How to Make Biscuits: Butter vs. Shortening

Yield: 10 to 12 biscuits

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes

A kitchen experiment into how to make biscuits absolutely perfect by comparing an all-butter biscuit versus an all-shortening biscuit. Which is the best?

70 Responses to “How to Make Biscuits: Butter vs. Shortening”

  1. #
    Margaret Anne @ Natural Chow — October 2, 2014 at 4:11 am

    I love these awesome guides, Tessa! They’re super helpful! I always use butter to make biscuits and try to steer clear of shortening as best I can. Nothing beats a good ‘ol butter biscuit. I hope you’re having a great week!

    • #
      Tessa — October 2, 2014 at 9:19 am

      Thanks so much!

  2. #
    Carol — October 2, 2014 at 5:34 am

    Mmm, biscuits. I always do butter – shortening scares me! However, my nana used to do 2/3 butter, 1/3 shortening, and those were some pretty fine biscuits!

  3. #
    Sandra R — October 2, 2014 at 5:58 am

    All purpose flour???? I know it is easier to find, but I thought Martha White hot/rize or White Lily (only if Martha White is not on shelf) was best. I have always used shortening (Southern), but may have to start adding in some butter after seeing your review. And let me vote for full-fat buttermilk here, if you can get fresh real buttermilk, it is worth it.

    • #
      Tessa — October 2, 2014 at 7:43 am

      Actually, I’ve never seen either of those brands here in Arizona. Good tip with the full-fat buttermilk!

  4. #
    Gail Hardie — October 2, 2014 at 6:11 am

    Butter – of course – however sugar? Only if one is baking scones or cobbler topping:)

    • #
      Tessa — October 2, 2014 at 9:19 am

      Haha! It is only 2 teaspoons 😉

  5. #
    Laurel B — October 2, 2014 at 7:13 am

    I tried using whole wheat flour to make biscuits and they of course came out dry and crumbly. Then I was introduced to cream biscuits! Oh, my! Replace the milk and fats with whipping cream. Even with the whole wheat flour they were fluffy and wonderful, not to mention the ease of NOT having to cut in the butter or shortening. So how does the fat content compare with butter and shortening?

    • #
      Tessa — October 2, 2014 at 9:22 am

      That’s really interesting Laurel. I’ll have to give that a try! I’d imagine the fat content would be significantly less since heavy cream must have at least 36% fat and butter has 80%.

  6. #
    Lauren | Bears By Lauren — October 2, 2014 at 7:30 am

    I can’t imagine making biscuits with anything but real butter, but I just LOVE these kinds of posts because I always wondered. Now I know. 🙂 THank you.

    • #
      Tessa — October 2, 2014 at 9:22 am

      I feel the same way 🙂 Thanks!

  7. #
    Amanda — October 2, 2014 at 7:36 am

    This is an awesome post, love the side by side comparisons 🙂

    • #
      Tessa — October 2, 2014 at 9:22 am

      Thank you Amanda!

  8. #
    Greg — October 2, 2014 at 7:48 am

    My primary use of biscuits is in Biscuits and Gravy. So, the buttery flavor is not as critical, while the slightly drier, crumbly texture works to the gravy’s advantage. If i am having honey or jam on the biscuits, then butter it is. 🙂

    • #
      Tessa — October 2, 2014 at 8:01 am

      Interesting point of view!

  9. #
    Cassie — October 2, 2014 at 8:10 am

    These are gorgeous biscuits, Tessa! I’m a butter gal myself!

    • #
      Tessa — October 2, 2014 at 9:23 am

      Thanks Cassie!

  10. #
    Susan — October 2, 2014 at 8:52 am

    My choice would be the butter. My mother always made drop biscuits, using butter. I no longer use shortening because it is not healthy. Plus it adds no flavor, so what’s the point of using it? Thanks for a great, very informative post.

    • #
      Tessa — October 2, 2014 at 9:23 am

      I have to agree with you!

  11. #
    Lori @ RecipeGirl — October 2, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Great guide for making biscuits! Thanks for sharing!

  12. #
    Jenny Flake — October 2, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Love your informative posts Tessa! Such helpful info! Now I want biscuits 🙂

  13. #
    Anne — October 2, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    A very well written and obviously well researched topic. Thank you for that.

