Butter – it tastes amazing on toast, is essential to baking, and it adds rich flavor to risottos and sauces. But if you’re trying to use less dairy, you might have asked yourself if there’s such a thing as vegan butter.
What Is Butter?
Traditional butter is a product of the animal agriculture industry. It’s made by churning fresh cream or milk to separate the butterfat from the buttermilk. According to the Spruce Eats, it consists of 80 percent less fat, 15 percent water, and 5 percent protein. It’s typically made from cow’s milk, but can also be made from the milk of sheep, goats, buffalo, and other animals.
There are multiple varieties of butter, including sweet cream butter (made from pasteurized cream), raw cream butter (made from unpasteurized, unfermented cream), cultured butter (made from fermented cream), and ghee (clarified butter).
What Is Vegan Butter?
While butter is made from milk, vegan butter is free from animal-based ingredients.
Vegan Butter Ingredients
What is vegan butter made from? It depends on the brand.
Earth Balance, one of the most well-known brands, makes Buttery Sticks made from a blend of palm, canola, soybean, flax, and olive oils. It also makes a soy-free version, which eliminates soybean and flax. Other varieties include Organic Whipped, a soy-free spread made with extra virgin olive oil, an omega-3 rich spread, a coconut oil spread, and European-style buttery spread.
Some vegans might avoid Earth Balance because it contains palm oil, which has been linked to deforestation and habitat destruction. But, the brand is certified by the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), which works towards making conscious farming practices the norm.
Vegan butter can also be made without palm oil – coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, and even ingredients like cashews, almonds, macadamia nuts, and aquafaba — the brine from a can of chickpeas.
Does Vegan Butter Taste Like Butter?
The flavor of vegan butter varies by brand. Many agree that Earth Balance tastes the closest to authentic butter. The vegan butter from Miyoko’s Creamery is another popular option. It’s made from cashews and coconut oil and has a flavor similar to European-style cultured butter. Wayfare, another vegan butter, has a whipped texture that makes it toast’s perfect companion.
Vegan Butter Uses
Cutting out butter doesn’t mean an end to buttered toast and homemade chocolate chip cookies. There are a lot of uses for vegan butter, from baking to making roux, and beyond.
Before swapping butter, it’s best to do a bit of research to find out which butter substitute works best in which recipe. For example, what works in cookies might not work in brownies. Joining a vegan baking group on Facebook is a great way to get answers from more experienced bakers.
There are a number you can join, like Vegan Baking or Vegan Cake Decorating, All Types of Baking & Resources, where you can ask questions or see the creative ways that other people have managed to bake without animal ingredients. Baking is a science and many have figured out other ways to do without ingredients like milk, eggs, and butter outside of opting for vegan products.
Vegan Butter Brands
There are a lot of ways to enjoy butter on a plant-based diet. You can opt for Earth Balance or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’s vegan spread, as mentioned above, which can be found in most major supermarkets. If you live near a vegan grocery or a health food store, you might even come across varieties made by smaller brands that you won’t find in typical supermarkets. There is also an increasing number of brands that are becoming widely available in grocery stores that can typically be used as a 1:1 replacement.
Dairy-free brand WayFare makes whipped vegan butter with a light, airy texture. It’s made from a blend of non-GMO, organic butter beans, coconut and safflower oil, and konjac root powder. It’s also gluten-free, soy-free, cholesterol-free, and Kosher.
All three flavors taste can be used to top crackers, artisan bread, toast, pancakes and waffles or can substitute for traditional butter in buttered popcorn, cookies, muffins, and brownies.
Brooklyn-based startup Fora Foods makes FabaButter, a dairy-free butter that uses aquafaba – the viscous liquid in a can of chickpeas – and coconut oil. The company sources its aquafaba from hummus manufacturers, so no chickpeas go to waste. FabaButter has a light texture than can substitute for traditional butter in baked goods and complicated pastries like croissants. Vegan chef Terry Hope Romero, co-author of cookbooks such as “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar” personally tested FabaButter in her kitchen leading up to the launch.
3. Miyoko’s Creamery
California-based brand Miyoko’s Creamery makes its dairy-free butter from organic coconut oil and cashew cream fermented with real cultures. It has a tangy flavor similar to traditional cultured butter, making it an ideal companion for bread and crackers. It also melts and bakes like traditional butter and is free from palm oil.
