We Tasted 10 Vegan Butters in the Name of Science

Here's what (flaky, heavenly goodness) we baked up.

December 17, 2021
Photo by Gena Hamshaw

Plant-Based Any Day is a column by our favorite expert-on-all-things-produce: Gena Hamshaw. A writer, cookbook author, vegan recipe developer, and registered dietitian, Gena will be reporting from the frontlines of the plant-based world, sharing with us all the new and wonderful ways we can work with vegetables.

It’s 1995, and I’m in eighth grade. Each morning I wake up, put my uniform on, and drag my stocking-clad tights into the kitchen for a toaster bagel. Once the bagel is ready, I trot over to the fridge and pull out a spray bottle of butter alternative (I can’t believe you can’t guess the name). And so, buttering commences: six or seven pumps of fluorescent yellow, salty, oily goodness. It soaks into my bagel and leaves a faint sheen on my plate.

I’m a child of the margarine generation. The fridge I shared with my mom was always stocked with some butter alternative or another, be it in a spray bottle, a tub, or wrapped in foil. When I tasted the “real stuff,” at friends’ homes or in restaurants, I was always suspicious of the texture (less homogenous than I was used to) and missed the flavor and saltiness I’d come to expect. What is that flavor, exactly? Let’s call it “butter” flavor. Like the fruitiness of fruit-flavored candy, it’s an intense and concentrated simulacra of the original. By the time I graduated college, when butter was making its comeback, I was well on my way to becoming vegan.

My limited exposure to regular butter may or may not be an asset in sizing up the vegan alternatives. If verisimilitude is the goal, then I can’t claim to be certain of what I should be looking for. On the other hand, the fact that I’ve been eating some sort of butter alternative or vegan butter for over three decades gives me perspective on how these plant-based options are evolving. Because I don’t need my vegan butters to taste like “the real thing,” I can approach these products at face value.

Doesn’t Vegan Butter Taste Bad?

I know what you’re thinking, but no. Vegan butter has come a long way since 2004 and there are so many more plant-based options that have the flavor and properties of real butter. You can generally substitute vegan butter for regular dairy butter in most baked good recipes. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s close.

If you’re using just a couple of tablespoons to make a roux, caramelized onions, or a buttery spread for garlic bread, dairy-free butter is a seamless substitute. Along the way, I’ll share more details about how to bake with vegan butter, but for now all you need to know is Yes! You! Can!

Where to Find Vegan Butter

Walk into any grocery store and you’ll be able to find vegan butter. Will there be as many options as regular butter? Probably not, but that’s the name of the game for vegan food products. You should be able to easily pick up some of the most popular brands: Earth Balance, Milkadamia, and plant-based margarine from Country Crock. Of course, go to any health-food store and you should have your pick of the cream of the crop (pun intended) of plant-based butter.

Vegan butter will generally be more expensive than regular commodity butter, but in line with organic or good-quality Irish or European-style butter.

What’s the deal with palm oil?

Another exciting thing happening in the vegan-butter sphere? Many are now made without palm oil. Palm oil is a major ingredient in a number of mainstream butter alternatives, and it’s been demonstrated to cause significant damage to native animals and to the environment in Malaysia and Indonesia, where it’s farmed. Earth Balance’s parent company, Conagra brands, has committed to greater sustainability in sourcing palm oil, in accordance with guidelines established by the RSPO, a not-for-profit working to minimize environmental damage and cost to communities as a result of palm oil farming. Even so, there remains debate around whether any palm oil farming is too damaging to tropical habitats, and so some consumers are now intentionally seeking out palm oil–free options.

In the name of vegan butter science, I tasted and tested 10 plant-based butter brands. Some (Earth Balance, Smart Balance, and Miyoko’s Creamery) were familiar to me already. Most, though, were new, and they provided an illuminating peek at new technologies, new ingredients, and a brave new world of home baking possibilities. I was so emboldened by what I found that I dared to attempt baking my first-ever pastry (keep reading for the big reveal). Here’s some reporting from the front lines of plant-based creameries.

