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Vegan Butter Substitute: Oils, Plant Butters + A Simple Vegan-Friendly Butter Recipe


Butter isn’t just for bread – most North Americans use butter for cooking, baking, and even greasing dishes. So, what do vegans use for butter? Check out our list of vegan butter alternatives below and try making our best vegan butter recipe!

What is Butter Made of?

Butter is all dairy. Cow’s cream mechanically churns to separate the milkfats from the liquid, which creates the semi-solid product we know as butter. It’s 80% butterfat, 15% water, and 5% milk solids. 

Since this fat is animal-based, the goal in making vegan butter is to create a product that’s fatty and creamy enough using plant-based ingredients to make the perfect non-dairy substitute for butter. 

The Top 5 Non-Dairy Butter Substitute Options

#1: Oil

Since we’re replacing a high-fat animal product, one of the most straightforward substitutions is a high-fat plant-based product, like olive oil, vegetable oil, or any other number of options. 

Oil makes a great vegan substitute for butter during stovetop cooking, as it easily keeps your ingredients from sticking to the pan. Not every oil is ideally suited for every task, though. Oils have different smoke points, which refers to the tolerable heat level they can reach before burning. 

While olive oil is a fantastic vegan replacement for butter in many cases, it has a pretty low smoke point and burns quickly at higher temperatures. For anything above medium-heat cooking, use a high smoke point oil like sunflower or avocado oil. 

Beware when cooking for others with oil – some nut-based oils can be dangerous for anyone with nut allergies!

Best Oils to Use as a Plant-Based Butter Substitute

  • Olive oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Canola oil

#2: Coconut Oil

I know what you’re thinking: “Didn’t you already mention oils?” 

Yes, but coconut oil has some unique properties that elevate it into a category of its own – it might even be the best vegan butter substitute! 

We’ve seen the trend for coconut oil rise in recent years, finding it in everything from body care to baked goods. One thing that makes coconut oil a fantastic butter substitute for vegans is its nutrition: it contains some of the only plant-based saturated fats that are good for your health. Studies show it can have a positive impact on your cholesterol levels. 

Coconut oil mimics butter a little better than other oils because it’s thicker. Like butter, coconut oil is semi-solid at room temperature, making a better butter substitute, baking or otherwise. You can also easily melt it in the microwave or on the stovetop to replace melted butter in recipes. 

The best way to use coconut oil as a healthy vegan butter substitute is to replace butter with ¾ the amount of coconut oil and ¼ cool water, mixing the two thoroughly before adding them into your recipe. 

#3: Nut Butters & Hummus

Forget baking with these substitutes – nut butter and hummus are the best ways to substitute butter as a condiment, not a baking ingredient. If you love a big pad of butter on your baked or mashed potatoes or a swipe on a crusty baguette sandwich, use nut butter or hummus instead. 

These substitutes add some creaminess to a dish, and while they have slightly different flavors than butter, the flavors can enhance a dish even better than butter! 

Best Nut Butter Substitutes

  • Hazelnut butter
  • Peanut butter
  • Almond butter
  • Cashew butter
  • Pistachio butter
  • Walnut butter 
  • Macadamia butter

#4: Mashed Fruit

Mashed fruits may rarely replace butter as a topping, except on avocado toast. Instead, mashed or pureed fruit is almost exclusively used to replace butter as vegan baking substitutes. The moisture in these fruits gives vegan banana bread or cookies the perfect texture, though you may need to adjust the fat with some extra oil or plant-based butter. 

Best Fruit Alternatives

  • Applesauce
  • Mashed avocado
  • Mashed banana

#5: Vegan Butter & Margarine

You can find vegan butter in most grocery stores in the refrigerated section. These plant-based butter products usually have an oil base and are very similar, if not identical, to margarine in some cases.

Is margarine vegan?

Generally, yes, margarine is entirely vegan! 

Read your labels, though, as some margarine contains animal-based ingredients. The variety of brands available means there is a vegan butter brand out there with a texture and flavor for almost anyone. 

Best Vegan Butter Brands

  • Earth Balance
  • I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter
  • WayFare Whipped
  • Miyoko’s Kitchen
  • Nutiva Organic Buttery Coconut Oil
  • Melt Organic

How to Make Homemade Vegan Butter 

Don’t want to use store-bought? Here’s a simple vegan butter recipe to make your own at home. 

Ingredients

  • 1 c. refined coconut oil, melted
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened plant-based milk - we like soy or almond!
  • 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 small pinch of turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Directions

  1. Place the melted refined coconut oil and canola oil in a blender.
  2. In a small-sized mixing bowl, add the apple cider vinegar to the plant milk. Stir until the milk curdles, becoming vegan “buttermilk.” Pour the mixture into the blender. 
  3. Toss in the nutritional yeast, turmeric, and sea salt. 
  4. Place your lid on the blender and process until very smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl or butter dish and place into the fridge to set for ~2 hrs. 
  5. Remove from the refrigerator to thaw for a few minutes before serving if spreading onto bread. 
  6. This dairy free butter lasts ~2 weeks in your fridge, and you can freeze it for up to 6 months. 

Vegan Butter Substitutes - FAQ

Can you substitute regular butter for vegan butter?

Yes, you can! While you can usually swap vegan butter at a 1:1 ratio, coconut oil should be 1: ¾ oil + ¼ water. In baking, you may need to use a combination of vegan butter to get the right texture for your recipe - try mixing coconut oil with applesauce, mashed banana with canola oil, etc. 

What does butter do in baking?

Butter creates moisture in a baked recipe by hydrating the flour and other starches and binding ingredients. Foods baked with butter are rich and tender. 

What is vegan butter made of?

Most vegan butter contains a mixture of oils, protein, and lecithin. Sometimes vegan butter is cultured to give that signature butter tang. Much like real butter, the oils are churned or emulsified to create a solid. 

Is vegan butter the same as margarine?

Vegan butter and margarine are very similar, but not the same. Margarine may sometimes contain animal products, like milk derivatives, whey, lactose, and casein. While some brands are technically vegan margarine, when you purchase vegan butter, there is no grey area – it’s guaranteed to contain no animal products. 

Final Notes on Vegan Butter

If you’re just starting to experiment with a vegan diet, finding the proper vegan butter isn’t as easy as choosing a universal substitute. The right choice for each recipe and use will vary depending on other factors like ingredients and preparation method. 

Feel free to experiment using these vegan butter alternatives in your diet, and don’t be afraid to mix and match – sometimes, the best option is a combination of plant-based ingredients. 

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