I have an old recipe for delicious, soft, chewy molasses cookies, but it calls for 2 cups of shortening. Can I substitute butter or coconut oil?

Christie Karras


AntoniaJames October 9, 2015
Incidentally, these pumpkin cookies are quite good. https://food52.com/recipes/20069-soft-pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cookies ;o)
cookbookchick October 9, 2015
Christie, here's my recipe. I've made these for many years -- okay, decades -- for my children and my grandchildren. But I use all butter. They are chewy and delicious. Family favorites! Perhaps it's similar to your recipe. All butter works wonderfully.

Molasses Sugar Cookies


- 3/4 cup Crisco or butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 cups regular flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger, ground
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt


Melt shortening in sauce pan over low heat. Remove from heat, cool. Add sugar, molasses, and egg. Beat well in electric mixer. Sift together flour, soda, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, salt. Add to first mixture. Mix well with wooden spoon. Chill in refirgerator 15 to 30 minutes. Form 1-inch balls (about 1 teaspoon each). Roll in granulated sugar and place on greased cookie sheet about 2-inches apart. Flatten gently with bottom of glass. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

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cookbookchick October 9, 2015
Oh, and be careful not to overtake if you want a chewy cookie.
cookbookchick October 10, 2015
*That would be OVERBAKE -- not overtake -- thanks Autocorrect!
AntoniaJames October 9, 2015
cookbookchick, that's the recipe we used when I was a kid; I was just looking at it the other day in a collection of about 100 recipes from my mother's files that I typed up years ago (while on business trips in the early 90's, sitting in airports and on runways, in hotel rooms, during blizzards in Idaho while waiting for deponents to arrive a day or two late, with my laptop . . . a great use of downtime, a really pleasant way to unwind).

My mother's notes say this recipe came from the Brer Rabbit Molasses jar label. A significant percentage of the recipes in her file of family favorite baked treats came from the labels of boxes, bags, cans and jars of cooking ingredients.

It's good to know that those can be made with butter! ;o) P.S. I add 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg when I make them. Cardamom is a delightful add-in, too, but it can be polarizing. (I would never use it in a batch I'd be serving to my siblings!) Candied ginger is nice, too, to give them a bit of zing.
cookbookchick October 10, 2015
Aha! So that's where this recipe comes from! Your variations sound wonderful, AJ, especially the cardamom. (Unlike your sibs, I'd gladly eat them!) And I like your pie crust idea, too. And the candied ginger. I'm thinking this year's pumpkin pie..
AntoniaJames October 14, 2015
CBC, just thought you'd like to know that I pulled the recipe up from my Drive (Google Drive collection of my entire collection of about 1600 "curated" digital recipes) when I had an unexpected hour of free time last weekend, and made two batches of dough - identical in all respects except that one was made with shortening and the other with butter. I wrapped and popped the dough into the freezer. A certain family member suggested that it might be a good idea perhaps to run the taste test tonight. Stay tuned . . . . ;o)
AntoniaJames October 15, 2015
To follow up on my post yesterday about the side-by-side comparison, where I subbed butter for shortening in the molasses cookie recipe posted by cookbookchick:

I carefully measured each ball of dough to make sure that all were 13 grams, and baked them all on the same tray, rotating halfway through.The results are telling. The ones made with butter are larger, flatter, and crispy around the edges, but chewy in the center. They taste a lot better, too, or at least I think they do; the butter + brown sugar give them a nice toffee flavor. The cookies made with shortening are thicker and more cake-like. Without the butter, however, you can taste the molasses and the spices more clearly. One taste tester said he liked them both, not preferring one to the other.

One note: I roll these in raw sugar instead of granulated white sugar, because it gives the light crunch to the exterior of the cookies as well as a bit of sparkle. ;o)
Smaug October 8, 2015
Any fat, including butter or coconut oil, used to shorten a pastry is shortening. Possibly not relevant to your quest, but yet another fine old word falling into desuetude. The word was more or less taken over by Crisco some time back, but if your recipe is old enough it may be using the word in the general- and proper- sense.

Voted the Best Reply!

AntoniaJames October 8, 2015
One thing to remember however is that butter contains water (up to 15%), whereas shortening and coconut oil do not, which can affect baked goods. Using butter in a recipe that calls for shortening often results in a different texture - the butter usually makes cookies softer and flatter. I prefer the texture of molasses cookies made with shortening (we used shortening for "everyday" baking when I was a kid, and we baked every day, literally), so I was delighted to see the Spectrum organic non-hydrogenated product when it became available locally. (It also makes a nice sturdy pie crust - ideal for meat and veggie filled savory pies -- but I digress.) ;o) P.S. I have not made molasses cookies with coconut oil, but now I think I'll give them a try.
Michelle October 8, 2015
I would try 1 cup of butter and 1 cup of coconut oil. Butter for the flavour, coconut oil for being healthier. I am sure it will be fine, I regularly substitute butter with coconut oil in old recipes that call for shortening.
hardlikearmour October 8, 2015
Coconut oil should work better as a substitute for shortening. I'm curious about your recipe. Is it anything like this?: https://food52.com/recipes/32570-grandma-s-molasses-cookies
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