Margarine vs Butter: What’s the Difference?

With the price of groceries constantly increasing, most people are turning to cheaper alternatives for the products they usually buy.

Butter has been used worldwide in various ways for thousands of years, but it is no longer the cheapest product on the shelf. Now many people are turning to margarine without knowing how it differs from butter. So, let’s compare these two:

Margarine is made using vegetable oil and not whole milk or cream, so its price, colour, and chilled texture are noticeably different from butter. So, the base ingredient of margarine acts as its main difference from butter. 

What is Margarine?

Margarine was initially invented in France as a cheaper alternative to butter, ordered by Napoleon III to have the same taste and appearance but not cost nearly as much as butter.

However today, margarine is made differently from the traditional margarine invented in 1869.

Most modern margarine uses emulsified vegetable oils which turns the liquid oil into a semi-solid consistency. Some margarine still uses animal oil, which is the more traditional way of making the ingredient.

Water and salt are also used to help margarine have a consistency flavour closer to butter, though the water and oil combination does mean that margarine remains soft even when chilled. 

How I Use Margarine

When baking cakes, I’d suggest reaching for that tub of margarine. Due to its high oil content, margarine tends to make cakes moister and lighter. When the margarine melts during baking, it releases steam, creating tiny air pockets. This is what gives cakes that dreamy, fluffy texture.

What is Butter?

Everyone will have used butter at some point in their lives, whether for making pastry or simply buttering toast.

Butter has found its way into countless recipes and uses in the thousands of years that it has been in our kitchens. Most butter sold in the supermarket nowadays is made using cow’s milk, but in other areas of the world and throughout history, other milk has been used too, such as sheep or yak milk. 

To make butter, milk or already made cream is churned until the buttermilk and fat particles separate. The fat (aka butter fat) is then shaped and chilled to be used however you wish.

Some butter is salted, and some are left unsalted, but either way, it is an undeniably creamy and rich ingredient. 

When Was Butter Invented?

Butter has a long history and it’s believed to have been first made around 8000 to 9000 years ago when humans began to domesticate animals. This likely happened in the regions of ancient Mesopotamia or the Indus Valley Civilization.

How I Use Butter

Its unique blend of fats allows the butter to infuse dishes with an unmistakable creamy, rich note, making it a kitchen superstar. When you heat butter, it undergoes the Maillard reaction, which results in an exquisite depth of flavour that’s hard to beat.

Similarities Between Margarine and Butter

In most cases, you can use margarine and butter interchangeably, they have that many key similarities! For example: 


Margarine was designed with a mission – to echo the taste of butter. It’s quite impressive how close it gets. But you’ll spot a slight difference if you have a seasoned palate of a butter lover (like myself).

Butter, made from churned cream, naturally has a richer, creamier taste. This is something that margarine, despite its best efforts, can’t quite match.

In all fairness, when you’re digging into a loaded lasagna or savouring a chocolate chip cookie, the difference in taste is usually pretty negligible. It’s like playing spot the difference with your taste buds – and most of the time, they’re none the wiser.


When it comes to texture, margarine is a master of disguise. It was designed to mimic the rich, creamy, ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ texture of butter.

Whether you’re smearing it on a crusty slice of toast, or watching it transform into liquid gold over steamed veggies, both butter and margarine deliver a smooth, creamy experience.


Margarine and butter are both grocery store staples. It’s like they’re forever in a friendly race on the supermarket shelves – one you’d rarely find without the other.

So, whether you’re rooting for Team Butter or Team Margarine, you’re unlikely to return home empty-handed. They’re both ready and waiting to leap into your shopping cart and add some creamy, fatty goodness to your meals.


In the culinary realm, butter and margarine are like multi-talented actors – they’re always ready for their next role.

From giving baked goods their tender crumb, to transforming a simple sauteed dish into a decadent treat, or even elevating a humble slice of bread into a drool-worthy snack, butter and margarine have your back.

Plus, if you’ve stumbled upon a neat kitchen hack that calls for butter, there’s a good chance that margarine is up for the challenge too.

Differences Between Margarine and Butter

The differences between margarine and butter are not as obvious as their similarities, but they still affect which ingredient you should use when: 


If your wallet could talk, it might just lean towards margarine.

Why? The answer lies in the ingredients.

Margarine is made from vegetable oils, typically more wallet-friendly than cream or whole milk – the essential components of butter. This price difference can add up, especially if you’re a baking enthusiast or enjoy a generous smear of fat on your toast each morning.

Oily Results

While margarine is a great team player in most culinary situations, there are moments when it reveals its true colours.

Regarding delicate dishes like pastries, margarine’s oil content can steal the show – and not necessarily in a good way.

High-quality margarine can hold their own and give you results similar to butter. But budget-friendly versions, which tend to have more water and oil, might leave your dish slightly on the oily side.

Fat Source

Sure, butter and margarine are both excellent sources of fat in the kitchen, but their fat sources are poles apart. Butter proudly gets its fat from dairy – either cream or whole milk. Margarine, on the other hand, turns to vegetable oil for its fat content.

While it’s emulsified to mimic the solidity of butter, it’s just not quite the same. It’s a bit like asking a cat to bark – it can try, but it’s not quite there.

Chilled Texture

The way butter and margarine react to temperature is a telltale sign of their differences.

Margarine, even when chilling in the fridge, maintains its easy-to-spread consistency. It’s ever ready for that impromptu midnight snack toast. Butter, though, likes to play hard to get.

It firms up in the fridge, making it a key player in pastries where that hard texture can result in beautifully flaky layers. If you want to spread it smoothly, you’ll need to bring it to room temperature first.

It’s a bit more work, but sometimes, that’s the charm of butter.

Can You Substitute Margarine for Butter?

Yes, you can generally substitute margarine for butter in most recipes, including baking and cooking. However, because the flavour and water content can vary, the end result might not taste or look the same.

Margarine vs Butter: Which Wins?

What would you opt for if you had to stick to using just one of these two popular fats? Make sure you let us know why in the comments section below:

Do You Prefer Margarine or Butter?


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