This Is How You Can Easily Tell Margarine From Butter At A Glance

You can end the debate with one look.

Are you a butter fan? Perhaps you prefer margarine instead? Can you even tell which is which when we see it without the packaging?

In fact, how can you tell which is butter and which is margarine if the packaging doesn’t say what it is? 

There are a few key characteristics of both fats that can help you tell the difference between the two. 

However, according to Chef LA Cedeño of 25 Mushrooms Kitchen during the last Yummy Academy, when shopping for butter or margarine, there is a quick way to determine which is which at a glance. 

This is her advice: it’s butter if it’s wrapped in foil. It’s margarine if it’s wrapped in paper. 

Need to know more about how butter and margarine are different? Here’s what else you should look for when shopping for either butter or margarine: 

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1 Margarine is made of vegetable oil. Butter is made from fresh cream.  

Margarine is a solid fat that was created as a substitute for butter. If you look at the ingredients list of margarine, you’ll notice that one of the main ingredients is a combination of different vegetable oils. Combined with water and salt to create an emulsion, this mixture is then stored at a temperature that solidifies this compound oil mixture into a solid. 


Some margarine may contain or may not contain buttermilk or butterfat to add more flavor to it. That’s because margarine, on its own, doesn’t have much flavor. It is after all made of neutral oils. Since it’s made of oil, it’s also the choice for those who stray away from animal-based food products. 

Butter, meanwhile, is made from churning heavy cream and separating the buttermilk from the butterfat. The butterfat is what makes butter what it is.

Photo by Majoy Siason

2 Butter has a pale yellow hue. Margarine usually contains a natural food coloring. 

If you’ve ever wondered why margarine in tubs are such as striking yellow color, that’s usually because margarine contains a natural food coloring to make it mimic butter. Yellow is also an appetizing color and so, margarine is tinted a more vibrant hue than your usual butter. A common natural food coloring used for margarine is actually atsuete or annatto seeds. 


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Photo by Patrick Martires

3 Butter thaws faster than margarine. 

When baking, it’s best when your ingredients are all at the same temperature. Not only that, measurements for butter doesn’t always call for an entire bar of the solid fat. You’ll find that when it comes to butter, it’s the bar that will thaw faster when compared to margarine. Since it thaws fast, it’s also easier to slice or cube. 

Margarine, on the other hand, will take a little while longer to thaw to room temperature and when it’s not yet softened enough, you’ll find that margarine shatters when you apply pressure on it even with a knife.

Now that you know what the differences are between butter and margarine, you can confidently choose the one that is best for you and your cooking. 


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