Can coconut oil be substituted for shortening in pie crust recipes that call for both shortening and butter?
Despite being high in saturated fat, coconut oil is said to lower cholesterol; it is also high in antioxidants and is said to boost immunity. The oil comes in two basic varieties: refined and virgin (or unrefined), both of which—like shortening—are solid at room temperature. Virgin oil tastes like coconut, which works nicely in some recipes, but obviously not for pie crust, so for our test, we used neutral-tasting refined oil.
Pie dough recipes call for shortening, a pure fat, because it’s easy to work with and produces flaky crusts. Butter, with fat plus water, is fussier, but it tastes better—and also contributes to flakiness. Many pie crust recipes, including most of ours, call for both butter and shortening for the best combination of flavor and flakiness.
We made a pie dough using butter plus coconut oil, another pure fat, in place of the shortening. It was just as easy to roll out, and we all liked it; some tasters even preferred it to the original recipe. Impressed, we tried coconut oil in another baked good that commonly calls for a combination of butter and shortening: biscuits. Again, the coconut oil performed as well as or better than the shortening.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Yes, you can. Refined coconut oil can replace the shortening in pie dough and biscuit recipes that also contain butter.