Butter can be used to spread on bread or other things, as an ingredient in sweet or savoury recipes, as a fat in which to fry food and even as a condiment (when melted). But butter, at least conventional butter, is made from milk or cream which comes from cows or other animals. Hence it should come as a surprise to very few people that butter is not vegan.
We figured you would know that already, so this article is focussed instead on the vegan alternatives to butter. We’ll also include vegan margarine options (as we discuss in our Is Margarine Vegan? article, some is vegan but plenty isn’t). Once we’ve run through the best vegan butter and margarine options available in the UK, we’ll also explain how you can make your own vegan butter, in case the fancy takes you.
What Is Vegan Butter Made From?
Whilst dairy butter is made predominantly from milk or cream from cows, vegan alternatives to butter replace the dairy ingredients with vegetable fats of various kinds. Just about any vegetable fat can be used to make vegan butter or margarine, but in mass-produced products you will tend to find a combination of two or more of the following:
- Sunflower oil
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Palm oil
- Rapeseed oil
You are also likely to see lecithin (from a plant source such as sunflower or soya) amongst the ingredients of vegan spreads. This is added as an emulsifier to help promote a good texture and consistency in the vegan butter/spread. There are often other additions including salt (unless it’s an unsalted butter alternative of course), water, vitamins of various kinds, colour (often carotene or turmeric), and other flavourings or preservatives.
Where to Buy Vegan Butter & Margarine
These days most big supermarkets will offer at least some vegan-friendly butter options and all (in our experience) offer vegan margarine, as a lot of that contains no animal-derived ingredients, anyway. For vegan butter options, it should be obvious which are vegan friendly as they will almost always be marketed and packaged as such – such as Flora Plant Butter. It will be less obvious with margarines on occasion as there are often some animal-derived ingredients that sneak in, with buttermilk (made from dairy milk) being one of the most common.
Let’s take a quick look at the some of the main supermarkets and list their top vegan-friendly butter and margarine offerings. This is just to give you an idea of the number of products there are available and they are bound to differ and change over time.
Note that at the time of writing, some supermarkets list Flora Buttery Spread as vegan… but this is not the case. While it used to be vegan, the makers of Flora have recently begun adding buttermilk, rendering it non-vegan… a decision that has gone down like a lead balloon in some quarters.
Also, note that some of these products marketed and sold as vegan contain palm oil, which some vegans choose not to consume. Some include only sustainable palm oil, but please check with the individual producers for details.
|Supermarket||Vegan Butter & Margarine Options|
|Tesco||Flora Light, Flora Original, Flora Pro Activ Buttery, Flora Prov Activ Olive Oil Spread, Flora Pro Activ Light, Vitalite Dairy Free Spread, Pure Dairy Free Sunflower Spread, Stockwell & Co Soft Spread, Tesco Soft Spread, Stork Original Baking Block, Trex Vegetable Fat, Tesco Light Olive Spread, Crisp ‘N Dry Solid Block, Pure Dairy Free Buttery, Tesco Sunflower Spread, Flora Plant Butter Salted, Flora Plant Butter Unsalted, Pure Olive Spread|
|Sainsbury’s||Flora Plant Butter Salted, Flora Plant Butter Unsalted, Flora Light, Flora Original, Vitalite Dairy Free Spread, Flora Pro Activ Buttery, Flora Prov Activ Olive Oil Spread, Flora Pro Activ Light, Pure Dairy Free Perfect Baking, Pure Olive Spread, Stork, Vitalite Dairy Free Spread|
|Waitrose||Flora Light, Flora Original, Flora Pro Activ Buttery, Flora Prov Activ Olive Oil Spread, Flora Pro Activ Light, Pure Dairy Free Sunflower Spread, Pure Olive Spread, Pure Dairy Free Perfect Baking, Stork, Vitalite Dairy Free Spread, Naturli’ Vegan Spreadable,|
|TheVeganKind Supermarket||Mouse’s Favourite Vegan Gold Butter, Naturli’ Vegan Spreadable, Naturli’ Vegan Block, Vitalite Dairy Free Spread, Pure Soya Spread, Pure Sunflower Spread, Pure Olive Spread, Koko Dairy Free Spread, Biona Cocomega Dairy Free Spread, Bebo Sunflower Spread, Tru Palm Free Sunflower Oil Spread, Bonsan Organic Vegan Sunflower Ghee, Bonsan Organic Vegan Olive Ghee, Coconut Merchant Raw Organic Coconut Butter|
|Greenbay||Mouse’s Favourite Vegan Gold Butter, Naturli’ Vegan Spreadable, Naturli’ Vegan Block|
|Planet Organic||Yogan Butter, Naturli’ Vegan Spreadable, Naturli’ Vegan Block, Mouse’s Favourite Vegan Gold Butter, Veurre Plant-Based Butter, Biona Olive Extra Spread, Biona Sunflower Vegetable Margarine|
Top Vegan Butter & Margarine Options
Until Flora spoiled things by adding buttermilk to their Buttery spread, we would have rated them as one of the best vegan butter-like spreads. But, thankfully, there are plenty of other options, as you will have seen above. Here we run through our Top 5 vegan butter alternatives and our Top 5 vegan margarines.
