Depending on the type of recipe and preparation method, there are a lot of vegan alternatives, but most of them will rather replace the butter texture in a recipe, than the butter taste.
With the exception of non-dairy butter-flavored products that come very close to the dairy butter taste, all the other vegan replacements will taste differently and alter the dish’s flavor. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, on the contrary, sometimes it can bring new flavors and enrich a recipe. It’s just a fair warning not to expect vegan products to taste exactly like dairy.
I must mention that this article is about store-bought alternatives, not homemade vegan butter or other homemade alternatives. So, let’s see what choices we have for replacing butter with vegan alternatives for baking, cooking and as bread/toast spread.
Vegan butter alternatives for baking
Usually, vegetable oil is the best butter alternative for baked goods, and should be used at an approx. 3:4 ratio compared with butter. I would recommend olive oil or avocado oil for savory dishes and coconut oil or walnut oil for desserts, but there are plenty of other vegetable oils to choose from, depending on personal taste and the recipe you are making. Coconut oil can also be used for savory dishes. It has a more neutral taste, but can enrich some asian dishes.
Also margarine can be a great butter replacement when baking, because of its creamier texture. Not all margarines are vegan, though, so make sure you check the ingredients before buying or check if it’s certified vegan. Some margarines contain animal-derived ingredients like casein (a protein extracted from milk). Here in Germany for example, all vegan and vegetarian products are marked as so, and all possibly allergenic ingredients are emphasized with bold (including dairy) so it’s easy to spot a vegan product.
A more unusual butter replacement is fruit mousse/sauce/purèe. Of course, this is a recommendation mostly for baked desserts like cakes and muffins. In Germany apple mousse and apple sauce can be found all year in supermarkets, it’s a staple used in the preparation of various dishes. I’ve used it to successfully replace butter in my cakes, with the mention that I add less sugar than required in the recipe. You can also use purèed bananas or even pumpkin for a creamier texture, but any other fruit you prefer will do just fine.
Vegan butter alternatives for cooking
Cooking, sautèing and roasting are best done with vegetable oils. You can also roast with margarine if you prefer. I only use oils, and one of my favorite for cooking is coconut oil.
There are also butter-flavored oils. I tested sunflower oil and rapeseed oil, but there may be others.
Vegan butter alternatives as bread spread or on pancakes
My favorite breakfast includes toast with vegan butter and maple syrup or agave nectar. When it comes to maple syrup, I think I should have been born in Canada, I absolutely love it! But I digress 🙂
Pictured above are the 2 vegan butter alternatives I currently have in my fridge: on the left side there’s an organic margarine and on the right side there’s a vegan butter. That vegan butter is what I always use on my breakfast toast and in my mashed potatoes. It tastes very similar to butter (“Buttergeschmack” literally means “butter taste”), but it’s very liquid, hence the bottle.
I rarely eat margarine as spread, whether it’s on toast or fresh bread, and usually by itself, not in combinations with sweet spreads like I do with butter.
I also tried tofu butter, but I didn’t like it. The one I tried had a weird texture and tasted like silken tofu. It wasn’t even good for roasting or sautèing, as it didn’t melt.
TO DO: I recently saw Sunflower seeds butter, but I haven’t tried it yet. It remains to be seen if it’s just a fancy-named sunflower margarine or my next favorite butter alternative 😛
I hope this article will be of help to you when choosing a butter alternative.