Butter and margarine are certainly very similar products —
They often look alike and have comparable consistencies and functions — but the differences that exist between them are critical. Butter is a dairy product made from milk or cream. It’s created when cream is vigorously churned, which causes its solids (butterfat) and liquids (buttermilk) to separate, and ultimately results in the firm product we all know and love. Margarine, on the other hand, is made from oil, water, salt, and a few additional ingredients such as emulsifiers. It’s flavored to taste like butter (and it must be said that there was a time when coloring margarine to resemble butter was outlawed in some countries.
It all comes down to the kind of fat involved. As an animal product, butter has high levels of cholesterol and saturated fats that aren’t present in margarine. Margarine, on the other hand, has more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (the good kinds!) but also often contains trans fats (the very bad kind!).
Though most bakers and cooks prefer butter for its unparalleled taste, margarine does have its place. Because of its high water content, baked goods made with margarine will often have a softer texture. Be wary when trying to make substitutions — many recipes from old cookbooks call for margarine, and since those have likely been developed to account for that additional water, it’s probably best to follow them to the letter if you can. And butter/margarine may have their similarities, but they’re fundamentally different. Knowing how each is best applied will result in more kitchen successes and lots of good eats!
Article credit: Taste of Home
Photo credit: YouTube