    Now, a question. What about a third option? A combination of shortening and butter.

    Anne

  14. #
    Phi @ The Sweetphi Blog — October 2, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Oh that would be a toughy to decide which one is better because biscuits of any kind are amazing…but I think like you, i would have chosen the butter one 🙂

  15. #
    Jaden — October 2, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Butter FTW!

  16. #
    Scott_D — October 2, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    How about leaf lard? I’m giving that a try next time. I’ve recently made them like you did trying butter vs. shortening. A week apart though, so not as easy to compare. For mine I think the shortening ones were lighter.

    BTW, White Lilly is available from Amazon or the Smuckers websites. The later actually being more reasonable, $10 for two 5lb bags and you can mix types. Shipping for we would be $6.95. https://onlinestore.smucker.com/display_category.cfm?cat_id=63

    I purchased some White Lily and it does make for fluffier biscuits. I accidentally ordered the 12 two pound bags from Amazon. So, I’ve been sharing them around with my baking friends.

  17. #
    Barb — October 3, 2014 at 3:19 am

    Love your recipes and testing. My biscuits tend to turn out like hockey pucks so I’m excited to follow along on your quest for the perfect biscuit! My Granny always made us scones, can you sneak in a scone recipe too! Awesome Tessa!

  18. #
    Joanne — October 3, 2014 at 7:18 am

    This makes me proud that I only use butter in my biscuits! You’re right, the flavor just can’t be beat.

  19. #
    naomi — October 3, 2014 at 7:37 am

    I totally agree with you on butter in biscuits. Shortening doesn’t cut here.

  20. #
    Irvin — October 3, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    I love it when you do these comparisons Tessa! And yeah, I’m a butter person myself. Did you try it with pork leaf lard though? That’s old school classic and would probably yield a really great Southern style biscuit…

  21. #
    Gaby — October 4, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    I need to make biscuits asap! Love this post!

  22. #
    George — October 5, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Good comparison post. I would have loved to have seen lard thrown into the mix. Not the denatured crap sold at Safeway or Kroger, but the stuff sold in the neighborhood ethnic meat markets from pigs that had a life. Other than that, love you’re posts.

  23. #
    Sarah — October 7, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Totally random question – how well do your flour and sugar jars keep the ingredients fresh? I saw them in one the above photos and I’ve been searching for the right jars to use for my flours and sugars and goodies. What are you preferences? Thanks soo much!

  24. #
    Keisha — October 14, 2014 at 2:15 am

    They look delicious! Being from North Carolina, we love biscuits. I rarely make them because I am so busy. I was just curious with this recipe can you make them and freeze? I would like to make a couple batches on a Sunday and reheat through out the week. Thanks!

    • #
      Tessa — October 15, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      You should be able to form the biscuit shapes from the dough and freeze those. Place them on a lined baking sheet and freeze until solid, then store in an airtight bag in the freezer. Bake from frozen, just add a few minutes onto the cooking time!

  25. #
    Elaine W — October 16, 2014 at 7:20 am

    I mix the dry ingredients, cut in the fat THEN freeze in plastic baggies, Add my liquid when I am ready to mix/bake. The cold fat then does it’s job of steaming those nice pockets for truly fluffy biscuits, I usually mix and freeze 4-6 baggies at a time. we love biscuits and gravy at our house on Saturday mornings
    1. I have mixed Shortening/butter together when fairly soft.
    2.spread out on cookie sheet,
    3. put in freezer for a few minutes,
    4 then add to dry mix. I still put in freezer in 2 cup increments for a batch.
    I do prefer butter as well.
    love your blog thank you

  26. #
    dr haleema — October 17, 2014 at 10:58 am

    its true that butter is best choice,using it in biscuits since long. you have really done a good job to provide this comparison

  27. #
    L. Hunt — November 18, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    Having spent the WWII years on the N.C. farm of my maternal grandparents I watched my grandmother make sheets and sheets of biscuits every morning. Half were plain biscuits and the other half had a cube of cheddar cheese tucked into the middle. She always used a combination of lard rendered from the fall slaughtered hog and butter; my grandfather was the local milkman and my grandmother churned the butter. A task I was often press-ganged into performing. Those biscuits were never rolled and cut, after a quick beating in a large bowl my grandmother would simple pull off a biscuit sized lump and with a deft roll place them on the baking sheet, always just touching each other. I have repeated the process many times but have never acquired the knack of pulling identical sized pieces of dough every time. …Best to all in the endeavor!