The 10 Best Vegan Butters

If breads, bagels, baguettes, and English muffins are your favorite vehicles for butter, you’ll have no shortage of options. Most vegan butters are spreadable because of the low melting points of their oil base—usually palm, coconut, canola, or olive.

Photo by Milkadamia

1. Milkadamia Salted Buttery Spread

Milkadamia, maker of macadamia nut milk and creamer, has released macadamia-and-coconut-oil buttery spreads. They come in salted and unsalted versions (worth noting, as unsalted vegan butter is tricky to find). In my tastings, I found that vegan butters with blended bases needed a little warming up to become easily spreadable, but that they do melt easily. The Milkadamia spreads have a mild, buttery, not-at-all-nutty flavor because the macadamia is present only in oil form (not as nut solids, like in other vegan butters). True to form, I preferred the salted to unsalted.

Photo by Forager's Project

2. Forager Project Buttery Spread

Update: This product has sadly been discontinued.

Forager Project’s smooth, creamy, and mildly tart cashew milk yogurt is already my go-to for plant-based yogurt, so I was excited to learn that the brand is now making its own buttery spread. Its base consists of whole cashews, coconut oil, sunflower oil, and sunflower lecithin as a thickener. Despite not being able to taste the cashews, I still found the spread’s flavor to be more distinctive than Milkadamia’s. It was milky and slightly sweet, almost like a custard (albeit a salted one). It, too, needs some softening at room temperature before becoming spreadable, but it’s quick to melt and great on a thick slice of toasted sourdough.

Photo by Wayfare

3. Wayfare Foods Dairy-Free Salted, Whipped Butter

Wayfare Foods’ dairy-free, salted, whipped butter consists of water and butter beans (!), along with coconut and sunflower oils. I get plenty of legumes in salads, soups, and other savory fare, so I don’t tend to seek them out in more unusual places (chickpea pasta, black bean brownies, and so on). I was a little skeptical about how beans would work in a butter.

But Wayfare actually emerged as my favorite, thanks to its bean-induced umami. The texture is slightly grainier than some of the other butters I tried, but I didn’t mind it. The graininess made for a spread with more heft and substance, which was surprisingly spreadable at room temperature. Swirling into it with my butter knife without having to scrape away patiently at the surface was a luxe surprise.

Photo by VegNews

4. Wildbrine European-Style Cultured Cashew Butter

Like Miyoko’s Creamery and Forager Project, Wildbrine's butter is based on fermented cashews. The cashews provide a mild, creamy base to the butters (as I was tasting, it occurred to me that “buttery” is my favorite adjective to describe raw cashews), while the fermentation adds depth and tanginess. The brand Wildbrine is known for their fermented offerings, including sauerkraut, kimchi, sriracha, a cashew-based “Neo Classic Brie,” and now, a cashew-and-coconut-based butter. The taste was similar to other butters in this roundup but with an added, subtle acidity which helped to offset the butter’s richness. A few tiny air bubbles dotted the butter’s otherwise solid surface (proof of its live cultures!), but the amount you’d need to eat for this product to have a probiotic benefit is colossal.

Photo by @bklynbuttah | Twitter

5. Om Sweet Home Non-Dairy Butter Alternative

Om Sweet Home is a woman-owned bakery in Cliffside, N.J., which specializes in both vegan and gluten-free baked goods. The butter was developed from owner Dawn Pascale’s own baking trials and is based primarily on coconut oil (no palm oil, no tree nuts, no soy). The package said that it whips like real butter, which inspired me to try it in a batch of vegan buttercream. I had to keep the buttercream cold (because of its coconut base) lest it melted, but I was happy with the rich, creamy texture of my frosting. (One downside: the brand is difficult to locate outside of the NYC area.)

