Is there a butter that is dairy-free?

Yes, there are several dairy-free butter alternatives available for people who cannot or choose not to consume regular dairy butter. With the rise in veganism and plant-based diets, as well as an increase in lactose intolerance and dairy allergies, the demand for high-quality non-dairy butter has grown significantly. The good news is that there are now many options that closely mimic the taste, texture, baking properties, and nutritional value of traditional dairy butter.

What is dairy-free butter?

Dairy-free butter, also referred to as vegan butter, is a plant-based alternative to conventional butter that is made without any animal products or byproducts. Traditional butter is made from cow’s milk fat churned into a solid fat. Dairy-free versions use plant-based oils, fats, and emulsifiers to replicate the taste, texture, and functionality of dairy butter. The most common types of non-dairy butter are made from plant oils and fats such as coconut oil, palm oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, and soybean oil.

Why choose dairy-free butter?

There are several reasons why someone may opt for non-dairy butter over regular dairy butter:

Dietary restrictions

– Vegan diet – Vegans do not consume any animal products, including dairy. Dairy-free butter allows them to avoid butter entirely while still enjoying “buttery” flavors.

– Lactose intolerance – Those with lactose intolerance are unable to properly digest the milk sugar (lactose) found in dairy products. Dairy-free butter eliminates lactose.

– Dairy allergy – Some people have an allergy to casein and whey, proteins found in milk. They need to avoid all dairy, including butter.

Environmental concerns

– Some choose plant-based butter because of concerns over the environmental impact of dairy production, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

Animal welfare

– Dairy-free butter appeals to those concerned about animal rights and dairy cow treatment. They want to avoid dairy for ethical reasons.

Health reasons

– Plant-based diets are linked to some health benefits like reduced risk of heart disease. Dairy-free butter fits into an overall healthy, plant-focused diet.

Taste preference

– Some simply prefer the taste of non-dairy butter over regular dairy butter – it’s a personal choice.

Types of dairy-free butter

There are a few main types of dairy-free butter alternatives on the market:

Vegan margarine

– Margarine has long been a alternative to butter, made by emulsifying vegetable oils like soybean, canola, and palm oils.

– Many popular margarine brands now offer dairy-free varieties made without whey or lactose.

– These provide a similar spreadability to butter with a creamy texture.

– However, some margarines use genetically modified oils, which some choose to avoid.

Nut butter blends

– These dairy-free “butters” are made by blending nuts like cashews, almonds, and macadamia nuts with oil.

– The nuts provide protein and healthy fats, while the oil makes the texture spreadable.

– Nut-based blends are higher in nutrients than margarines.

– However, the nut taste comes through stronger than with other options.

Brand Base Ingredient(s)
Melt Organic Coconut oil, cashews
Miyoko’s Cashews, coconut oil
Forager Project Cashews, coconut oil

Seed butter blends

– Like nut butters, these are made by blending seeds like sunflower or pumpkin seeds with oil to create a spread.

– They are great for those with nut allergies.

– However, some find the strong seed taste overpowering.

Brand Base Ingredient
WayFare Sunflower seeds
Julie’s Real Sunflower seeds
SunButter Sunflower seeds

Coconut butter

– Coconut butter provides the richest, most buttery tasting option.

– It is made purely from coconut flesh, creating a solid texture.

– Great for baking and cooking due to a high oil content.

– Can overpower more delicate flavors.

– Has a strong coconut aroma.

Palm oil-based

– Some dairy-free butter gets its creamy, spreadable texture from palm oil or a blend of vegetable oils including palm.

– These have milder flavors that closely mimic dairy butter.

– However, palm oil production has raised environmental concerns, so may be avoided by some.

Nutrition comparison to dairy butter

Dairy-free butter alternatives vary in their exact nutrition profiles but most share some similarities:

Fat and calories

– Like regular butter, plant-based types provide mostly fat calories, since they are made from fats and oils.

– Amount of fat and total calories are similar to dairy butter.

– Should be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet.

Vitamins and minerals

– Dairy butter contains small amounts of vitamins A, D, E, and K.

– Dairy-free options provide vitamins like A, D, and E if the oils are fortified.

– Most non-dairy kinds do not naturally contain vitamin D or K, found in animal foods. But may be fortified.

– Dairy butter provides a small amount of calcium, but both dairy and non-dairy have minimal other minerals.


– Dairy butter contains traces of milk proteins like casein and whey.

– Nut-based dairy-free butters provide 2-3g of plant protein per serving.

– Others like margarine and coconut butter have no protein.

Cholesterol and sodium

– Dairy butter contains dietary cholesterol (215mg per 100g). Vegan ones have none.

– Both have minimal sodium levels.

Lactose and allergens

– Dairy butter contains whey, casein, and lactose – allergens for some.

– Dairy-free alternatives are free from the top 8 food allergens, including dairy.