    • #
      Tessa — November 20, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Wow that’s amazing!! What fun memories 🙂

  28. #
    Christina — December 17, 2014 at 4:41 am

    My grandmother (South Carolina) made hers with bacon grease. I could never figure out how to do it her way, and neither could anyone else. She never kept recipes, she just cooked, so I have no recipe to go by. She passed a few years ago so I can’t ask her for help. Would the bacon grease need to be frozen? Would I use it like the butter and shortening? Or add it in there somehow?

  29. #
    Christina — December 17, 2014 at 4:44 am

    My grandmother (South Carolina) made hers with bacon grease. I could never figure out how to do this and neither could anyone else. She never kept recipes, she just cooked, so I have no recipe to go by. She passed away years ago so I can’t ask her for help. Do I freeze the bacon grease? Use it in place of butter or shortening or add it to the mix?

    • #
      Tessa — December 20, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      So sorry to hear of your grandmother’s passing, she sounds like she knew her way around the kitchen! Sadly I’ve never used bacon grease in baking like that. I would assume freezing would be the best way (I had to freeze the shortening to make it workable). Good luck!

  30. #
    Christina — December 17, 2014 at 4:46 am

    Sorry for the duplicate posts. I didn’t see the first one, so I typed up another one.

  31. #
    Vicki — December 20, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Love the hints! Learned to cook from my grandma (she never measured anything either but her food was ALWAYS delicious!

  32. #
    Michael — January 22, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Would these freeze for short periods of time? Have heard of, but not yet tried, a method of making the biscuits, freezing them as individual items, then baking at 450 for 8 minutes, shutting the oven off, and let the biscuits remain undisturbed in the oven for another 7 to 8 minutes. This would maximize the prep, mix and clean-up.

  33. #
    Eva Kelemen — February 1, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Thank you so much for this recipe. They turned out amazing!!! I have never made biscuits using butter and these are far superior to any other recipe I have ever made using shortening. Thank you again for a wonderful, easy to follow recipe.

  34. #
    Robert — February 14, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. I have been on a biscuit obsession for the past two weeks. I really want them to be so tall and fully. I have had trouble getting them like this. I do think butter is better than shortening and I tried both over these past two weeks. I have been cooking them at 500° and I have been folding the loaf on top of itself about 3-7 times to create layers. Would you suggest doing this or not? I also have been using self-rising flour (white Lilly) because I accentually bought this instead of all-purpose. I notice most recipes call for all-purpose with baking powder and soda. Does this make a difference?

    Thanks!

  35. #
    Glinda Bustamante — March 31, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    Thank you! This is exactly what I was looking for! I wondered what the difference was and now my biscuits will be butter.

  36. #
    William Davis — July 11, 2015 at 7:49 am

    This recipe (I used butter) is absolutely glorious! Easily the best biscuits I have ever tasted, and this was on the first try, having never made from-scratch biscuits. I will be saving it for further use and shall refer everyone to this blog. Thank you so much!

  37. #
    Kalani — July 18, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    I just did my own comparison bake-off between Crisco and Butter and the results were exactly as you stated. Not that I was doubting you, but I had to see the difference for myself. The ones made from butter were lighter and fluffier than the ones made from Crisco which were denser. I know Southerners swear by the shortening method, but my personal preference is the butter method. Mahalo for enlightening us with this comparison and explaining the reasons why the differences.

  38. #
    Coco — July 31, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Wow! These are wicked good!!! I used the butter instead of the shortening… the only thing I found (and I’m not sure if it has to do with the fact that I live in the tropics and the ingredients and humidity is very different…) but I needed a lot more flour than the recipe. Still turned out AMAZING ! They were gone in 10 minutes!! My fiancé and kids just gobbled them up! Thanks!!

