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The Best Vegan Substitutes for Butter

vegan butter substitutes alternatives
Photo: CC0 Public Domain – Pixabay/ rodeopix

With an abundance of tasty and exciting vegan substitutes to dairy butter now available, making the switch to a plant-based diet couldn’t be easier.

For some, making the change to a vegan diet is daunting. Especially when butter is in just about every sweet treat, baked good and filled sandwich that you can think of. Thankfully, we’ve got your back with this list of delicious vegan butter alternatives for you to try out.

What is Butter?

Butter is made by churning fresh cow’s milk to separate the butterfat from the buttermilk, producing smooth and creamy butter for spreading on toast, cooking, and baking with. It is made up of around 80 percent butterfat, is low in vitamin D, calcium, and protein.

Despite butter being a staple in much of the world’s cooking and eating habits, the dairy industry is strongly linked to environmental disasters and animal welfare issues. The WWF has found that in total, 270 million dairy cows are put to work across the world at any given time. Their manure alone contributes enormously to greenhouse gas emissions and impairs local water sources. Using environmentally and ethically sourced vegan substitutes to butter is an important step in tackling the harms of this industry.

Substitutes: What is Vegan Butter Made Of?

Vegan butter has been made to mimic the taste, consistency, and even color of dairy butter. Plant-based, animal-free oils, like coconut, olive, palm, and avocado, are the main ingredients in vegan butter. The health and environmental benefits of dairy-free butter alternatives are said to include: better heart health, improved blood sugar levels, and lower saturated fats. They also need significantly less land and water to make, generally emitting less greenhouse gas emissions.

The Best Vegan Substitutes for Butter and How to Use Them

For those of you who are looking for a fully plant-based and healthier diet, these alternatives are all great butter substitutes. Here are some delicious recipe ideas to help you get started with some vegan baking and cooking.

1. Vegan Butter/ Margarine

vegan bread butter substitute
The easiest way to substitute butter: buying vegan butter. (Foto: CC0 Public Domain – Pixabay/ congerdesign)

Given their similarities, substituting dairy with vegan butter could not be easier. Just replace the exact amount of dairy butter with your favorite vegan butter and you’re set. Why not try out our easy vegan puff pastry recipe and recreate that same fluffy and delicate pastry you know and love. Or use vegan butter to make tasty pie crusts and crumble toppings with any combination of your favorite fresh fruit.

Sustainability:  We recommend buying organic products that are not based on palm oil. But even though vegan butter is better for the environment and has some additional health benefits, it still has similar levels of fat and calories as dairy butter. Lucky for you, there are still loads of other healthier substitutes to choose from.

Read on: Vegan Apple Pie Recipe: A Seasonal Favorite

2. Coconut Oil

how to use coconut oil for hair
Ever tried baking with coconut oil? (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – Moho01)

Coconut oil is vegan, very like butter, and can be substituted in recipes using a 1:1 ratio. Our healthy no-bake vegan cheesecake recipe uses coconut oil in the pie crust to create a sweet and flaky base and is a sure winner every time.

Or why not go down the savory route and make wholesome vegetable pot pies with a herby crust? Health benefits of coconut oil are said to include improved cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and lower blood pressure, which all aid in digestion and boosting energy.

Sustainability: But coconuts are primarily grown in countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia. Meaning extensive transportation routes are needed in order for this product to reach your kitchen cupboard. Oil extraction is also extremely wasteful, as only a small portion of the coconut is required. The remnants are then mostly burned, releasing huge amounts of methane and CO2 into the atmosphere. So make sure to buy organic coconut oil and only use it in moderation.

3. Applesauce

Homemade applesauce
Homemade applesauce tastes great, is easily made – and can even be used to substitute butter. (Photo: Anika Martin/Utopia)

Applesauce is a great vegan butter substitute for reducing fat and increasing fiber in baking, while keeping the same sweetness and moistness. Simply half the amount of butter required with applesauce in your favorite cake and cookie recipes. Our delicious unsweetened applesauce recipe is quick and easy to make and can be stored for a couple of months in your kitchen cupboard. Plus, it’s ready to use straight from the jar.

Sustainability: Apples are in season from July to December in Southern California. Other states may have a shorter apple season – make sure to check when they are harvested in your state and buy them as locally as possible. Also remember to buy organic apples, which taste so much better anyways.

4. Avocados

can avocados be frozen
Avocados are considered extremely healthy. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – Coyot)

Although this vegan butter substitute may be surprising to some, pureed avocados work really well in baking. Just use a 1:1 ratio and substitute the same amount of butter with avocados. This superfood is a great source of healthy unsaturated fatty acids, is high in fiber, and will reduce cholesterol and sodium in your dishes. Try our simple three-ingredient vegan chocolate mousse recipe and give these creamy vegan butter substitutes a go.

Sustainability: Unfortunately, their health benefits have caused the cultivation of avocados to increase dramatically. Countries like Mexico, Peru, and Chile are currently supplying American supermarket shelves with these fruits. Now, issues like long transportation routes in refrigerated containers and deforestation are contributing to the global crisis of growing CO2 emissions. Avocados are also highly water-intensive fruits, needing an impressive 60 gallons of water to grow just one avocado. But you can still eat them responsibly and sustainably: learn about where to source organic avocados from and how best to store them in our article on avocado benefits.

5. Mashed Bananas

brown bananas on the street
Don’t throw brown bananas away – they are great for baking. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain/ Pixabay – alexas_fotos)

Another much healthier vegan substitute for butter is mashed bananas, which create loads of creaminess and sweetness in your baking. Just replace every cup of butter with ½ to ¾ cups bananas. The best bananas for baking are the really ripe ones as these are the sweetest, so make sure not to waste them and use them in your baking next time.  

Sustainability: The downside to these sweet butter alternatives is that they, too, are predominantly grown overseas in Latin American countries. Your bananas have most likely taken a long flight to reach your local supermarket shelves. Banana plantations are also mostly monocultures that use huge amounts of harmful pesticides. This impacts both the natural environment as well as the health of the workers, whose working conditions are hazardous given their exposure to these chemicals. We recommend buying organic and fairtrade bananas and eating them in moderation.

6. Nut Butters and Hummus

vegan butter substitute hummus
Hummus or nut butter tastes great on bread. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay - Ajale )

Butter isn’t just used for baking and cooking, and these butter alternatives are equally great for spreading on sandwiches and crackers or slathering on potatoes. Nut butters work amazingly on bread and toast, are all high in protein and fiber, and are packed with nutrients like vitamin E and B6. They’ll keep you feeling energized and full throughout the day.

Sustainability: Some nuts are not as sustainable as you’d think. Almonds, for example, are highly water-intensive, consuming around 1.1 gallons of water to produce one single almond. Nonetheless, it should be noted that California alone produces 100 percent of commercial almonds in the US, and 81 percent of all almonds worldwide – so you can buy them fairly regionally from within the US. The trees are also considered bee-friendly.

Read on: Vegan Spreads: DIY Veggie Spreads with Only 2 Ingredients

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