How to Make Vegan Shortening - Coconut Oil Base
As I progress in my vegan baking adventures I strive for quality ingredients that give me as much control as possible over the flavors and textures I'm trying to convey. I also love breaking foods down to their most basic components and building them back up again, learning and getting unnecessarily excited along the way. For some people it's TV. For me it's this sort of food hacking.
I recently decided that I wanted to create a high quality vegan butter because I began to tire of the store bought yellow goop that I was so steadily relying on. What if I don't want all that diacetyl flavoring, beta carotene coloring, palm oil and who knows what else? My vegan butter experimentation ended up being more successful than I imagined. What if I made my own shortening?
Understanding shorteningWhat is shortening and why is it used in baking? Shortening is flavorless and consists of 100% fat. It's designed to be used in baking applications where its ability to remain solid at room temperature can benefit the ease of preparation of the food as well as the consistency of the dough.
Shortening is frequently used to inhibit gluten formation doughs such as in pie crusts, puff pastry and short bread. Solid fats are commonly utilized in baking to make short doughs. That is, doughs that crumble, flake and crunch. You can think of the term short to mean shortened flexibility. This texture comes about because solid fats enable the following:
- The compounds in wheat-based flours that form gluten; glutenin and gliadin, have trouble binding together and creating structure because they get slippery as they get coated by the fat. This causes the gluten bonds to become blocked partially or completely, depending on the amount of fat present. This is also why adding a couple Tablespoons of any type of oil to a loaf of bread dough will cause the loaf to bake up more soft and tender.
- The fats also repel and displace water, which is needed to activate the glutenin and gliadin into gluten.
- When there are streaks of shortening or other fats in doughs such as pie crusts or puff pastry the fat separates the layers of dough from each other, allowing them to further separate as they trap rising steam and gas during baking. Shortening does this job well because unlike vegan butter which contains water that would activate some of the gluten, shortening is 100% fat so the gluten bonds are minimized as much as possible. This results in crispy, crunchy, flaky goodness. Using a fat that is solid at room temperature such as shortening is critical because a liquid oil would be soaked up by the flour and evenly dispersed in the dough too evenly during mixing which would result in a crumbly, mealy finished product.
- After baking has completed and the baked item has cooled down, the solid fats solidify, adding a sense of dryness to the finished product.
Applying shortening food science to vegan shorteningIt wasn't until I started Veganbaking.net that I realized that the US is one of the only countries in the world where shortening can be easily found. This recipe allows you make shortening if you're unable to find it in your area. It also gives you the option of avoiding regular store-bought shortening which is usually based on palm oil. As of this writing, palm oil is currently associated with rainforest destruction in Sumatra as well as other places. Isn't it ironic that a vegan product can negatively affect environmental and animal welfare? Coconut oil is still flown half way around the world but at least it's a step in the right direction.
I recommend refined coconut oil in this recipe. Refined coconut oil has been deodorized by passing it through a filter which removes its naturally occurring coconut flavor and aroma. If you want a strong coconut flavor in your baked item then go with unrefined coconut oil by all means.
One of the most powerful things about making your own ingredients is that you have more control over the outcome. Try using unrefined coconut oil instead of refined to make a true coconut flavored shortening. Then use it in the pie crust you use to make a coconut cream pie. You could utilize this trick anywhere a hidden layer of coconut flavor could enhance your dessert!
A Note of Caution Coconut oil melts at about 77F (25C) so if you're going to be using this shortening in frostings and other preparations where it's not being baked into actual products like pie crust, and the temperature exceeds that temperature, the shortening will melt and your frosting will slide down your cake. If you do need things like frostings to be more temperature stable and similar to traditional frostings, I recommend a version of this vegan shortening that's based on deodorized cocoa butter which is forthcoming.
Learn more about the melting temperatures of fats.
