Answer: Yes, Crisco is a vegetable shortening that has been in use for generations and across dishes.
If you’ve been looking for a non-dairy ingredient to your baked treats, there’s Crisco to save your day. No, this vegetable shortening can be more than just the ancient addition to pie shortening. Yes, it is a vegan option and can replicate lard in all of the scones and other baked goods. What can you do with Crisco? You will see that Crisco acts very similar to real butter when you use it in pastry. You can mix it in with sugar to add it to the cookies you bake. Read ahead to find out more about this ingredient.
What is Crisco Made of?
Since the introduction of Crisco in 1911, this vegetable shortening has altered its recipe to keep up with the changing times. Crisco is made of partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils. The first Crisco was made of partially-hydrogenated cottonseed oil. It came as a blessing for the Jewish community that had several dietary restrictions. One of these was that it forbade them from mixing meat and dairy in one meal. Crisco came as a refreshing alternative to butter and other animal fats that they could not add to their savory pies. Many other communities, including vegans, celebrated the arrival of Crisco. It was produced by the J.M. Smucker Company and was the first shortening made completely using vegetable oil. This was shortly discontinued to bring it to its current form. To stick to the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s process of removing trans fats from processed foods, Crisco followed suit. In 2004, a Crisco Zero Grams Trans Fat was introduced. Today, you will find completely hydrogenated palm oil, soybean oil, and other additives. This new and improved Crisco has much of the same flavor profile as that of the original one. The Crisco you find today will claim to have zero grams of trans fats in it. This is in line with the FDA’s guidelines, where any food that contains less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving can use the ‘zero trans fat label.’
Why Crisco is Vegan
The shortening that you get from Crisco is vegan as it does not come from any animal-derived ingredients. Instead, it contains palm oil and soybean oil. For anyone looking to avoid dairy, Crisco can be an ideal option. This shortening also does not have any butter, cream, or other hints of dairy in it. And if you’re thinking it, yes. There are Mono and Diglycerides in Crisco, and these can be sourced from either animals or plants. However, these are derived from soybean oil, which again makes Crisco vegan. So, yes, Crisco is a vegan option. Do note that many vegans pay careful attention to how the palm oil in Crisco is sourced. The palm timber and oil industries are ridden with bad practices. Hence, the palm oil in Crisco does make it debatable whether it qualifies as a vegan product. Read ahead as we discuss Crisco’s palm oil sourcing in detail in the coming sections.
How Unhealthy is Crisco?
Crisco, like other vegetable oils, is known to be an unhealthy option. It is a part of the food processing industry that has built its foundations in industrial vegetable oils that are processed using degumming, bleaching, and deodorizing. The resulting product is emulsified and also bleached for it to reach its current edible state. In this state, Crisco contains neither carbs nor protein and is made entirely of fats. This is just what adds to the flaky texture of the pies that use Crisco. This shortening also has a bare minimum of vitamins and minerals. Besides the pressing health concerns, it does not rank too high for its nutritional profile either. Crisco is essentially added to pies, cookies, and cakes to add the needed fat. These goodies might be delicious but regularly consuming them is not the best for your waistline either. When eaten in these forms, Crisco is not a healthy option. Instead, it makes for a vegan treat now and then. Crisco is also made using a process called interesterification. In this process, partially hydrogenated oils and fully hydrogenated ones are combined. The triglycerides in Crisco are then randomly composed to create fatty acid combinations that are not found naturally.
Other Health Concerns with Crisco
With hydrogenated oil products like Crisco, there are more health problems than just an increasing waistline. Consumption of Crisco, just like its other shortening counterparts, can lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and even heart attack.
It may also lead to calcification or hardening of the arteries. Calcification causes calcium buildup within the walls of arteries. This calcium causes the walls to become hardened. It has also been known to increase the LDL cholesterol level in the body.
These are also called bad cholesterol. With this, it also decreases the good cholesterol that is otherwise called HDL. While Crisco may be an attractive vegan alternative, using it sparingly and only on occasion may be a good idea.
Is Palm Oil in Crisco Sustainable?
Yes, Crisco assures that the palm oil used in the shortening is only sourced sustainably. They have been committed to only 100% sustainable palm oil. They purchase all their palm oil from responsible certified sustainable sources.
If you’re wondering how serious they are about the sustainability of their palm oil, note the following. Since 2012, Crisco has made Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)-certified palm oil purchases.
Here’s what Crisco means when they declare that their palm oil is sustainable. In committing to this, they protect forests, peatlands and hope to positively affect human and community rights.
For vegans who may avoid Crisco because of the source of the palm oil, you need not worry anymore. Of all the other health concerns that Crisco can bring with it, sustainability is not one of them. The idea is to make Crisco part of an occasional treat rather than your regular diet.
Is Coconut Oil a Healthy Crisco Alternative?
If you follow a vegan diet, Crisco need not be your only option to bake all those sumptuous pies. You can instead use coconut oil as an alternative. It is a completely vegan option and can add just the right fats to your baked goods.
Coconut oil remains solid at room temperature, and you melt it before you use it. You will be able to detect a subtle aftertaste of it in your baked goods once you use it. You can substitute an amount of coconut oil equal to the Crisco you used.
From no-bake cookies to gooey brownies, coconut oil can be added to just about any baked item. I also love that it can be added to everyday meals and even your coffee. For this reason, the versatile coconut oil can seamlessly become a part of your kitchen.
A difference between Crisco and coconut oil is that the oil has a lower melting point than shortening. It behaves similarly to butter when you use it for baking. With both coconut oil and butter, you will see that the cookies you make may spread just a little more than they do with shortening.
By simply chilling your dough before you bake it, you can prevent excessive spreading. Coconut oil is a great source of medium-chained-fats and can make a healthier vegan alternative than Crisco.
You can go ahead and substitute coconut oil for shortening by using a 1:1 ratio. If you want a texture similar to shortening, a mix of coconut oil and canola oil can give it the right texture.
With its shorter chain fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), coconut oil can supply a quick source of energy to your body. It may also boost your heart health and encourage fat burning.
That sleek waistline will be more achievable with coconut oil than it would be with Crisco. It also increased HDL or good cholesterol. Further, coconut oil may also have antimicrobial effects. This is because lauric acid makes for 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil.
This can kill any harmful pathogens, including bacteria and fungi. All of these make coconut oil earn its title as a superfood.
Crisco is a vegetable shortening that has been in use for generations and across dishes. All of those savory pies and sweet cakes turn out well-spread and delicious with the right amount of Crisco in them. Because it is a vegan option, it also makes for an excellent alternative to dairy products in your baked goods. You now also know that Crisco has its own set of health concerns that accompany it. I suggest that you keep Crisco for all those occasional parties where an old-fashioned pie is a norm. For your daily dessert, go ahead and use some coconut oil for your bread and cakes. This healthy alternative should keep you satisfied and your heart healthy.