What is Vegan Butter?

Allison Boelcke

Veganism is a dietary lifestyle choice in which a person chooses not to consume any products that are remotely derived from animals. A person who practices veganism is referred to as a vegan and does not eat meat, poultry, fish, dairy, or any other products that come from an animal. It is similar to vegetarianism, in which people do not eat meat, but vegetarians are generally not as restrictive as vegans and may eat dairy products. Many basic cooking products contain animal by-products, so vegans may have to purchase alternatives in order to maintain their diets. For a dairy-free alternative to butter for baking, cooking, or as a condiment, vegans can substitute vegan butter, a product that is processed to mimic the taste and consistency of butter.

Vegan butter is made without using any dairy ingredients that come from cows.
Vegan butter is made without using any dairy ingredients that come from cows.

Authentic butter is made from the milk of cows. The thickest part of the milk, typically referred to as heavy cream, is placed into a tall container and forcefully stirred until the cream thickens, in a process known as churning. Butter adds a rich flavor to cooked dishes, and can also be a main part of controlling the texture of baked goods.

Many vegans have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy products or avoid them for ethical reasons.
Many vegans have an allergy or sensitivity to dairy products or avoid them for ethical reasons.

Cakes generally rely on a combination of butter and sugar to add a light, fluffy texture to the finished product. When butter and sugar are mixed together in a process known as creaming, it allows air into the mixture, which prevents the cakes from being too dense or crumbly. Butter also prevents cookies from spreading too much while they bake and becoming overly crispy, as well as adding a light texture to biscuits and certain breads. Vegan butter is designed to function in the same way as dairy-based butter, but using vegan-based ingredients only.

The exact ingredients can vary depending on the manufacturer, but generally vegan butter utilizes vegetable-based oils as its base. Most of the butter will usually be made of a combination of vegetable-based oils, such as canola, olive, or soybean oils. To mimic the natural acids, known as lactic acids, found in milk products, corn or beet juices may be extracted and allowed to ferment. These fermented juices produce acid that is similar in texture to milk’s lactic acids. When the corn or beet-based acids are added to the vegetable-based oils, it can produce a semi-solid texture that can be substituted for authentic butter.

Vegan butter can generally be used in place of butter in most cooking and baking recipes, but it may have effects on the final taste and textures of recipes. It may not add the same rich flavor as butter and may also not be as helpful in making cakes, cookies, and biscuits rise as much as butter. Using the substitute as a spread, topping, or as a fat for sautéing, may generally be more successful than in baked goods.

Vegan butter can be used as a substitute for real butter in baking.
Vegan butter can be used as a substitute for real butter in baking.

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Discussion Comments


Does anybody have any good vegan cookies recipes that you could share with me? My wife and I are trying to embrace a more vegan lifestyle, but we're finding it hard to find good pastry and cake recipes that actually taste good (read: not like cardboard).

I have had the best results so far with Earth Balance vegan butter, but it still seems like more often than not our cookies end up tasting like packing peanuts.

So if anybody has any help, advice, or recipes, we'd really appreciate it!


I really like how you wrote this article -- so many articles on veganism or vegan foods are either just ridiculing it, or they're the militant eco-warrior type of thing, which is fine, but just not my bag.

I've been transitioning into a fully vegan diet over the past six months, and I have to say I do really feel a lot healthier than I used to, even though I was mostly vegetarian before anyway.

There's just a much cleaner, lighter feeling in my body, if that makes any sense. It sounds pretty extreme to change over completely into veganism, but when you realize that many of the things that you like to eat can be made in a vegan way (I am a consummate vegan peanut butter cookie eater!), even pastries, pastas, and the like.

So anyway, thanks for writing this article in such a good way -- I really appreciate your coverage of veganism in general and vegan products in particular.



I have always wondered how people make things like vegan cakes and vegan cookies, since all of those need a lot of butter -- even oatmeal cookies, a traditional "healthy" pastry take a lot, at least in my recipe.

So there's vegan butter -- but you said that a lot of times it doesn't work very well for pastries? Is that why some vegan pastries don't really taste as good as regular pastries, I wonder?

I am just starting to research different butter alternatives (particularly nut butter and coconut butter), because I want to be healthier with my lifestyle, but I really do like to bake a lot, so I'm worried that I won't be able to get the same results with vegan butter as with a milk-based butter.

Do you know if this is true, or if there are any tricks to using vegan butter for baking?

Thank you.

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