Vegetable shortening is used in baking as a fixative and moistening agent. It helps to hold batters together, grease baking pans and prevent sticking. Shortening is high in trans or saturated fats and often fully hydrogenated. It’s better to choose a healthy alternative.
Shortening is a vegetarian oil-based product. It is typically a combination of vegetable and palm oils. Olive oil is a heart-healthy alternative but not suitable for baking sweets.
Add butter in a slightly larger ratio than shortening for delicious flaky pastries and biscuits. Organic and low-fat butters are best.
Substitute shortening with fatty animal products like lard and suet. When non-hydrogenated or rendered at home, fats are tasty, contain no artificial additives and are higher in monounsaturated fats than butter.
Avoid dairy and animal products altogether with vegan imitation options such as Smart Balance. This can also be used to grease pans.
Applesauce is also appropriate for vegans and can be used in place of shortening for cakes and batters. It is moist and light–though the apple flavor is not strong–with the added food value of fruit.
References and ResourcesNutrition Data - Shortening Facts
Mayo Clinic - Healthy Ingredient Substitutions
The Fresh Loaf