4. Nutiva Butter Flavor Coconut Oil
Coconut oil, both refined and unrefined, make great substitutes for dairy butter when it comes to baking all kinds of treats like cookies, crumbles, brownies, cakes, and more – you can even beat it with confectioner’s sugar to make a healthier frosting. Refined has a neutral flavor while unrefined works in sweet recipes that pair well with coconut – or, if you don’t mind the subtle flavor. But, regular coconut oil is missing the classic buttery taste.
Nutiva’s Organic Coconut Oil With Non-Dairy Butter Flavor is a vegan alternative for when plain coconut oil won’t do. According to the brand, it’s made from a blend of “pure certified organic non-GMO plants including sunflower, coconut and mint.” Like regular coconut oil, it can be used for baking or sauteeing, but it tastes great on toast, bread, English muffins, and bagels. You can also use it instead of ghee to make vegan Indian recipes.
5. Melt Organic
UK-based brand Melt Organic makes vegan butter sticks, spread, and a probiotic vegan butter spread, all made from coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, and flaxseed oil. It has a rich, creamy taste like traditional butter and is free from dairy, soy, and nuts. Melt Organic butter also contains half the saturated fat of dairy butter and also contains plant-based omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. It can be used to replace butter as a spread or in baking sweets like cookies and brownies.
Toronto-based brand Culcherd makes vegan butter called It’s Not Butter from organic coconut oil and cashews. It’s free from soy, palm oil, and like the brand’s name implies, it’s cultured. It comes in four flavors — Original, Garlic, Turmeric Black Pepper, and Cinnamon Swirl — and is a 1:1 replacement for dairy butter.
UK-based margarine giant Flora removed dairy from its range earlier this year, making the brand 100 percent vegan. Made from vegetable oil, Flora’s vegan buttery spreads are a source of omega 3 and 6.
Steven Hermiston, general manager for UK and Ireland at Flora parent company Upfield, said: “Health and wellbeing has never been so important to consumers.‘People now care more about what goes into the products they are feeding themselves and their families, but they are not prepared to compromise on taste – and they should not have to.”
Other Butter Substitutes
Those who follow a whole-food, plant-based diet can swap vegan butter in baking with any of the healthier alternatives below.
In many cases, you can substitute equal parts avocado for vegan butter in baking. While avocado contains saturated fat, this creamy fruit contains monosaturated fat, which can help lower bad cholesterol. It works best in recipes that mask its flavor, like fudgy brownies and decadant vegan chocolate cake. It can also replace butter or vegetable shortening to make a healthier, dairy-free chocolate frosting like in this Chocolate Covered Katie recipe.
Avocado also makes a great replacement for butter on toast or bagels.
Swap butter with half the amount of applesauce to cut down on fat and add healthy fiber to your baked goods. It typically works best in cake or breads like zucchini, banana, or pumpkin. If you use applesauce, you might want to consider reducing the sugar content in your recipe, since it’ll add natural sweetness. Unsweetened applesauce is available in almost any grocery store and online – Trader Joe’s carries organic unsweetened applesauce for a low price.
3. Vegan Greek Yogurt
Unsweetened vegan Greek yogurt can be used in place of eggs in some cake recipes. Dairy-free brand Kite Hill makes high-protein Greek-style yogurt from almonds and almond milk. Daiya’s Greek yogurt is made from coconut. Kite Hill makes vegan Greek yogurt as well.
While not Greek yogurt, the brands Anitas and CoYo make coconut yogurt that has a rich, creamy texture that could be used in baking.
4. Pumpkin, Squash, or Sweet Potato Puree
Keeping a can of pumpkin puree in your pantry can be handy for vegan baking – it also works with pureed butternut squash, sweet potato, or any similar squash, like Hubbard. Just roast until tender and then blend it using a food processor or high-speed blender like the Vitamix. Use 3/4 puree per cup of dairy butter. Not only does it cut down on oil, but it also adds fiber and a healthy dose of vitamin C.
5. Fruit Puree
Aside from applesauce, other types of pureed fruit can do a good job standing in for butter in hearty baked goods like bread, muffins, and baked oatmeal. It works best with bananas, prunes, and even dates – gooey dates like Medjool work best in this case. Just add to a high-speed blender and pulse until you have a uniform texture. As mentioned above, it’s best to consult a vegan baking group to ask for best practices if you’re not entirely confident in your skills.