Ingredients in Vegetable Shortening

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Vegetable shortening adds a fluffy and flaky texture to many baked goods.
Vegetable shortening adds a fluffy and flaky texture to many baked goods. (Image: süß und rund image by bbroianigo from Fotolia.com)

Vegetable shortening is a popular solid fat made from hydrogenated vegetable oils. It's often used as a substitute for butter, margarine or lard in baking recipes. Shortening works especially well for pastries, since it blends well with flour and creates a flaky crust. Shortening is also readily available in grocery stores and can be found in stick or can form. While shortening is a common pantry item, many people do not know what shortening is actually made of.

Soybean Oil

Soybean oil is a main ingredient in vegetable shortening. This oil is a widely used, low-cost vegetable oil, which keeps the cost of shortening down. It also has a neutral flavor, making it versatile and easy to use. To make shortening, soybean oil is chemically transformed into a solid state through hydrogenation.

Cottonseed Oil

A key component of vegetable shortening, cottonseed oil is a cooking oil made from the seeds of cotton plants. Cottonseed oil has a similar consistency to sunflower oil, which can also be found in vegetable shortening. While cottonseed oil does not require hydrogenation, it is often partially hydrogenated in shortening. This oil also has a neutral taste.

Mono and Diglycerides

While the name sounds complicated, mono and diglycerides are simply fats made from soybean, cottonseed or sunflower oil. Mono and diglycerides are primarily used as emulsifiers, keeping the texture of vegetable shortening consistent. Without mono and diglycerides, shortening would separate and become unmanageable. These fats also help to keep food from becoming stale and are also commonly found in processed foods like chewing gum and margarine.

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