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What is Oleo?

By Janis Adams
Updated May 16, 2024
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Oleomargarine, or oleo for short, is a whipped oil commonly used in place of butter. Today this spread is most most often referred to as margarine. It can be used in recipes in place of butter, and its uses are as wide ranging. Oleo is made from a combination of pure vegetable oil and skim milk, along with added salt for flavoring. This mixture undergoes an extremely rigorous blending and whipping process so that the two ingredients become completely combined and utterly smooth. A yellow dye is added to the mixture to create the appearance of real butter. Without the added dye this whipped oil would be a milky white. When it was first marketed to consumers, they were required to add the dye to the oil and then mix it in themselves. This process was changed following the food rationing of World War II.

The spread is approximately 80-percent fat. Some brands contain added vitamins and nutrients. Some people believe that oleo is a healthier option for cooking and baking and for use as a spread than butter, while others contend that it is not, as it is a manufactured substance verses the totally natural ingredients of butter.

Oleomargarine is sold as a spread for breads and foods. It is also marketed as a blend of margarine and butter. This blending process creates a more natural taste, which many feel is more similar to butter. Although the texture and taste of these blends may taste and look like butter, they cannot be marketed as butter, only as a butter substitute.

Margarine is a popular staple in many peoples' diets. It saw the height of its popularity during the later part of the 20th century. Much of the decline of its popularity can be attributed to the surge in natural living and lifestyles that espouse the consumption of all-natural foods and products. Those who keep a kosher home, however, favor its use over butter. Oleo continues to be a staple, whether used as a spread or as a substitute for butter in any number of recipes, in many households across the world.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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