming that your husband's fat/salt/sugar diet means that the substitute has to contain less fat per unit of weight than shortening, you will be losing lots of flavor and texture. There is no way around it.

  2. The next best thing is to continue baking, but use recipes designed with low fat and sugar content in mind. Altering recipes is a very hard thing to do in general, especially when you are removing a major ingredient.

  3. If you are determined to try altering, here some general advice:

    • Some baked goods depend a lot on (solid) fat. You will not be able to make any of them in a fat-reduced version. These include pie crust, Danish, millefeuille, and other pastry doughs. They can be made with butter or coconut fat or lard in the same amounts, but the result will have just as much fat.

    • Batter-based baked goods can be made with reduced fat. The taste and texture will suffer, and also the shelf life (they will dry out earlier). It is especially tricky if you are reducing the sugar at the same time. You will never have the same quality as with a normal recipe, but most people find fat- and sugar-reduced recipes good enough for their taste. You need something to make up for the bulk lost, but also hold moisture and provide taste. Typical substitutes are fruit purees (especially from high-pectin fruits), dairy products (e.g. sour cream) and, if you feel adventurous, emulsions with a little fat, a lot of flavorful liquid and an emulsifier such as xanthan.

    This type of substitution works for cakes and quick breads leavened with baking powder. You can use baking soda, but will have to adjust for the new acidity levels if you are using fruit purees or fermented dairy. Other leavening methods will be much harder to get to work. Especially the bisquits (in the Southern US meaning of the word) will probably be impossible to make without a solid fat.

    • Yeast doughs don't need a substitute. Just leave as much fat out as you want to. The texture will change drastically towards plain bread, but there is no way around it.

    • Cookies are a problematic topic. Many of them need both fat and sugar. Some types can work with less, but getting these to work and finding a proper substitute will be very hard. It is easier to search around for new recipes; the chance that you can alter the ones you already have to get satisfying results is very, very low. See also: What are some low fat butter substitutes for cookies?

  • Although you often can't remove all of the solid fat in pastry doughs, there are tricks that you can use to improve flakiness (eg, replacing water with vodka) that may allow you to then reduce the fat ... I've never tried it, though.
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 4:01

In a word: Oil.

It is important to note that the conversion of a recipe from shortening/margarine/butter to oil is not a 1 to 1 conversion.

  • I understand why you felt the need to write this; I had the urge to rant too, when I saw the question :) But still, this kind of thing is off topic on the site and always has been. I have to delete that part even though I agree with it.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 14:06

I use I can't believe it's not butter for everything. If it's different, I don't notice. Neither does my family.

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