Photo by Earth Balance

6 & 7. Oldies but Goodies: Smart/Earth Balance & Country Crock

For the past 15 years or so, there’s really been only one vegan butter option. It was Earth Balance butter, which is still alive and well, readily available in sticks and in a tub in grocers across the country.

Photo by Smart Balance

I love Earth Balance. It’s similar to the margarines and butter alternatives I grew up with in its assertive saltiness and flavor. Earth Balance spreads smoothly and adds moisture and color to baked goods, all at a reasonable price point (somewhere in the range of $4.50 per pound). As someone who’s been vegan for a long time, I’ve appreciated that the brand has provided a quality and affordable option since 1998, well before other brands were entering this space. Smart Balance is a sister brand to Earth Balance, and it features a similar ingredient list (canola, palm, and olive oils, depending on which flavor you get). The main difference between the two products seems to be one of marketing, rather than flavor or texture: Earth Balance announces itself proudly as being vegan, while Smart Balance is sold as a healthful butter alternative.

Photo by Country Crock

Country Crock’s margarines have been around for a while (since the ‘50s!), but they’ve recently released a line of plant butters—in stick and tub form—each with a different advertised oil: avocado, almond, or olive. As it turns out, palm or canola oil make up most of each blend, which makes me wonder about the taste differences, if any, between the three options. I only tasted the avocado plant butter, but I did like it: The taste was similar to the mainstream plant butters I’ve been using for a decade: salty and “butter”-flavored. It was slightly lighter than Earth Balance, though, in both texture and taste: Country Crock reminded me a little of the salted, whipped Breakstone's butter that my grandmother used to keep around (unlike my mom, she was not a champion of butter alternatives).

Photo by Melt Organic

8. Melt Organic Butter

Finally, I enjoyed a few toaster bagels (still a favorite) slathered in Melt Organic Butter. Its wonderfully silky and spreadable texture, and salty—not artificial-tasting—butteriness made it a close second to Wayfare. Like Wild Creamery, Melt also has a butter that’s infused with probiotics, though I didn’t taste that variety.

The base of the Melt butter blends (available in a tub or in sticks) is coconut and palm oil, and its organic palm fruit oil is Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade USA certified and sourced from Colombia. According to Melt’s statement, this origin is supposedly less likely to contribute to rainforest loss, displacement of native people, or the loss of Orangutans or Sumatran tigers.

Photo by Good Eggs

9. Miyoko’s European-Style Cultured Vegan Butter

Miyoko’s butter has a whipped texture that’s specifically intended for spreading. I’m one of the few vegans I know who doesn’t love Miyoko’s butter on bread: In spite of its being a fermented product, the flavor is a little mild for my taste. I do love to bake with it, though, as it only comes in sticks and so is always plastic-free.

When I saw a claim on the label of Miyoko’s European Style Cultured Vegan Butter that the sticks can be browned, my curiosity was piqued. I transferred a stick of my Miyoko’s butter to a hot sauté pan, and waited patiently as the cashew solids in the butter browned, just as milk solids are supposed to.

Photo by Fora Foods

10. Fora Foods

I was given a push in this direction when I spoke to Aidan Altman, co-founder of the plant-based startup Fora Foods. Fora is currently only available to restaurateurs, but it’s poised to become more readily available this spring. The first time I saw the ingredient list (coconut and sunflower oil, coconut cream, sunflower lecithin, and aquafaba), I was struck by the even balance of fats and emulsifiers, liquids and solids. It’s a suitable option for those who are looking to avoid palm oil while being free of nuts, soy, and other major allergens. Eaten on its own, on bread, or on top of morning oatmeal, Fora was actually pretty mild-tasting.

