Few things in life are more comforting than a big bowl of buttered popcorn or a slice of homemade bread slathered in the stuff. But what’s a vegan to do when the craving hits? Obviously, dairy-derived butter is a no-go when you’re following a plant-based diet.
There’s no reason to bid the taste of butter goodbye if you are striving to find ways to cut down your consumption of animal products. More vegan butter alternatives are available today than ever before, and many brands are so delicious that you’ll never miss the real thing.
Vegan butter varieties come in a broad range of flavors and textures. Depending on how you plan to use it, there is certainly an option available that will meet your needs.
What Is Vegan Butter?
Butter is an ingredient so central to baking that it’s often hard to imagine recipes without it. This creamy solid consists of over 75 percent fat and it adds much-needed structure and texture to the pastries, pie crusts, and cakes it’s cooked in.
The fat in butter achieves this desirable quality by coating the flour so that gluten doesn’t overdevelop. It also works to trap air bubbles to improve the texture and act as a leavening agent. Without this crucial ingredient, baked goods often seem, well, flat.
While “real” butter must technically be made from dairy milk, a variety of products have recently become available for people looking for an animal-free way to accessorize their meals.
Vegan butter can consist of any number of ingredients, from coconut oil to soy and even peanuts, and many products are formulated to replicate the texture and consistency of regular butter for baking. Others work better as a butter-flavored spread.
While some people consider margarine to be a vegan butter, many brands contain trace amounts of animal products like whey, lactose, casein, and caseinate, so it’s important to look closely at the ingredients list to know for sure.
What’s The Deal With Palm Oil?
To mimic regular butter’s trait of being solid at room temperature but easily meltable, many vegan butters are formulated with palm oil. Formulated from the fruit of the palm tree, this versatile oil is used to make soap, cosmetic products, household cleaners, and vegan food.
However, palm oil has some sinister implications for the planet. The World Wildlife Fund states that an area the size of 300 football fields is cleared every hour to provide space for palm oil production. This massive level of deforestation is threatening many species with extinction, including the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger. If nothing changes, these animals could vanish from the wild within the next five years.
Many vegan butter brands are addressing these concerns by only sourcing their palm oil from sustainable sources. Some, like Melt Organic, are committed to using only Rainforest Alliance Certified palm oil. However, not all brands disclose the source of their palm oil, meaning that it’s the responsibility of consumers to demand more transparency about the origins of their ingredients.
How can you tell if your vegan butter contains palm oil? It’s not as easy as it should be. Below are some of the different names used for palm oil in ingredients lists today.
- PKO – Palm Kernel Oil
- PKO fractionations: Palm Kernel Stearin (PKs); Palm Kernel Olein (PKOo)
- Elaeis Guineensis
- Glyceryl Stearate
- Stearic Acid
- PHPKO – Partially Hydrogenated Palm Oil
- FP(K)O – Fractionated Palm Oil
- OPKO – Organic Palm Kernel Oil
If you want a convenient palm oil alternative, coconut oil provides a similar texture to vegan butter without the adverse environmental impacts.
9 Top Vegan Butters to Try
The best vegan butter depends on what your needs are for it. Baking butters are often structurally different than spreadable ones, and some are formulated to mimic traditional butter’s flavor while others stay true to the tastes of their own ingredients.
For this reason, you might want to experiment with several brands of vegan butter before you settle on one. If you aren’t sure where to begin, this guide will get you started.
1. Earth Balance
Considered to be the go-to butter alternative brand for vegans, Earth Balance butter looks, tastes, and spreads like the real thing. The brand offers a range of textures suitable for spreading and baking, and their varieties consist of sustainably harvested palm oil, olive oil, soybeans, flax, and canola oil.
Most standard grocery stores carry Earth Balance butter today.