– Most brands are processed in facilities that also handle dairy, so risk of traces.

Vitamin absorption

– Studies show fat increases absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K.

– So both dairy and dairy-free butters can help boost vitamin absorption when included with foods containing those vitamins.

How to choose the right dairy-free butter

With an increasing number of plant-based butter options available, choosing the right one takes some consideration:

Consider intended use

– Nut-based butters have more distinct flavors best for spreading.

– Coconut oil-based ones excel in baking and cooking.

– Margarines provide the most neutral option for general use.

Avoid palm oil, if desired

– Palm oil production raises environmental concerns, so may be avoided by some consumers.

– Opt for nut-based or coconut oil-based varieties instead.

Compare nutrition labels

– Check and compare nutrition facts panels for fat, protein, vitamin, and mineral content.

– Confirm the product is free from your food allergens.

Read ingredient lists

– Check for unwanted or unhealthy oils, preservatives, and additives.

– Look for recognizable, whole food ingredients where possible.

Consider organic and non-GMO

– If avoiding GMOs or pesticides is a priority, choose certified organic.

– Non-GMO Project Verified options also available for non-organic brands.

Seek proper texture

– Test options to find one that provides the ideal spreadability, creaminess, and consistency for your preferences.

Taste test for flavor

– Flavors can range from neutral margarines to coconutty tropical tastes.

– Find one that provides the right buttery richness and taste.

How to use dairy-free butter in cooking

Dairy-free butter can be used just like regular dairy butter in most recipes. Here are some tips:


– Use a 1:1 ratio to replace butter in baked goods like cookies, cakes, muffins, etc.

– For best results, opt for coconut oil-based dairy-free butter.

– Chilled nut-based butter can also work well. May need to reduce oven temp by 25°F to prevent over-browning.

Sautéing and pan-frying

– Use dairy-free butter just as you would regular butter to grease skillets and pans before cooking.

– Nut-based and coconut-based options have highest smoke points, so best for sautéing.

Roasting vegetables

– Toss chopped veggies in melted dairy-free butter before roasting.

– Brings out flavor and browning.

Making sauces and gravy

– Whisk into pan sauces and gravies just like you would dairy butter.

– Emulsifying effect helps thicken and enrich flavor.

Spreading on bread

– All dairy-free butter work great for spreading onto toast, muffins, rolls, etc.

– Nut-based kinds add protein and texture.

– Coconut oil-based have richest flavor.

Finishing dishes

– Add a pat on top hot dishes like steamed veggies, mashed potatoes, oatmeal, etc. for flavor.

– Drizzle melted over popcorn, roasted vegetables, pasta, etc.

Top brands of dairy-free butter

Here is an overview of top reviewed, quality brands producing dairy-free butter alternatives:

Brand Base Ingredients Price Range
Melt Organic Coconut oil, cashews $8-$12 per 8oz
Miyoko’s Coconut oil, cashews $6-$12 per 8oz
Forager Project Cashews, coconut oil $6-$12 per 8oz
WayFare Sunflower seeds $4-$8 per 8oz
Julie’s Real Sunflower seeds $4-$8 per 8oz
SunButter Sunflower seeds $4-$10 per 8oz
Nutiva Coconut oil $3-$6 per 8oz
Country Crock Vegetable oils $2-$4 per 8oz
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Vegetable oils $2-$5 per 8oz

Is dairy-free butter healthier than dairy butter?

There are pros and cons to both dairy and non-dairy butter in terms of nutrition and health impact:

Benefits of dairy-free

– Dairy-free is lower in saturated fat and higher in unsaturated vegetable fats

– Contains no cholesterol

– Appropriate for vegan, dairy-free, or plant-based diets

– Non-dairy often uses less processed, more natural oils

– Avoids environmental impact concerns of dairy

Benefits of dairy butter

– Higher in vitamins A, D, E, K compared to many dairy-free kinds

– Provides conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat associated with some health benefits

– Milk fat in dairy butter may have a more neutral impact on blood lipids compared to tropical oils like coconut and palm oils

– Dairy fat is a high-quality, natural source of fat


– Both provide mostly fat calories and should be eating in moderation

– Neither dairy or non-dairy is intrinsically “healthy” or “unhealthy”

– Personal dietary needs and preferences should dictate choice

The bottom line

There are now ample options for high quality, great tasting non-dairy butter alternatives made from plant sources like nuts, seeds, and coconut. With the right brand and preparation, dairy-free butter can mimic both the taste, texture, baking properties, and nutritional value of regular dairy butter quite closely. The health impacts of both dairy and vegan butter come down to an individual’s dietary needs and preferences. When chosen mindfully and enjoyed in moderation as part of an overall nutritious diet, both dairy butter and dairy-free alternatives like nut-based or coconut-based “butters” can have a place. The key is picking the type that aligns best with your own nutrition goals and dietary needs.

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