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Is butter vegan?

The difference between butter, margarine, and vegan butter

We spread it on toast, melt it in a frying pan, and cream it with sugar. But have we thought about how butter is made?

Evidence-based
This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.
Last updated on December 5, 2021, and last reviewed by an expert on February 6, 2021.

The short answer: Butter is not vegan as it comes from cream, which comes from a cow.

But there are great alternatives to butter that taste the same, and there is even vegan butter!

What is butter?

Butter is made from cream, the higher-fat part of milk, which, as we know, comes from a cow.

Traditionally, the definition of butter is straightforward. Butter contains little else other than the cream. But nowadays, dozens of different products labeled “butter” on the grocery store shelves, from nut butter to fruit butter to almost anything that spreads like butter.

Since butter comes from cream, which comes from a cow, it is clear that butter is not vegan and should be avoided by following a vegan diet.

Butter alternatives

So traditionally, butter is not vegan, but there are many great alternatives to butter:

Margarine

There are several versions of margarine on the store shelves made with a variety of ingredients. Mainly, margarine is a mixture of plant-based fat, along with skim milk, water, flavors, and coloring. Some kinds of margarine don’t contain any dairy at all.

Margarine was created as a less expensive alternative to butter since making butter requires a lot of milk! Therefore, margarine is not an exact vegan substitute for butter but can be if the ingredient list does not include any animal products. So it is essential to always read labels carefully!

Learn more about margarine

Vegan butter

Vegan butter is not butter. It is not made from milk, or cream, or any product coming from an animal.

Usually, vegan butter is made using oil and other plant-based ingredients to create a product that looks, and tastes like butter, but is not butter.

Is peanut butter vegan?
Suggested read: Is peanut butter vegan?

So now when you hear or see the words “vegan butter,” you will realize it’s more like a vegan butter-like product. Many companies label their product as “vegan margarine” to avoid confusion to consumers, which is a bit more accurate.

Vegan butter ingredients

Most companies that produce vegan butter make vegan butter from palm, canola, soybean, flax, and olive oils.

As many vegan butter is made with palm oil, most vegans try to avoid those because it has been linked to deforestation and habitat destruction.

Vegan butter can also be made without palm oil – coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, and even ingredients like cashews, almonds, macadamia nuts, and aquafaba — the brine from a can of chickpeas.

Does vegan butter taste like butter?

The flavor of vegan butter varies by brand. There are couples of companies out there that produce butter that tastes very similar to real butter. We recommend that you try out 2-3 brands from your local store and see which vegan butter you prefer.

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