Vegan Shortening Recipe - Coconut Oil Base¾ cup refined coconut oil
1) Melt and mix your fats
2) Transfer the Vegan Shortening to a mold and freeze
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Thank you for this recipe! It was so easy and worked well in a frosting recipe that called for vegetable shortening. I'm glad this allowed me to avoid using palm oil.
Hi this recipe is an incredible find for my kiddo with so many food allergies. However, I do need an alternative to Coconut oil as I need to make an allergen free birthday cake for her in 4 weeks and need to make my own icing, have you posted the cocoa butter recipe yet??
Doesn't roll in my recipe...
Thank you for this recipe. Can you link me to your recipes that uses your shortening? I have been trying to make empanadas (de camote y pinia) several ways. I have used this recipe, but I cannot get it to work. My dough is to "wet" and cannot be rolled. It falls apart. I'm trying to figure out how to get it to work by looking at other recipes. :) I haven't given up on these empanadas... TIA.
going to make this tomorrow!
Here in South Africa all the vegetable shortening has whey added to it - no idea why - and I also have no idea why it took me so long to think of looking on your site for a shortening recipe! Yay!! Also posting this on our local vegan site for others to see and use - thanks so much :).
The coconut oil
I'm new to vegan baking for this few months. I have a question regarding this shortening. Here in my country, the room temperature is about 35-37 Celcius. It's rather hard to find a coconut oil that is not liquid. Is there any other solution? I've been trying to figure it out this past month.
Thank you so much.
is this shortening suitable for making fondant?
does have to be refined coconutoil?
Spectrum palm shortening and Tropical Traditions shortening are both sustainable and forest friendly. Both sites offer great information on the issue.
allergy free birthday cake for my daughter.
Great idea! now i can start experimenting an allergy free cake for my daughter.
i wish i could come up with recipes like that ha ha!
I just got unrefined cocosnuts oil
Hi Mattie, I am trying to do a vegan Fondant and it has been very hard to find out how to do it. One of the ingredients I would need is a shortening and I will use your recipe. However, today I went through the whole city trying to find refined coconuts oil but could just got unrefined. Do you think that there is any problem with that?
I thank in advance your advice!
Thanks for this very helpful article! I'm now one step closer to understanding this shortening business. I've really struggled with it, and now I just have one question, I hope you can help me with.
Where I live, we have this 100% coconut oil block in stores. It's completely solid, almost too solid to use sometimes... It's mostly used to cook or "deep fry" these traditional Danish pastries in a pot, but I am wondering if this is all I need for, let's say, a vegan pie crust? Is it necessary to mix it with something else, as you have done above, when it's already a solid block of oil?
I'd really appreciate any help!
You're the vegan Alton Brown!! Science + Art = del
I became vegan this year and have struggled to re-learn how to cook. I am so glad to have found your site today. Thank you so much for sharing your work! I'm making my first vegan pie crust today (for international pi day tomorrow), substituting your vegan butter and shortening in the Cook's Illustrated foolproof pie dough recipe that I used for years as an omnivore. I believe it will work!
Can you explain why you need to mix the coconut oil with another liquid oil? I have tried just using coconut oil by itself. I am interested in your vegan butter. I will find that recipe. Thanks!
I made this shortening for the vegan frosting recipe and it worked fantastically.
This is just my own personal opinion but there hasn't been enough research on coconut oil to deem it unhealthy. Regardless, this is a great way for one to take control and cut out the hydrogenated ingredients normally found in shortening.
How to make vegan shortening
coconut oil is one of the most highly saturated and therefore one of the most unhealthy oils, vegan or not
Omg! Thank you so much! I've always stayed away from shortening...but I want to try making this! ^^
Can I use the shortening recipe in baking recipes that require butter? Can I whip it with an electric beater while making the cake batter? It is difficult to procure xanthan gum. It is so exorbitantly priced. I cannot make vegan butter solely due to this reason.
I am not sure if this will work for me :( I live in the Caribbean where it is very hot and coconut oil is liquid at room temperature... maybe I will still try.