It’s a key ingredient in a lot of cooking. We show you some great vegan alternatives to butter that make cutting out dairy much easier
This issue we’re looking at butter – another one of those staple ingredients that’s so ubiquitous that, for some people, it can seem like transitioning to a vegan diet means saying goodbye to almost everything you eat. Well this handy little guide should prove to you that there’s a whole load of vegan solutions and tricks when it comes to replacing butter in your cooking, baking, and casual munching. Remember that butter is essentially just a fat, and there are many excellent plant sources of that – and they’re usually much better for you than animal fats. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to replace butter…
Oils: sunflower, olive, vegetable… the list goes on!
Often you can simply replace butter with your favourite oil, or the one best-suited to the particular task. When shallow frying, use oil with a high smoke point like sunflower, or toasted sesame oil which adds great flavour to Asian dishes. It’s best to avoid extra virgin olive oil for frying unless you’re cooking at a low temperature, but regular olive oil is great for gently cooking up some garlic and other base ingredients on a low heat when making a pasta sauce for example.
Unlike the oils mentioned above, coconut oil is solid at room temperature and has a texture much closer to butter than other cooking oils. This means it’s great for replacing butter in most of your baking. A generally good rule of thumb is to replace the desired amount of butter with three quarters that amount of coconut oil mixed with a quarter that amount of cold or tepid water. Make sure to mix the water and coconut oil together thoroughly before you add to the rest of your mix; don’t simply throw in water and coconut oil separate from one another.
Nut butters, tahini, vegetable pates, and houmous
All of these things have way more flavour than butter, and they’re generally not suitable for replacing the butter in your baking. However, when it comes to making a humble sandwich or jacket potato, opting for one of these magnificent kitchen staples instead of butter can add incredible flavour. It’s a particularly British thing to have slices of bread and butter with your meal, and while that’s still totally possible on a vegan diet (as we point out below), you can’t beat a slice of bread slathered with homous or a creamy mushroom pate for a more flavourful addition to a meal.
Vegan ‘butter’ or spread
Following on from our point last issue that we need to get over the idea that cheese is only real when it’s been made from the milk of an animal, we’d also like to state that ‘butter’ – while often defined as an explicitly dairy-based food – is merely the word for a pale yellow fatty substance that we put on bread. So let’s not let people be so precious about terminology and let’s talk about all those wonderful vegan butters that are widely available – from vegan certified brands to cheap supermarket margarine. There are so many different spreads you can easily get hold of in health food shops, dedicated vegan stores, supermarkets, and even online. Some brands are labelled vegan, and when it comes to supermarket own labels you usually just have to do a little bit of ingredients scanning. Some vegetable spreads like olive oil based ones can still contain dairy, so just make sure to check the allergy advice and ingredients list. As with plant milks and vegan cheeses, the abundance of different spreads means there’s something to suit all tastes, and the range of different flavours and textures allows you to choose a vegan butter according to the job you need to do – whether that be making pastry, icing a cake, or simply spreading on a thick slice of freshly baked bread.