The Best Vegan Butters for Sautéing & Brown-Butter-ing

I was, admittedly, more interested in putting my many butters onto bread than I was cooking with them, but I did sauté some green beans, gnocchi, and radishes in butters from Melt, Earth Balance, Country Crock, and Forager. I chose these four because they each had oil bases appropriate for high heat cooking (palm, canola, sunflower, and refined avocado), I’d enjoyed them all from a flavor standpoint, and there were some distinctions between them to explore (Forager contains whole, fermented cashews, Country Crock the addition of pea protein). The distinctions in taste, sadly, were ultimately less apparent in cooking than in sampling on toast, but all of the products gave my vegetables good browning and butteriness. So far, so good. Baking was next.

the best vegan butters for baking

My experience was that the best brands for baking came in a stick form—easiest to measure and swap in recipes—and could be softened at room temperature without totally melting, most likely due to the specific emulsifiers and thickeners used.

I’ve used Earth Balance or Miyoko’s butter in cakes, cupcakes, quick breads, and cookies for over a decade, but there have always been limitations. My vegan buttercream is inconsistent unless I add shortening. My pie crust is never perfectly flaky. I’ve made a lot of vegan cookies that were suspiciously oily.

Is it the butter, or is it me? Hard to say, but I’ve always wondered if the butter was to blame. Now, armed with a bunch of different varieties of vegan butter at home, I wanted to make something new and ambitious.

Fora has the claim of being Michelin-starred chef–approved (it’s distributed to Eleven Madison Park, Tartine, and Larder in Los Angeles, among other high-end eateries). Yet it wasn’t the butter’s fine-dining credentials so much as Altman’s unwavering confidence in its similarity to real butter that struck me. It can brown, bake, clarify, and emulsify into a beurre blanc, he assured me. And if I really wanted to see what it can do, he noted, I should try to make a vegan croissant, the most flaky, finicky, butter-dependent pastry out there.

Fora's croissants emerged the absolute butteriest of the four butters I tested (Miyoko's, Om Sweet Home, and Earth Balance being the other three). All four butters gave me pretty layers of lamination, but my Fora croissants “shattered” into flakes, the way a proper croissant is supposed to.

Even though Fora butter came out the clear winner in the pastry contest, I was still pretty happy with the croissants made with Miyoko’s, Om Sweet Home, and Earth Balance. Miyoko’s butter gave the least airy, pillowy result, but they were nicely flaky. My Om Sweet Home croissants rose high and had a beautiful, honeycomb interior, but they were the least flaky of the batches. The Earth Balance croissants had the layers and flavor I wanted, but their interiors were denser than the others.

Fora Foods croissant crumb shot.
Look at those layers!

Conclusion & Cheat Sheet

Croissants are a good example of a food I assumed I'd never have again once I became vegan. And that's been okay with me—there are so many things I've discovered or learned to cook by becoming vegan, that I haven't spent much time dwelling on the things I'm not able to eat anymore.

Well over a decade later, my diet is expanding to include some foods—a vegan scrambled egg, different types of alt-meats, and now, beloved pastries—that I’ve gone a long time without eating. I was content before, but it feels fun and exciting to have previously inaccessible foods figure in my kitchen again. Today, it’s flaky croissants and nutty brown butter cookies. Tomorrow, we’ll see.

Gang's all here.

Vegan Butter Cheat Sheet

Palm oil–free: Om Sweet Home Non-Dairy Butter Alternative, Miyoko’s Creamery Organic Vegan Butter, Fora Butter, Wayfare Foods Dairy Free Butter, Wildbrine Creamery European-Style Butter Alternative, Forager's Project Buttery Spread, Milkadamia Buttery Spread

Best for baking: Om Sweet Home Non-Dairy Butter Alternative, Miyoko’s Creamery Organic Vegan Butter, Fora Butter, Melt Organic Butter Sticks, Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, Country Crock Avocado Oil Plant Butter Sticks

Best for spreading: Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread, Wayfare Foods Dairy Free Butter, Milkadamia Buttery Spread, Wildbrine Creamery European-Style Butter Alternative, Forager's Project Buttery Spread, Melt Organic Rich & Creamy Butter

Best for browning: Miyoko’s Creamery Organic Vegan Butter, Fora Butter

Like everything in life, my assessment of the best vegan butter brands might not line up with yours! Give them all a try—spread them on a craggy English muffin, bake a batch of cookies, or whip up mashed potatoes. Find out which kind you like based on flavor, meltability, texture…and then please report back here with your thoughts!