Top 5 Vegan Butter Alternatives
Here are the vegan-friendly options that most resemble real dairy butter. These are sold in blocks like standard butter is and can be used for spreading on your bread or toast, or as an ingredient in your favourite vegan cake recipe.
|Naturli’ – Vegan Butter Block||Made with a combination of organic shea butter (43%), organic coconut oil (21%), organic rapeseed oil (11%) and a smattering of other ingredients, this vegan-friendly butter alternative is a brilliant replica of dairy butter. It tastes, looks and melts like the real thing and contains significantly less in the way of saturated fat than dairy butter.|
|Flora Plant Butter Salted/Unsalted||Flora’s recent release of their Plant Butter has gone some way towards appeasing some of those who reacted badly when buttermilk was added to their Buttery spread. Using a mix of sustainable palm oil, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil, with some fava beans thrown in too, (amongst other things) the end result is pretty good.|
|Mouse’s Favourite Vegan Gold Butter||Arguably the closest to dairy butter in terms of flavour, this cultured vegan butter from Mouse’s Favourite is far from the cheapest option out there, but for those looking for a top notch buttery taste, this could be the vegan butter for you. It’s made from fair trade coconut oil, water, cashew nuts, cold pressed rapeseed oil, sunflower lecithin, salt, turmeric and cultures.|
|Veurre Plant-Based Butter||Another high-end vegan butter option and with a price tag to match. This butter alternative is made from virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, filtered water, cacao butter, hemp seeds, hemp oil, tapioca starch, sunflower lecithin and salt.|
|Stork Original Baking Block||Not so great when it comes to spreading on your toast, but when it comes to baking, sometimes the old options are the best. Stork has been manufactured since the 1920s and it’s still an excellent, great value option as a naturally vegan-friendly alternative to butter when it comes to baking cakes, biscuits or just about whatever else has been featured on the latest episode of the Great British Bake Off.|
Dairy Vs Plant-Based Butter – Nutritional Values
The fat content varies a little between the various options mentioned above, but to give you a rough idea for comparison purposes we’ve listed the nutritional information for a dairy block of butter and the Naturli’ Butter Block.
|Typical Values (per 100g)||Country Life Original Block Butter||Naturli’ – Vegan Butter Block|
|Energy||3031kJ / 737kcal||2804kJ / 670Kcal|
|of which saturates||54.0g||39g|
|of which sugars||0g||0.5g|
There is not a massive difference between the fat content of dairy butter and non-dairy butter, but the plant-based options tend to be lower, especially in terms of the saturated fat content. With fewer calories, less fat, less saturated fat and a third less salt, there is no doubt that the vegan alternative is considerably healthier overall.
Top 5 Vegan Margarines
Clearly, this will come down to personal taste, but here are the five vegan-friendly margarines that we are more than happy to spread on our toast and home-baked bread.
