Ahhh… butter. The creamy substance that people love to spread on toast, use to make mouthwatering buttercream frosting, and use as a delicious topping for baked potatoes. Butter is one of life’s simple pleasures, but is it vegan?
The short and sweet answer is no, it is not vegan. Butter is a dairy product made by churning lots of creams. It consists of 80% milk fat and 20% liquid (whey). Since it contains animal proteins, it is not considered vegan.
The Butter Alternative:
It would be impossible for farmers to produce enough butter to meet the demand of all US households, so a product was made that looked and tasted like butter but did not contain any dairy products. The name of this product is “margarine.”
Margarine was originally an extract from animal fat, but today it is mostly made from vegetable oils, including corn, cottonseed, and soy. It was first invented by a French chemist In Western Europe in the 1800s to replace butter, which was scarce at the time due to war.
He called it oleomargarine because it was made from beef fat and vegetable oils. Today’s margarine is made mostly from vegetable oil.
The confusion is that it is hard to tell what is butter and what is margarine. In grocery stores, this product is located in the dairy aisle and goes by a few popular names such as Country Crock, Parkay, Imperial, and Blue Bonnet.
Many people have come to know or associate these products with butter. These are products that have been in our homes since childhood and some people may not even be aware of the difference.
Is Margarine Vegan?
Vegetable oil-based margarine is considered vegan, as it does not contain any dairy products. This type of margarine can be found in most grocery stores and is typically labeled as “vegetable oil spread” or just “spread.” However, some other types of margarine may not be considered vegan.
Some brands of margarine contain dairy products such as milk solids or whey protein concentrate (which contains lactose) to help them stay soft at room temperature, so read the ingredients carefully before buying any brand of margarine.
Typically, margarine is made using vegetable oils and emulsifiers such as mono- and diglycerides. It’s a popular alternative for those who are lactose intolerant and for those who want to avoid dairy products for other reasons (such as concerns about animal welfare).
Margarine was once thought to be healthier than butter because it doesn’t contain cholesterol or saturated fat. But many kinds of margarine contain trans fats instead—which may increase the risk of heart disease.
To make sure the product you buy does not contain any animal products, check the labels for words like:
- Milk powder
- Animal fats
- Omega 3 fish oils
- Natural or artificial flavors
Vegans often use vegan butter because it doesn’t contain any animal products. This makes it an alternative for those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products. Some vegans also choose this type of spread because they don’t want to support industrial farming practices associated with dairy production.
Vegan Butter is made by replacing the milk fat part with vegetable-based oils such as coconut oil or palm oil instead of animal fats like butterfat. It can be used just like regular butter on toast or for baking, but it does not taste exactly like butter because there are some key differences between vegan butter and real butter.
Vegan versions of butter are now widely available in grocery stores, but many vegans prefer to make their own because it is cheaper and allows them more control over what goes into the recipe.
DIY Vegan Butter Recipe
The only thing better than vegan butter is vegan butter you make yourself! This recipe is super easy and comes from a world-renowned chef, Gordon Ramsey’s Masterclass. You’ll need a handful of ingredients, a food processor, and some patience. But the result is well worth it.
- 1 cup unsweetened soy milk or oat milk
- ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup refined coconut oil, melted, room temperature
- ¾ cup vegetable oil, or olive oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons soy lecithin
- Optional: 1 teaspoon salt
- Combine the soy milk and apple cider vinegar, then let it stand for about 10–12 minutes to thicken.
- In a food processor, mix the soy milk mixture, coconut oil, vegetable oil, and lecithin until smooth. If using salt, add it now.
- Place the butter in an airtight container and refrigerate until set.
You can add salt or other seasonings to homemade vegan butter to make it taste just how you want it to taste!
If you would rather skip the painstaking measuring and blending, you can just purchase some from the grocery store. There are several good vegan brands available.
A few vegan butter products to try include:
- Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spreads
- Follow Your Heart Veganaise
- Miyokos Creamery
- Country Crock Plant Butter
- Forager’s Project
- Wayfare Foods Salted, Whipped Butter (made with butter beans)
- Wildbrine European-Style Cultured Cashew Butter
The main ingredients used to make vegan butter are:
- Water: Water acts as an emulsifier to help keep the fat molecules dispersed evenly throughout the final product. It also helps speed up the cooling process so that your vegan butter doesn’t become grainy when it comes out of your blender or food processor.
- Salt: Salt adds flavor and helps keep moisture in your vegan butter recipe. It also helps prevent lumps from forming during the blending process. You can use fine sea salt or kosher salt in your vegan butter recipes; however
- Emulsifiers: Lecithin is made from soybeans, which is why it’s a common ingredient in vegan foods. It helps keep the water and oil mixed when making butter, which results in a smooth spread that can be easily spread on bread or toast.
- Plant-based Milk: Soy, almond, cashew, or coconut milk can be used in place of cow’s milk. For a richer flavor and texture, try using coconut oil instead of vegetable oil or margarine.
- Soybean oil: This is one of the most popular oils for making vegan butter since it has a high smoke point which prevents the oil from burning easily during cooking. Soybean oil is also an inexpensive ingredient compared to other types of vegetable oils, like olive oil or canola oil.
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil has become very popular among vegans because of its low level of saturated fat. It’s used in many vegan foods such as vegan cheese, ice cream, and baked goods because it has a high smoke point and doesn’t go rancid quickly like other fats do when heated for long periods.
- Palm oil: Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the African oil palm Elaeis guineensis. Palm oil is naturally reddish because of its high beta-carotene content. Its use has received criticism due to concerns about its production methods.
Final Thoughts on is Butter Vegan
No matter which version of vegan butter you choose, use it to top baked potatoes, steamed veggies, pancakes, waffles, English muffins, and more.
Butter is dairy, which means that it comes from cows. As such, it is not vegan. However, that does not mean you have to give up your morning toast. Try any of the tasty substitutions for butter, listed above, on bread or baked goods.