Buttery Goodness Awaits With This Beginner’s Guide to Vegan Butters
With a rotating cast of ever-changing ingredients and a long list of brands vying for your attention, the vegan butter world is a minefield. Just take Flora Buttery, a hugely popular margarine that up until 2020 was suitable for vegans. But alas a subtle recipe change, and the addition of buttermilk, and Flora Buttery is no longer suitable.
Add to this the fact that many butters contain palm oil, sometimes under the sneak guise of vegetable oil. What’s so bad about palm oil? Well, according to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production, wide-scale deforestation which is pushing a number of animal species to extinction.
It’s an alarming predicament for vegans and further evidence that you should always check the label and delve deeper into the brand you’re buying, even when you’re just picking up one of your regulars. Here then are five vegan butters you can trust, along with some healthy reasons to make the switch.
Why You Should Switch To Vegan Butter
There are a number of health reasons associated with making the switch to vegan butters, even if you’re not fully ready to make the plant-based jump throughout your diet.
Regular butters are generally higher in saturated fat for one, which studies have shown can increase risk factors for heart disease, including raised low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, otherwise known as the bad cholesterol to HDL’s good.
Vegan butters are instead high in monounsaturated fats, a type of unsaturated fat often found in plant-derived oils and nuts that has just one double bond in its chemical structure, hence the name. There have been quite a few studies on the benefits of diets high in these monosaturated fats, from increased heart health and blood sugar control to reducing your risk of heart disease and obesity when swapping them in for their saturated alternatives.
Finally, there are substantial environmental benefits when switching to plant-based alternatives, with researchers at the University of Oxford finding out that cutting meat and dairy products from what you eat can reduce your carbon footprint from food by up to 73 per cent.
5 Of The Best Vegan Butters Around
The Best For Spreading
Let’s start by getting the elephant in the room out of the door. This tasty spread does contain palm oil. But, this is palm oil that has been certified by Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the world’s leading organisation for promoting the growth and use of sustainable palm oil products. Supported by the WWF, it ensures that there is a responsible supply chain free from deforestation involved in the production of said palm oil.
Palm oil aside, the main feature of this spread is its brilliant spreadability. Made with extra virgin olive oil and a dash of lemon and salt, it’s the sort of soft and light spread that was made for all your sandwich needs, while the high oil content also makes it handy when frying.
Biona Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spread, 250g, £3.35
The Best For Baking
Another vegan butter made using RSPO certified palm oil, Trex is one of the most long-standing and well-known dairy-free butter alternatives in the UK. Essentially, it’s just vegetable baking fat and not much besides, which makes it ideal for baking and frying.
Do bear in mind that because it contains no water (regular butter is on average around 18 percent water), you can get away with using far less of it in your recipes (Trex say 20 percent less). That means one pack will go a long way, which all adds up to more banana bread bakes for you and the family.
Trex Vegetable Fat, 250g, £0.95
The Best Without Palm Oil
If you’re wanting to stay away from palm oil completely then you can breathe a sigh of relief, as the following vegan butters now are all made without. Naturli is, in our opinion, the best of the bunch. Made using a mixture of almonds, coconut oil, carrot juice and shea butter, this is a creamy, indulgent and versatile vegan butter that tastes rather close to the “real” thing. Spread it, bake it, fry it; you should have no problems with Naturli.
Naturli Organic Vegan ‘Butter’ Block, 200g, £1.99
The Best For Allergy Sufferers
Now for all of Naturli’s vegan butter prowess, it is rather dangerous for nut allergy sufferers. This The Vegan Society approved butter from The Hemp Pantry is a good alternative then. Made using cacao butter, coconut oil, hemp seeds and rosemary extract, it contains none of the 14 major allergens. That means no dairy, soya, nuts or gluten. The coconut and hemp flavour profile is an acquired taste though which might not suit everyone’s buds.
The Best For Jacket Potatoes
In our book, the best butters to have over vegetables or with your baked potato tend to be the salted variety. Made using Fairtrade coconut oil, cashews and a touch of turmeric, this vegan butter from Mouse’s Favourite has been cultured for buttery perfection, and is even creamier than Naturli, with a slightly salted flavour that works great as extra seasoning. It is comparatively much more expensive though, so perhaps better used as an occasional treat.