|Flora Pro Activ Buttery||Not quite as buttery as Flora Buttery (which now contains buttermilk), the Flora Pro Activ Buttery spread is nonetheless tasty enough. Add to that the fact that (according to Flora) it is ‘clinically proven by over 50 studies to actively lower cholesterol’ and you could be onto a real winner here if health is a particular concern of yours.|
|Pure Dairy Free Buttery Spread||Again, not quite as “buttery” as Flora’s no-longer-vegan effort (or indeed some of the spreadable dairy butter options on the market). But this is another decent enough attempt and is perfectly fine for most people to use on bread and toast. A combination of sunflower oil, rapeseed oil and palm oil is used here, with vitamins A, D and B12 thrown into the mix, amongst other things.|
|Vitalite Dairy Free Spread||Here we have another good value vegan spread that is perfectly sufficient for sandwiches and so on without exactly having anything resembling a wow factor. This is another spread relying on the triumvirate of sunflower oil, rapeseed oil and palm oil to make up the bulk of the product.|
|Yogan Butter||Made with fermented almond milk blended with extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, along with fermentation cultures, this is a richer vegan butter alternative than most here and could be viewed as more of an acquired taste. But if you’re looking for something that is a little different from most margarines, it could be worth a try.|
|Koko Dairy Free Spread||A mix of coconut oil, rapeseed oil, palm oil and sunflower oil is used to create Koko’s spread. This is a good option for those seeking a rather mild flavour as opposed to one which attempts to mimic the flavour of butter. Many vegans swear by it as the best vegan margarine on the market but it will come down to what you are seeking in your spread.|
Dairy Vs Plant-Based Margarine – Nutritional Values
Again, we have selected an example of a non-vegan margarine (that contains buttermilk) and a vegan-friendly option in order to give a snapshot comparison between the nutritional values of each.
|Typical Values (per 100g)||Clover Original Spread||Pure Dairy Free Buttery Spread|
|Energy||2414kJ / 587kcal||2339kJ / 569 kcal|
|of which saturates||22.2g||14.7g|
|of which sugars||1g||<0.5g|
There is generally very little difference between vegan and non-vegan margarines in terms of the nutritional values, though the latter tend to be slightly high in fat and (especially) saturated fat as they often include buttermilk amongst their ingredients. The difference does not tend to be as marked as that found between dairy and non-dairy butter however.
How to Make Vegan Butter
Like with many vegan foods, with vegan butter – or vegan-friendly butter alternative, if you prefer – there is always the option to make your own. If you have the inclination, it really isn’t too difficult.
Vegan Butter Ingredients
- 16 tbsp refined coconut oil
- 2 tbsp rapeseed oil (you can use more or less any neutral vegetable oil but this is one of our favourite vegan cooking oils)
- 8-10 tbsp oat milk
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp nutritional yeast
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp turmeric (as a natural colouring additive)
- ½ tsp each rosemary and thyme (optional)
- Gently melt the refined coconut oil (it must be refined or the coconut flavour will be too strong) and allow to cool, but not to reset
- Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend (ideally in short blasts so it doesn’t get too warm) until you have a smooth and silky consistency
- Place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes
- With a standard whisk or a whisk attachment to a hand blender, whisk the semi-set mixture lightly until it begins to fluff up
- Decant to an appropriate container and place in the fridge for at least an hour
- Once the vegan butter has set it can be used as you would any butter or margarine and should stay good for up to two weeks in the fridge
Does Vegan Butter Taste Like Dairy?
It is likely that a non-vegan butter aficionados would be able to taste the difference between a good dairy butter and a vegan alternative. Having said that, vegan butter can be made to incorporate some appealing flavours if you make it yourself. This can be achieved through experimentation with different levels of salt, various herbs, the additional of nut-based flour or the use of a more prominently flavoured oil (such as sesame oil or hazelnut oil).
Of the mass-produced vegan butters, the likes of Mouse’s Favourite Vegan Gold Butter and Naturli’ Vegan Block are decent enough replications of real dairy butter when it comes to taste and consistency. For baking and recipes, many of the options above will suffice, and when it comes to a spread for your toast it’s a matter of trying a couple of options and finding out which you like the most.
Conclusions: Vegan Butter & Margarine
Vegans who miss the taste of real dairy butter need not be too distraught as there are a few options that offer reasonably good imitations of the real thing, especially once your taste buds have had time to adapt if you are new to the world of plant-based eating. As you will see from the many vegan-friendly options we list above, vegans are somewhat spoiled for choice when it comes to vegan-friendly margarines or butter-like options for baking.
What’s more, it really isn’t too difficult to make your own vegan friendly butter. If you opt to do this, as well as immense satisfaction, it means you can easily experiment with flavour combinations and different oils to produce something that hits all the right flavour notes for you.