Margarine is an imitation butter spread used for flavoring, baking, and cooking. Whereas butter is made from the butterfat of milk, modern margarine is made mainly of refined vegetable oil and water, and may also contain milk.
Margarine, like butter, consists of a water-in-fat emulsion, with tiny droplets of water dispersed uniformly throughout a fat phase in a stable crystalline form. In some jurisdictions, margarine must have a minimum fat content of 80% to be labeled as such, the same as butter. Colloquially, the term margarine is used to describe “non-dairy spreads” with varying fat contents.
Due to its versatility, it can be used as an ingredient in other food products, such as pastries, doughnuts, and cookies.
The basic method of making margarine today consists of emulsifying a blend of vegetable oils and fats, which can be modified using fractionation, interesterification, and/or hydrogenation, with skimmed milk, chilling the mixture to solidify it and working it to improve the texture. Vegetable and animal fats are similar compounds with different melting points. Those fats that are liquid at room temperature are generally known as oils. The melting points are related to the presence of carbon-carbon double bonds in the fatty acids components. A higher number of double bonds give a lower melting point.
Modern margarines can be made from any of a wide variety of animal or vegetable fats, mixed with skim milk, salt, and emulsifiers. Margarines and vegetable fat spreads found in the market can range from 10 to 90% fat. Depending on its final fat content and its purpose (spreading, cooking or baking), the level of water and the vegetable oils used vary slightly. The oil is pressed from seeds and refined. It is then blended with solid fat. If no solid fats are added to the vegetable oils, the latter undergo a full or partial hydrogenation process to solidify them. The resulting blend is mixed with water, citric acid, carotenoids, vitamins and milk powder. Emulsifiers such as lecithin help disperse the water phase evenly throughout the oil, and salt and preservatives are also commonly added. This oil-and-water emulsion is then heated, blended, and cooled. The softer tub margarines are made with less hydrogenated, more liquid, oils than block margarines.
Three types of margarine are common:
Standard Specification of Palm Margarine: