Crisco, a popular brand of shortening, was first produced in 1911 by Procter & Gamble and was the first shortening to be made entirely of vegetable oil. As such, Crisco is kosher and may be considered appropriate for vegan diets as it contains no animal products.

When William Procter and James Gamble started the company Procter & Gamble, they hired chemist Edwin C. Kayser and developed the process to hydrogenate cottonseed oil, which ensures the shortening remains solid at normal storage temperatures. The initial purpose was to create a cheaper substance to make candles than the expensive animal fats in use at the time. Electricity began to diminish the candle market, and since the product looked like lard, they began selling it as a food. This product became known as Crisco, with the name deriving from the initial sounds of the expression "crystallized cottonseed oil".

Further success came from the marketing technique of giving away free cookbooks, with every recipe calling for Crisco. Crisco vegetable oil was introduced in 1960. In 1976, Procter & Gamble introduced Puritan Oil, an oil made with sunflower oil, which was touted as a lower cholesterol alternative. In 1988, Puritan Oil became 100% canola oil.

Procter & Gamble divested the Crisco (oil and shortening) brand (along with Jif peanut butter) in a spinoff to their stockholders, followed by an immediate merger with The J. M. Smucker Co. in 2002.

Changes in fat content

In April 2004, Smucker introduced "Crisco Zero Grams Trans Fat Per Serving All-Vegetable Shortening," which contained fully hydrogenated palm oil blended with liquid vegetable oils to yield a shortening much like the original Crisco. As of January 24, 2007, all Crisco shortening products have been reformulated to contain less than one gram of trans fat per serving. The separately marketed trans-fat free version introduced in 2004 was discontinued. Crisco now consists of a blend of soybean oil, fully hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils. According to the product information label, one 12 g serving of Crisco contains 3 g of saturated fat, 0g of trans fat, 6 g of polyunsaturated fat, and 2.5 g of monounsaturated fat. It is claimed that this reformulated Crisco has the same cooking properties and flavor as the original version of the product.

According to the FDA website, "Food manufacturers are allowed to list amounts of trans fat with less than 0.5 gram (1/2 g) as 0 (zero) on the Nutrition Facts panel."


Many nutritionists are already warning that Crisco's formula change may be little more than a marketing move. They argue that fully hydrogenated oil may not be any healthier than trans-fat containing partially hydrogenated oil. Fully hydrogenated oil contains another artificial fat known as interesterified fat. A recent study showed that interesterified fat increased volunteers' blood sugar by 20 percent while simultaneously lowering the body's "good" HDL cholesterol. The rise in blood sugar is problematic since it increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes, already a growing problem in the US.

Non-cooking usages

Crisco has properties that allow for many uses beyond its currently marketed purpose of cooking.

As a household utility product it has many alternative uses, including:

  • Removal of tar and lipstick from clothing.
  • Removal of ink, grease and dirt from surfaces and hands.
  • Revitalizing the surfaces of wooden utensils such as bowls and cutting boards.
  • Shedding water and snow from weather gear such as galoshes and snow shovels.
  • Preventing diaper rash.
  • As a makeup base.
  • As a hair grease.

In addition to wood utensils, Crisco can be used for seasoning Cast iron cookware.

Historical battle re-enactors sometimes use Crisco as a lubricating agent for musket balls, to retard the effects of black powder residue.

As a sexual lubricant, it has been popular for some 40 years, as it is long-lasting, cheap, and does not exude a strong odor. However, as with other oil-based lubricants such as Vaseline, it can degrade latex and is unsuitable for use with latex condoms.


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