  39. #
    Kellie — January 7, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    I was looking for a biscuit recipe without shortening. This recipe was delicious! I even bought a pastry blender.But for some reason my biscuits weren’t as tall. Other than that they came out beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

    • #
      Tessa — January 8, 2016 at 9:57 am

      Wonderful! Is your baking powder fresh? You can test it by placing 1 teaspoon in a bowl with 1 cup hot tap water. If it bubbles up, it is fresh. If nothing happens, toss it. Otherwise, you can always pat the dough out so it’s thicker than a 1/2-inch if you want taller biscuits. Hope that helps!

  40. #
    David M. Williams — January 15, 2016 at 3:15 am

    I have found that using 2 cups of White Lily self-rising flour, an extra teaspoon of fresh baking powder, 1/4 – 1/3 cup of cold shortening cut into chunks, and about 3/4+ cup of cold full fat buttermilk works. I whisk the baking powder into the flour, make a well, drop shortening into the well, pour buttermilk over shortening, squish the shortening into buttermilk, then begin moving fingers in a slow rotary motion incorporating flour as you do so while turning the bowl until the flour is fully incorporated. Add a bit more flour or buttermilk if needed to get a cohesive slightly sticky dough ball. Add more flour to the bowl or on the side. Pinch off or choke some dough to make a biscuit, gently roll in cupped palms, and dip in extra flour. Shake off excess and place touching in a cast iron skillet that has melted shortening in it, coating both top and bottom. If you pat out dough and cut out the biscuits with a vented cutter, place in pan bottom side up. Old time biscuit makers did not measure flour because the number of biscuits is determined by the amount of liquid added. You just mix until it feels right. They kept the flour in a big wooden bowl and just added more shortening and buttermilk, but they made biscuits daily. This method uses fewer utensils, requires less cleanup, and if done correctly prevents overworking the dough while mixing and reworking scraps when cutting out biscuits. Getting the feel for the dough is the trick and that comes with practice. Notice I said they made biscuits daily. Alton Brown’s recipe uses half butter and half shortening. You can freeze the butter and shred then whisk into the flour. I never used bacon grease but it might work like recipes calling for vegetable oil rather than shortening. Leaf lard is the only lard to use but it is hard to obtain and expensive.

  41. #
    Yolanda De La Rosa — January 27, 2016 at 9:03 am

    These are in the oven right now! Except I’m trying them as drop biscuits! Experimenting is good 🙂 I’m excited to try them!

  42. #
    ig — February 18, 2016 at 11:59 pm

    If you want to improve your know-how simply keep visiting this site and be updated with the newest gossip posted here.

  43. #
    Jet — February 22, 2016 at 10:48 am

    For authentic southern biscuits, no sugar (why add sugar?!), use lard and self-rising flour. Brush tops with butter.

  44. #
    Donna — May 24, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    My grandmother also made her biscuits with bacon grease. She would allow the grease to cool and use it just like vegetable oil. Occasionally, she would store the grease in the refrigerator and save it for biscuits the next day, but never froze it. I made your recipe tonight for my mother, husband, daughter, and grandson. We all thought they were fabulous! I used White Lily flour that I purchased while on a recent trip to Tennessee. I have not been able to buy White Lily here in the St. Louis metro area for about a year now. Thank you so much for the recipe and the baking powder freshness test.

    • #
      Tessa — May 25, 2016 at 8:36 pm

      Love hearing stories like that. I wish I had a grandmother who cooked with bacon grease, sounds like she made some delicious food! I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the recipe with your family. Good idea to pick up some White Lily flour on your trip! I wish they would sell it everywhere in the US!

  45. #
    karen wicker — May 26, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    i miss biscuits made with milk…i am allergic to milk so thats a no go…i have to substitute with water..i have always used white lily self rising flour along with crisco shortening..never used the butter,will have to try that one..sounds good..i also make extras and freeze them..i have never used a cutter,i pinch off an amount and roll into shape..so is there a big difference between self rising and all purpose flour?

  46. #
    Terri — June 12, 2016 at 5:38 am

    I have never been able to make buscuits..they were horrible. I tried your butter recipe, and my family can’t get enough! Thank you so much!!

