Margarine vs Butter: Which is Better

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Before joining the endless discussion of margarine vs butter, it is important to understand some of the key differences between these popular spreads.

Margarine vs Butter

While some people use these dairy products interchangeably, you should know that they are far from the same thing.


  • Butter: When it comes to baking, particularly cookies and other sweets, butter can provide a rich and silky flavor.
  • Margarine: It is known to have a rather neutral taste and is good for bulk recipes when the flavor of butter isn’t desired or featured in the dish.


  • Butter: There are many types of butter used in different parts of the world, including ghee, salted butter, clotted cream, and traditional churned butter.
  • Margarine: It doesn’t have as many types and is typically limited to soft spreads made from vegetable oils and hard varieties intended for baking.


  • Butter: Butter comes from animal sources, so it contains saturated fats and cholesterol. A single serving of butter represents more than one-third of your recommended intake of saturated fat per day. Butter also contains approximately 100 calories per tablespoon. It does have certain vitamins, such as vitamin K2, that is lacking in margarine, as well as vitamins A and E.
  • Margarine: It is made from vegetable oils (safflower, sunflower, canola, and soybean, among others) so it contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, in addition to lower levels of saturated fat. However, there is a similar level of calories as in butter, approximately 100 calories per tablespoon.

Health Benefits

  • Butter: It is produced from the milk of grass-fed cows can often contain powerful fatty acids, such as butyrate, as well as conjugated linoleic acid, both of which can benefit heart health when consumed in moderation. However, the high level of saturated fat and cholesterol mean only a small amount of butter should be included in your diet.
  • Margarine: It has lower levels of saturated fat, and the mono- and polyunsaturated fats can help lower overall cholesterol and reduce inflammation.

How to Choose?

  • You should choose between butter and margarine based on your specific health concerns and the recipe itself. The flavor of butter is undeniable, and your recipes will be notably different if you switch to margarine.

Which is Healthiest?

Margarine is generally considered the healthier of the two, and it is also appropriate for vegans. The way that people choose to use butter vs margarine often doesn’t come down to health, but rather the final taste of the dish.

About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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