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Vegan Butter Alternative (Plus How to Make Your Own Vegan Butter)

November 11, 2013

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If you’re a baker, you know that one of the hardest adjustments when undertaking a vegan lifestyle is finding a non-dairy alternative to butter.

Meat and cheese can be avoided and nut milks and milk alternatives are easy substitutions, but butter plays such an integral part in many recipes because it often determines consistency and flavor, making it difficult to find a non-dairy product that works as a substitution. Difficult, but not impossible!

Here are a few vegan butter alternatives I use when baking:

Liquid Oils

Canola and sunflower are great oils to use when baking or cooking. They work best in any dish that calls for a greased pan because they are mild and won’t lend too much extra flavor to the dish. In baking, they are good for substituting the fat in cakes or cupcakes. Olive oil can be used for this purpose as well, but it has a stronger flavor so your cake will have an olive taste.

Coconut Oil

This great alternative for baking is unique because it remains solid at room temperature so it’s perfect for frosting or pastry crust – anything that needs the stability butter provides. One thing to keep in mind is that the melting point of coconut oil is very low so if you are using it for pastry crust, work quickly and refrigerate often! Coconut oil is also the only non-animal fat that is high in lauric acid and has strong anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, making it one of the most healthy butter alternatives!

Fruit Puree

In some recipes, you can substitute pureed or mashed fruit for butter. This only works with solid, dense fruit like bananas, pumpkin, apple sauce or avocado. Keep in mind that most fruit, with the exception of avocado, has a strong flavor that will share through in your baked good. Avocado can be masked by other flavors, but the color will affect your finished product. It’s best to use it with chocolate, which will hide both the color and taste of the avocado.

Vegan Margarine

You can also buy vegan margarine at your local health food store. Earth Balance is a great brand because it contains no trans-fat. If you are using it for baking make sure to use vegan buttery spread sticks instead of the tub, which has too high of a water content for baking. Regular margarine can also be used as a vegan substitute, but it contains chemicals and preservatives that solidify vegetable oil. It’s the least healthful vegan option and should be avoided if possible.

While all of these are great alternatives when it comes to cooking and baking, none of them can quite achieve the same effect in recipes where butter is the star – like piecrust. In piecrust or pastry dough the butter not only provides stability and flavor, it also encases the flour and prevents the gluten from over-developing.

I did some research and found that it is possible to make your own vegan butter that will mimic this effect and has all the same qualities as real butter. Try out this recipe as you gear up to make Thanksgiving pies this month!

Vegan Butter with a Coconut Oil Base


  • ¼ cup + 2 teaspoons soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ + 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon refined coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, safflower oil or sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon liquid soy lecithin -or- liquid sunflower lecithin -or- 2 ¼ teaspoons soy lecithin granules
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

1) Curdle your soy milk

Place the soy milk, apple cider vinegar and salt in a small cup and whisk together with a fork. Let it sit for about 10 minutes so the mixture curdles.

2) Mix your vegan butter ingredients

Melt the coconut oil so it's as close to room temperature as possible. Measure it and add it with the canola oil to a food processor. Making smooth vegan butter is dependent on the mixture solidifying as quickly as possible after it's mixed. This is why it's important to make sure your coconut oil is as close to room temperature as possible before you mix it with the rest of the ingredients.

3) Transfer the vegan butter to a mold so it solidifies

Add the soy milk mixture, soy lecithin and xanthan gum to the food processor. Process for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides halfway through the duration. Pour the mixture into a mold and place it in the freezer to solidify. An ice cube mold works well. The vegan butter should be ready to use in about an hour. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month or wrapped in plastic wrap in the freezer for up to 1 year. Makes 1 cup (215 grams), or the equivalent of 2 sticks vegan butter.

How will you use vegan butter in your holiday dishes?