    • #
      Tessa — June 12, 2016 at 12:10 pm

      That’s wonderful, Terri! 🙂

  47. #
    Mary — June 26, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Going to try your recipe, with butter, to see if it’s better than mine! They look delicious. Also,on the top of this page, green box, it says the cook time is 30 minutes. I thought that was too long for biscuits, but continued to the recipe. Recipe indicates 10 – 15 minutes, as I would have expected.

    Thanks your website is very good info.

  48. #
    William C. Smith — July 11, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    I love baking biscuits and have tried butter, shortening, and lard, which is how my grandmother made them. They are all good, but I have always preferred the Crisco brand butter flavored shortening. Recently, I tried something new because of my challenges with weight control and my age. I substituted the shortening for pureed chick peas. I sprayed my pan with Pam to prevent sticking. The end result was pretty amazing. No funny taste and you wouldn’t guess they were made with chick peas. Fresh out of the oven, they are flaky and taste just like a biscuit. Only 0 grams of fat if you also use fat free buttermilk. Many of the comments here are adding fat, but if you are middle aged, overweight, with high blood pressure, as all that fat is like a ticking time bomb for a heart attack.

  49. #
    Michael in Nevada — August 20, 2016 at 10:47 am

    I use a half butter and half shortening combo for my biscuits (as well as for my pie crusts). Both have properties that are desirable. Well… Except for the whole trans-fat thing. Mom used bacon grease in her pancake recipe. Loved the post!

  50. #
    LaSandra Zirker — October 2, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    I upped the butter to 8 tbsp and used 2 tbsp of sugar and used a tbsp of vinegar for the milk I had since I didn’t have buttermilk. These were so moist and delicious also very easy to work with. Yum yum yum. I’ve eaten them with honey (didn’t need butter) and beef stew.

  51. #
    Brandy — November 6, 2016 at 5:47 am

    I am in Alabama and I self taught using Lard. Shortening is vegetable fat and lard is pig fat. Those wanting the bacon grease method and having trouble try some lard. I’ll give you a very simple method. 2. Cups of self rising flour and a little over a cup of whole milk and about a quarter cup of lard it can even be room temp mix until combined it will be sticky. Put a cast iron skillet with some Crisco oil in the bottom on preheat with your oven at 400 degrees. Then put the whole amount of dough in it it will not fill the skillet there will be some Space around the sides. Cook 10-15 mins and when it’s done flip it out the bottom has a nice crisp and it’s delicious.

  52. #
    Dayton L. Crouch — December 11, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    Would using clarified butter give you the flakiness of Crisco without the added water? I’m new to using clarified butter and will make some probably this week.

  53. #
    Jack Wheat — January 6, 2017 at 6:14 am

    Did you use vegetable shortening or lard? Lard makes heavenly biscuits. It gives a lightness, Its high smoke point allows higher temps, providing a different texture. I also make biscuits with butter. Have made suprerme biscuits with coconut oil and quite good with olive oil. I do a mixture of butter and crime cheese for use in strawberry shortcake.

    Southerners generally prefer self-rising. White Lily used to be absolute best flour, but the brand was bought by a big flour maker and production moved to another plant and now it performs about like the big brand, I don’t recall whether it was Fold Seal or Pillsbury or another. Martha White Hot Rize still is superb.

    in days long past, I think self-rising had a different leavening chemical that resulted in spongier biscuits, and perhaps some still do. But a lot of self-rising nowsimply has what you’d add to plain.

    I’ve seen recipes for beer biscuits or even 7-up, with the tiny escaping carbonation bubbles providing lightness you describe in butter biscuits. Has anyone tried them?

    In

  54. #
    Daniel — February 25, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Wish your recipe and article was the 1st on google because it’s wonderful and most of the others are terrible. Thank you!!!

  55. #
    Terri — March 9, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    I’ve been on a quest to find the best biscuit recipe & my favorite, so far, is a recipe that uses butter and shortening – equally. When I say my favorite, so far, I mean that I love the taste of these biscuits, but I’m not a fan of how crumbly they are & of how they don’t rise as much as I’d like. Thank you for your research & I will try your recipe. I may end up sticking with what one of your readers stated her mom does & that is using 3/4 butter & 1/4 shortening. On to trying your recipe first. Thanks for everyone’s comments. I’ll be back with an update on my findings. Thanks!!!.

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