Butter vs Margarine: What’s the Difference?
How often have you mistaken butter for margarine? Probably more often than you would like to admit, when it comes to the debate between butter and margarine. However, the two are quite different and have very different origins, although they are often used interchangeably in cooking and baking. There are supposedly butter since 8000 BC. As a shepherd in Africa today discovered that the sheep's milk, which he had worn over rough terrain, had curdled to butter. Margarine is much younger and was invented in the 1860s by French chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès after Napoleon III. He had announced to look for a cheap butter substitute during the Franco-Prussian wars. That's exactly what margarine is today: a substitute for butter.
To better understand the difference between butter and margarine, we asked Maryann Walsh MFN, RD, CDE and Claudia Sidoti, the head chef of Hello Fresh, to explain how the two differ and in which foods they worked for the best results should be. That way, you will never again be confused by the debate between butter and margarine.
What are the main differences between butter and margarine?
Butter and margarine consist of completely different ingredients.
Sidoti and Walsh both say that butter is made from boiling milk or cream, while margarine is usually a non-dairy product made from oils and emulsifiers. Note, however, that not all types of margarine are dairy free. If lactose is a problem for you, be sure to read the list of ingredients.
"The recirculation process separates butterfat from the buttermilk," explains Sidoti.
There are also different types of butter.
"Butter usually has a light yellow color, but it can also be deep yellow. When butter is referred to as "sweet cream butter", it means that the cream used to make it has been pasteurized. Whipped butter adds air to the butter and makes it lighter, "she says.
As for the margarine, there really are not too many variations.
"You can find it in a bar or tub shape. The fat content can be between 10 and 90 percent, "says Sidoti. "Margarine has less cholesterol and saturated fat than butter, but a higher proportion of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats."
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are healthy fats contained in vegetable oil and olive oil respectively. However, there is something to look for when buying margarine.
"Some margarine products may still contain trans fats. However, in the next few years, product manufacturers will have to phase out the trans fat, "says Walsh.
Trans fats are made by hydrogenating unsaturated fats so that the food product it contains does not turn rancid, but at what price? According to the American Heart Association, trans fat is known to increase the harmful type of cholesterol known as LDL, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke.
Butter vs. Margarine: What is healthier?
"Margarine contains no cholesterol because it is not derived from animal products. For those who observe their cholesterol, margarine may be recommended. There are healthier versions of margarine that are constantly emerging. For those who are looking for a more natural fat spread or fat for baking, butter has this title, "says Walsh.
Are there any dishes where you would use one and not the other?
"Butter is undoubtedly the best for baking," says Sidoti.
The chef explains that it is particularly suitable for baking cakes, biscuits, cakes and biscuits because of its high fat content. Butter is also better for frying food and also melts on fried potatoes.
Sidoti rarely uses margarine, but says that this is also an option for use in baked goods, especially if you want to achieve a softer texture. However, the fat content is low which means that it may not produce the delicious flavor we normally associate with butter.
CONNECTED: The easy way to healthier foods.
Do butter and margarine really taste different?
Yes, they definitely do.
"The type of fat that is contained in both makes their taste different," says Sidoti. "Because margarine is made from vegetable oil, the consistency is completely different."
This also means that margarine may possibly change the taste of a dish. In fact, margarine contains more water than butter, which can lead to tougher baked goods and thinner, liquid doughs that are not as rich and thick as they would be made with butter.