I’ve been vegan since the dark ages — 2009 to be exact. Way before the proliferation of Impossible Burgers, oat milk soft serveand certainly before plant-based sashimi. It was hard out there for us. Kids these days get to eat all the stunty burgers and deep-fried lasagna.
We’ve come a long way in the veganification of the grocery aisle, but I’m most excited about all the plant-based dairy. Bye bye weird margarine-y “buttery spread” and grainy rubber cheese, and hello fatty, creamy, unctuous non-dairy ice cream. Today, we have vegan butter options for baking, spreading on cinnamon toast, and even making buttercream frosting as fluffy and tangy as the real thing. Don’t know where to start? Curious if the best dairy-free butter for baking a pie crust is the same as the one you want for slathering on a warm blueberry muffin? As a veteran vegan, I’ve tried over a dozen vegan spreads and buttery sticks and fancy myself a bit of an expert. Here are the best vegan butter brands for every kind of cooking scenario.
When Miyoko Schinner came on the scene in 2014, she really changed things for butter-loving herbivores. At the time, Earth Balance, a margarine-like product with an ingredient list that leaned towards the artificial, was the only sub I found for regular butter. I used it, but never enthusiastically. Then I heard about this woman in Napa making cultured cashew dairy, and my house hasn’t been without a brick in the fridge or freezer ever since. Miyoko’s Creamery products are available at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. I go for the “hint of sea salt” option (yes, even for baking). It has flavor, it melts, it spreads, and it makes a damn good shortbread.
I first discovered this stuff in Los Angeles at Bakers Bench. I smelled the most decadent butter-y aroma in the bakery, turned to the case to admire what I assumed were butter-laden treats, but then looked closer and discovered every pastry was marked with a little “v.” I bought a croissant, and it was immaculate — the flavor, the lamination, the flakiness. I found out they used ForA and knew I needed some for home use.
It did not disappoint. I’ve used it for flakey pie crust, cookies, and satisfyingly dense pound cake. But ForA goes beyond baking — it’s great for toast spreading and veggie sautéing too. Its ingredients are different from everything else I can find on the market. It uses aquafaba, coconut oil, and coconut cream for a smooth, rich-yet-light texture. Not only is it a vegan baker’s dream, it’s also for anyone who is sensitive to dairy or vegan-curious. The only issue is that it can be more expensive than many other brands. It’s a hot commodity too, hard to find outside of specialty grocery stores in LA and often sold out on their website. Thrive Market can be a good source, though.
I am a serious baker. One day I needed something for a pie crust and I saw Flora in very baking-friendly packaging. It’s hard to measure ingredients out of a tub, which is why it’s nice that Flora’s butter sticks come wrapped in paper; it’s easy to notch out a ½ cup or however much your vegan recipe calls for. It also comes unsalted. Unlike some butters containing cashew or macadamia, Flora is nut-free since it’s made of palm kernel and pea protein, so whenever I’m baking for friends with allergies it is my go-to.
I love Monty’s cream cheese, my gateway to the brand, but the butter! Oh man, putting a pat of it on some warm rye toast was life-changing for me. It was so savory in a way I’d never experienced in vegan butters — in fact, softened in the microwave a little or left out at room temperature, you could even eat it the French way alongside radishes. If you want your butter alternative to be more than just fat and have that earthy tang to it, this is the one I use. It’s made of cashews, coconut oil, and almond oil. I’d highly recommend it for topping anything toasted: sourdough, bagels, or that few-days-old banana bread. A dollop is also perfect to finish a baked potato, plate of green beans, or cob of corn. I love that it comes in reusable glass jars, too.
Is there anything more 90’s than whipped butter? As a child of that era, I have to give love to the only butter substitute out there that is doing that fluffy, airy, restaurant-style texture. There is nothing better than topping cinnamon toast, crispy waffles, or a stack of pancakes with this whipped butter spread. The air incorporated into Wayfare makes it extra melty and spreadable. Another nut-free option, it’s made from a blend of butter beans and coconut oil, and it’s organic.
It’s no surprise that a brand that makes all sorts of fermented things makes the funkiest plant butter. It seems like an odd product for a sauerkraut brand to make, but not when you realize that the best real butter is cultured too. I like the European Style butter, made from a blend of cashews and coconut oil, but they also make one with oats and potatoes! I love it for spreading, finishing, and for baking projects that call for buttercream frosting. So thong.