Thank you for coming to my buttered TED talk. Have you baked with vegan butters before? How'd it go? Tell us about it in the comments!
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • StreetSong
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Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.


StreetSong March 24, 2023
Thank you, Gena! Longtime vegan and fan of your recipes. I love Miyoko's and have used it for years on toast (I'm having it right now on homemade sourdough toast) and in baking and stovetop cooking (like browned butter and sage on gnocchi). I've tried some of the other vegan butters mentioned but not all, but I'm saving this article to help in choosing some to try when I come across them. So far, Miyoko's wins by a long shot in my tastings. Heavenly!
CynRobinson March 16, 2023
You haven’t had Vegan butter until you’ve had Trader Joe’s Vegan Buttery Spread. It taste just like Kerrygold’s Butter, doesn’t leave any after taste like Earth Balance., and browns beautifully. I actually purchase this in bulk and freeze them for later use.
Jo March 14, 2023
I’m not vegan but have been curious about the butter alternatives. I learned a lot from this article and look forward to reading more from this contributor and look forward to her future work. I’m also going to look for her recommendations and give them a try. The croissants looked wonderful.
leslie March 14, 2023
Sadly coconut and cashews are highly allergenic and very high in fat. Evidently the food industry doesn't care in the attempt to make a substitute for dairy products. I have given up and just make my own spread with olive oil, lecithin, non GMO soy milk, salt and apple cider vinegar. Well worth the effort.
sassygirl711 March 14, 2023
i’ve been a fan of miyoko’s for a long time. v excited to try a few others have mentioned—better buttah one of them! ty!
colleenmeara March 14, 2023
I’ve tried nearly every kind on this list, and Miyokos wins every time. I think the author should have checked out the kind that comes in a tub for spreading on bread. For some reason, the butter blocks are not as flavourful, but they do make baking easier.
Rachel March 14, 2023
Agree Miyokos cultured oat in the tub is the BEST option around.
Elizabeth R. March 14, 2023
Earth Balance is way too salty for baking! I am in Canada and some of these brands are not available here but I love Melt (unsalted) for baking.
jpriddy March 14, 2023
My older son is vegan and his wife is allergic to all (ALL) nuts, so they choose Earth Balance soy-free butter. (Few things are too salty for me personally.)
IntisarsGourmetDesserts January 22, 2023
Which butter works well in custard, sweet potato, pumpkin, or other creamy pies?
IntisarsGourmetDesserts January 22, 2023
Thank you for this informative article on vegan butters.
[email protected] January 2, 2023
Would be nice if you added the ingredients and contents to the nondairy vegan butter.
tanyac999 March 14, 2023
Each numbered heading includes a link that will take you to the web page for that brand. You can find ingredients etc. there.
Honorgram October 25, 2022
Hello! Which of these products does not include a fermented ingredient? I can’t have dairy or peas but I also can’t have anything fermented and it’s hard to tell from reading the ingredients.

