Difference Between Butter and Margarine


The difference between butter and margarine is not something that is agreed upon by everyone. Margarine supporters will argue that there is very little difference between the two, while those who favor butter (especially those who do for health reasons) are clearly on the opposite side of this debate.

If you search around the Internet long enough, you can find posts to support either viewpoint. You may even be able to locate information that debunks the existence of margarine altogether. However, there are some very basic differences between each of these substances, differences we are going to explore in depth.

For starters, each of them is derived from a completely different source. Butter is created by using the fat of animals, while margarine is engineered with hydrogenated vegetable oil. Butter has been in existence for a much longer period of time than margarine, and while it is typically produced with cow’s milk (and its accompanying fatty creams), it can also be made from a variety of other animal milks.

While fat molecules typically hold onto the cream, the process of the churn is what allows them to separate from the mass. When the butter is still raw, salt is often added to the mixture. When butter is churned, it contains high amounts of cholesterol, as well as a high concentration of saturated fat.

Butter has existed for centuries now, whereas margarine is a relatively new invention, having just come into prominence during the latter half of the 1800s. Margarine’s dissimilarities to butter are pronounced enough to warrant its marketing as a butter replacement. During the earliest production of margarine, beef fat was used as a primary ingredient, although changes were made at a later date.

Margarine is now made using the vegetable oils we are familiar with, but this change did not come about until the beginning of the 20th century. Vegetable oil is taken from its liquid form and becomes a solid during the process of creating the spread. Hydrogen gas bubbles are mixed with the vegetable oil, which allows the margarine to solidify.

By creating margarine in this fashion, a substitute is created for those who do not wish to consume a product that is high in saturated fats. Margarine also contains a very low level of cholesterol, as compared to butter. This is why so many health conscious consumers will opt to consume margarine instead of butter.

But, it should be noted that margarine comes with its own series of health related issues. Even though margarine supporters will regularly tout the virtues of a spread that that does not contain the high amounts of cholesterol or saturated fat that are associated with butter, it is important to note that margarine is associated with a number of risks.

Margarine comes with very high amounts of trans fatty acids (problematic for those who are now aware of the effects that excessive trans fats can have on a person’s health and well being), as well as polyunsaturated fatty acids. Health experts have declared these fatty acids to be extremely unhealthy for consumption by humans, due to the fact that they have been conclusively linked to the clogging of arteries.

Another pivotal between these two spreads is their overall shelf life. If you wish to keep your butter fresh for an extended period of time, it must be refrigerated. Without the proper storage, butter tends to go bad relatively quickly. Margarine, conversely, should be refrigerated so that it is able to maintain the proper solid form that consumers are accustomed to.

Margarine has the ability to last outside of a cooling unit much longer than butter does. Butter develops a recognizable scent and becomes inedible rapidly. Since it is a food product based in dairy, spoiling is a concern. Rancidity is a much bigger concern when it comes to butter, as opposed to margarine, because margarine is not created with dairy based products.

Butter and margarine can both be used in the majority of recipes, but when discussing the matter with those who cook on a professional basis, the consensus seems to tilt towards butter being the preferred substance of choice for recipes that allow for the usage of either/or.

Those who are cooking at home or who cook on a more casual basis tend to favor margarine, because margarine is less costly than butter and most people tend not to notice the difference between the two, especially in dishes where only trace amounts of either substance is required. Depending on the quality and brand names of the butter and/or margarine, there are many instances where no one will be able to tell the difference.

With such a massive difference in the expense, it is no wonder why the causal chef will opt for margarine in most instances. A professional chef has access to a much higher budget than most of those who are merely cooking a meal at home to serve to friends and family. While a foodie will usually be able to detect some sort of difference, the average palate does not have that ability, in most instances.

As you can see, there are a number of differences between butter and margarine, including how they are made, what they are made from, their usages and their overall expense. Be sure to bear these facts in mind the next time someone tries to convince you that there is zero differences between these two common substances.