We’ve all had that moment where we’re in the middle of making a batch of cookies, reach into the fridge to grab the butter, and—whoops—you’re all out! This situation becomes even more common if you follow a plant-based diet and don’t have a vegan butter alternative (like WayFare’s Salted & Whipped Butter) to turn to save your tray of chocolate chip cookies. To boost your culinary know-how and rescue your future recipes, we’ve curated a list of the top four plant-based butter substitutes. We’ll show when each butter swap is a good fit for a recipe, when it isn’t, and what factors to consider before choosing a plant-based butter substitute.
Sound like a plan? Great!
But first, let’s take a short detour in the road to our list and take a closer look at butter and its role in the kitchen. Trust us—you’ll want to know this butter background!
What is Butter Made of?
Butter is made from heavy cream or milk that is churned and then cooled until it forms a solid block. The churning process separates the milkfats from the liquid, creating the form of butter we’re all familiar with. On a composition level, butter is 80% butterfat, 15% water, and 5% milk solids. Because it is a product produced by animals, butter has higher levels of saturated and trans fats than butter substitutes, which often makes it less healthful than non-dairy butter replacements.
What Does Butter Do in Recipes?
So many recipes have butter as one of the top ingredients, but what does it actually do? What does it actually add to the dish? Let’s look at three different uses for butter in recipes:
- Cooking - Typically, butter is used to make the flavors of a dish richer, but it can also be used to emulsify foods (bring an oil-based food and a water-based food together into a cohesive product), to keep foods moving (like veggies in a hot skillet), to add complexity to a sauce, to enhance the texture of a dish, and more.
- Baking - Like cooking, butter adds a rich flavor and texture to baked goods, but it plays a crucial role in how baked goods turn out after popping them in the oven. Butter helps leaven baked goods, or, in simple terms, make them rise. When the water in the butter evaporates during the baking process, it becomes steam, which helps raise the dough or batter. Along with leavening, butter also adds moisture and softness to baked goods and can help make baked goods flakier with the right butter temperature.
- Topping - Whether it’s on top of a cracker, a potato, or on a hot piece of toast, having a warm smear of butter on the food item of your choice can help enhance the food’s flavor and make it 100% more special.
The 4 Best Plant-Based Butter Substitutes
One of the top challenges plant-based butter substitutes face is mimicking butter in fattiness, creaminess, and flavor while being healthier than dairy butter. Additionally, every butter substitute has a different percentage of fat and water, which can affect how recipes turn out. We’ve found the below options to be the best for replacing butter in plant-based dishes, but pay close attention to ratios and when they should/should not be used. The last thing you want is to replace the butter in a savory sauce with a mashed banana!
1. Plant-Based Butter Alternatives
Pros: Can typically be used as a one-to-one ratio swap for butter, has a similar taste and consistency to butter, and can be used for baking and cooking and as a topping.
Cons: Some plant-based butter substitutes (not WayFare’s!) may have ingredients that can trigger allergies, like nuts, soy, or gluten.
If you’re looking for a consistent, reliable, easy one-to-one replacement for butter, a plant-based butter alternative is the best way to go. Many of the plant-based butters you find in the refrigerated section of the grocery store have a very close flavor and use profile to dairy butter, making them convenient substitutes for baking, cooking, and toppings.
Not to sound biased, but if you MUST choose a dairy free butter, bon appetit, food52, and other foodie companies highly recommend our Plant-Based, Dairy Free Salted & Whipped Butter for all your butter uses. From topping pancakes to making your ginger cookies nice and fluffy, our butter has the umami of dairy butter in a convenient, spreadable, plant-based form. If you’re curious about the extra special details of our dairy free butter substitute, read more about it here.
2. Mashed Fruit
Pros: Wonderful for baking recipes.
Cons: Not recommended for cooking or topping purposes, cannot be used as a one-to-one swap for butter.
“Swap fruit for butter? That’s just bananas!” Trust us, we’ve heard that line before. But it’s true! Mashed or pureed fruits like bananas, apples, dates, and avocados add moisture and texture to baked goods, making cakes and cookies soft and smooth to bite into! Mashed fruits are best reserved for specific baking recipes where fruitiness will not take away from the dominant flavor of the dish, so choose your ingredients wisely! Additionally, you may need to adjust the fat content in your recipe when using mashed fruits, such as adding some extra oil or plant-based butter to achieve consistent results.
3. Coconut Oil
Pros: Its thickness mimics the consistency of butter; great for baking, cooking, and topping purposes; has healthy plant-based saturated fats.
Cons: Cannot be used as a one-to-one swap for butter.
Coconut oil gets its own category away from the other oils because it is just that amazing—it’s a foodie sensation! Nutritionally, it has wonderful plant-based saturated fats that are actually good for your health, can positively impact cholesterol levels, and it is excellent for a wide range of kitchen uses. Coconut oil has a similar texture and thickness to butter, and it is semi-solid at room temperature. This makes it great for baking purposes, as the consistency mimics butter perfectly and adds a light, coconutty sweetness to baked goods. Coconut oil can also be used for your cooking projects, from sauteeing broccoli on the stove to roasting cauliflower in the oven. It can even be used as a topping on popcorn, replacing butter in a snap! Coconut oil’s one flaw is that it cannot be used as a one-to-one butter replacement. For every one serving of butter, you replace three-quarters of that amount with coconut oil and mix it with one-quarter of cool water before adding it to your recipe.
4. Dairy Free Yogurt
Pros: Makes recipes moist, tender, and tangy; can be used to make plant-based sauces and marinades; is a great swap for sour cream in recipes
Cons: Has a different fat ratio than butter, which can cause irregular outcomes in some recipes.
Forget about just using yogurt for your morning berries and granola—it’s a multipurpose food! If you want an extra tang to your sponge cake or a creamy sauce for your vegetable curry, swapping butter for some dairy free yogurt can help you keep your dish’s moisture and still get an incredible flavor. By rule of thumb, you can substitute butter for a dairy free yogurt at a 1:1 ratio, but keep in mind the end results may vary. Because dairy free yogurt has a different fat ratio than butter, your recipe may need extra oil or another fat to achieve the same effect as butter.
Ready to start whipping up some recipes with dairy free yogurt? We’ve got you covered with our brand-new line of plant-based, dairy free yogurts. Not only are they vegan-friendly, but they’re free of the top 8 food allergens—our WayFare specialty!
What to Remember When Choosing a Plant-Based Butter Substitute
- Double Check the Ingredients - If you decide to go rogue and try another plant-based one-to-one butter alternative, make sure you check the product’s ingredients list. Unlike WayFare’s products, some kinds of plant-based butter can contain sneaky allergens like soy, eggs, gluten, and nuts
- Consider Your Cooking and Baking Needs - Each butter substitute behaves differently, so you’ll want to pick the most fitting option for the recipe you want to make. For example, if you’re sauteing some veggies, non-dairy yogurt wouldn’t be a good choice. The yogurt would curdle, and its flavor would take away from the flavor of the veggies. Instead, a plant-based butter would fit your needs better.
- Take Into Account Food Allergies - If you’re cooking for a family event and decide to swap butter for a mashed banana in the delicious muffins you’re making, double-check to make sure your guests don’t have any hidden allergies that may be impacted by your recipe adjustments.
If you’re itching to bake the next show-stopping cake or whip up the creamiest plant-based mashed potatoes your family has ever tasted, let WayFare Health Foods help you out! Our Dairy Free Salted & Whipped Butter is perfect for all your baking, cooking, and topping needs, and, of course, it’s top 8 allergen free as always! Shop now.