Thanks so much
Sadavee June 13, 2022
Kite Hill butter is DELICIOUS! I still use some of the others mentioned here depending on what I’m making but Kite hill is my favorite and is good enough to have on toast or fry up some eggs—yum!!! I also use butter olive oil (from Sedona olive oil co) as an alternative. Great article!
Layla97 February 2, 2022
The items all seem to be the salted variety. I prefer unsalted butter so I can find Miyokos unsalted with difficulty. Are there any of the brands listed above in unsalted?
Lisa S. March 14, 2023
Earth Balance has unsalted sticks.
tanyac999 March 14, 2023
I haven’t tried it, but the article says Milkadamia makes an unsalted variety.
Elizabeth R. March 17, 2023
Melt comes in an unsalted version.
Mary February 2, 2022
Trader Joes has a new plant-based butter alternative that opted to try since Myyokos was unavailable the day I shopped. And yes, it is a Trader Joes packaged product.
This butter alternative baked up well in my vegan chocolate chips cookies, slightly crispy around edges but soft inside. But what I really noticed about this product was that it nicely browned my sauteed apples slices that I was putting atop my vegan pancakes.
Happy happy daughter #2.
Has anyone else tried it?
Carrie F. February 2, 2022
I gave up on Earth Balance years ago because after eating it on bread, I felt like there was a thick coating in my mouth. I haven't heard anyone else voice that complaint. I wonder if the formula has changed in the last 5-8 years. Miyoko's lightly salted, on the other hand, melts in your mouth and is so good (to my taste at least) that I have been know to lick the cutting board after it dribbles through holes in the sourdough toast.
tanyac999 March 14, 2023
: ) I love Miyoko’s, too. I had a bad experience with Earth Balance ruining the flavor of a butter/brown sugar sauce and haven’t tried it since. I also wasn’t crazy about how it tasted in baked goods. But the author makes a good point - they were out there earlier than most, with healthier ingredients than old-school margarine. I’m curious now, too, if they’ve improved in the past 5+ years.
Lucyann7 January 22, 2022
hello. you started talking about palm oil but missed the main worry about it. to be vegan yeah shoukf be to care about animals but it really should be for you to want to be healthier. because you care about what your putting into this vessel. i think you should have made a point that palm oil can be a significant ingredient in plant based diets but it’s actually not healthier than eating for example real butter. it’s high in saturated fats and while it’s also a big part of are forest being knocked down. so i suggest staying away from palm oil. these company’s might say “we will get palm oil in a more eco friendly way” bullshit, they just want your money!!
Honorgram October 25, 2022
Many nutrition experts would disagree that saturated fat is bad for you.
colleenmeara March 14, 2023
Veganism is an ethical commitment in support of animals and their right to live. Being plant-based, however, is what you are referring to with the priority put on health. Totally fine to be plant-based (I think it’s great!), but it’s important to distinguish between plant-based diets and veganism, as the latter includes things like not wearing leather.
tanyac999 March 14, 2023
I’ve read about “plant-based” being used more for marketing, to appeal to people who are turned off by the word “vegan.” As far as food goes, those terms need to be synonymous on menus and packaging. I just figure people have different reasons for avoiding animal products, prioritize different reasons, and are more or less strict about it (e.g., no leather) based on those individual differences. Animal welfare and environmental impact are priorities for me, with health benefits as a bonus. Interesting to read your definitions, though - thank you.
pklenk December 21, 2021
Thank you for a very interesting article! Because I was considering baking a vegan cake I had to check out vegan butter options and this information was very helpful! I've been a Smart Balance user but never tried for baking. Will be checking out your recommendations and also hope to find more unsalted options for baking as well as for sodium restricted diets.
Steven W. December 18, 2021
I make and sell nut brittles for our dog rescue medical fund Thanksgiving through New Year's and this year I was happy to have been able to sell vegan nut brittle, using Country Crock sticks. That brand was VERY reasonably priced, out of all the options (3) in my local grocery chains. I sold more vegan version brittle than I thought I would. Each batch takes one stick and I ended up buying two pounds for over 10 pounds of brittle total. Will absolutely promote vegan nut brittles next holiday season. I didn't notice any difference in flavor or texture.
Layla97 February 11, 2021
Thank you so much for this article! But there was no mention of unsalted products. Do you have recommendations for unsalted vegan butter? I currently use Miyoko but would be interested in something with a richer flavor without added salt.
Sierra R. November 28, 2020
I am not a fan of smart balance for baking. It has a horribly strong chemical flavor and has essentially ruined every dessert I’ve attempted to bake with, especially pound cake and vanilla cake.