2. Miyoko’s Kitchen
Sold in blocks that more than resemble sticks of the real thing, Miyoko’s Kitchen vegan butter is ideal for baking. This plant-based butter is designed to be diced into cubes and integrated into recipes where a light and flaky texture is desired. As an added benefit, the butter is made from cashews, organic coconut, safflower, and sunflower oil: no palm oil included.
3. Wayfare Whipped
Though it’s often only found in specialty stores, Wayfare Whipped butter is worth the search. This vegan butter was developed by former dairy farmers who wanted to make a product that was more sustainable for the environment. You can get it in a variety of flavors, including sweet cinnamon and savory garlic.
4. Melt Organic
Known for both its spreadable butter and ‘buttery sticks,’ Melt Organic vegan butter relies on Rainforest Alliance Certified palm oil. This versatile butter product comes in several flavors, including chocolate, honey, and original butter. Most varieties are formulated with plant-based oils like coconut, canola, sunflower, and flaxseeds, ensuring that each serving gives you a significant boost of omega-3 fatty acids.
5. Ellyndale Organics
Ellyndale Organics keeps things simple with their buttery spread by relying on infused virgin coconut oil to create a robust nondairy product with the beloved taste of regular butter. Thanks to coconut oil’s high smoke point, this ‘butter’ can be used for almost any kind of cooking, infusing every meal or popcorn bowl with a boost of buttery flavor.
6. Plant-Based Oils
Sometimes relying on a pre-formulated vegan butter is more effort than it’s worth. This is especially true if you’re just in need of cooking oil or need something simple to drizzle on bread.
In these instances, you can make do with most plant-derived oils like olive oil, coconut oil, sesame seed oil and more. Many oils have a high smoke point, meaning that they can withstand hot stove temperatures without breaking down, making them an excellent option for sautéing that tofu scramble.
7. Nutiva’s Organic Coconut Oil with Butter Flavor
Though better known for their plant-based protein powders, Nutiva’s coconut oil-based butter is a treat for vegans. The product relies on organic red palm oil and non-GMO sunflower, coconut and mint for its flavor and texture. This all-in-one product is designed to be used exactly like the real thing, meaning you can use it as a cooking oil or cooking ingredient. The brand’s fans rave that it’s the best vegan topping for popcorn available.
8. Nuttzo Organic Vegan Power Fuel Seven Nut and Seed Butter
If you’re looking for something different to spread on your toast, a plant-based nut butter is a perfect place to start. Give yourself a boost of protein and omega-3 fatty acids with a few scoops of Nuttzo organic vegan nut butter. This tasty blend is filled with hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, chia seeds, Brazil nuts, and pumpkin seeds, making it a flavor-packed peanut butter alternative.
9. Sneaky Chef No-Nut Butters
Sometimes you want your butter alternative to have a little more kick to it. If so, Sneaky Chef No-Nut butters offer an innovative alternative to standard nut butter. Their product line relies on peas for texture, as well as palm oil, powdered sugar, and not even a hint of peanuts, tree nuts, soy, gluten, or dairy; making it ideal for extreme allergy sufferers.
How Make Your Own Vegan Butter…
If you want complete creative control over the ingredients in your vegan butter, then why not make your own? The following recipes are all simple to make, and they can be dressed up any way you’d like to give the kick you crave to your corn on the cob.
1. Nut-free, Soy-free Vegan Butter
Fork & Beans provides instructions for an ultra-simple vegan butter recipe that’s based around coconut oil, sea salt, canola oil, and non-dairy milk. No palm oil required, and there’s little chance it will trigger allergies.
2. Cashew Coconut Butter
If you want a creamy, solid textured vegan butter for your next recipe, cashew puree is the key ingredient to make it magical. One Green Planet provides stellar instructions here.
3. Aquafaba Butter
Vegans everywhere know the versatility of cooking with aquafaba (the juice in a can of beans), but few know that it’s an excellent ingredient for plant-based butter, too. Planet Pusherne has published a recipe that combines chickpea water with rapeseed and coconut oil as well as apple cider vinegar for a killer flavor combination.