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Is Butter Vegan? The Best Plant-Based Alternatives In 2024

Karla Tafra

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Chelsea Rae Bourgeois, MS, RDN, LD

is butter vegan
Butter is an animal byproduct, and it’s not vegan. Photo: Canva & Team Design

Choosing to follow a vegan diet means all animal foods are off the table, including butter. All vegan food is based on plants and mushrooms, completely void of any animal products and byproducts. This includes dairy, eggs, meat-based sauces, and even honey. 

Is butter vegan? Since butter is a byproduct of animals, it’s not vegan. There are, however, many vegan butter alternatives made from plants, such as soy, coconut, nuts, and seeds, which often mimic the taste and texture. This makes dairy-free butter a good butter substitute for those following a plant-based diet.

Is Butter Vegan Friendly?

No, butter is not vegan-friendly. Butter is made from animals and is therefore not allowed on a vegan diet.

Can Vegans Eat Butter?

Vegans follow a fully plant-based diet, excluding anything derived from animals. Since butter is made from dairy milk, it’s not considered vegan or vegan-friendly, and it’s not consumed by people following this type of diet.  

Reasons Butter Is Not Allowed On A Vegan Diet

Butter is not allowed on a vegan, plant-based diet,[1] primarily because it is an animal-derived product. Still, there are other reasons why butter is not considered vegan.

Animal Exploitation

Butter is made from the milk of cows, goats, or other animals. The production of dairy involves the use of animals for their milk, which is considered animal exploitation by vegans. Veganism aims to avoid the use of any animal products or by-products.

Animal Agriculture And Environmental Impact

The dairy industry, including butter production, contributes to environmental issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, deforestation, and land degradation. By abstaining from butter and other dairy products, vegans help reduce their environmental footprint.[2]

Animal Welfare Concerns

The dairy industry often involves practices that raise concerns about animal welfare. These may include the separation of calves from their mothers, confinement in small spaces, and practices such as dehorning or tail docking. Vegans choose to avoid supporting these practices by choosing plant-based butter as an alternative.

Availability Of Plant-Based Alternatives

With the growing popularity of plant-based diets, there are numerous vegan butter alternatives available. These alternatives are typically made from plant-based oils, nuts, or other plant-based ingredients. This allows vegans to enjoy buttery flavors and textures without using animal products.

Health Considerations

Butter is high in saturated fat[3] and cholesterol, which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease[4] and other health issues. Vegans often choose to follow a plant-based diet for health reasons,[5] and opting for plant-based butter can be part of a healthier dietary approach.

Overall, avoiding dairy butter on a vegan diet aligns with the ethical, environmental, and health principles of veganism. Vegans prioritize the well-being of animals, the planet, and their own health by opting for vegan butter.

How Is Butter Made?

​​Butter is made through a process called churning, which involves agitating cream until it separates into butterfat and buttermilk. 

  1. Cream separation: Fresh milk is allowed to stand, allowing the cream to rise naturally to the top due to its higher fat content. Alternatively, the cream can be separated from milk using centrifugal force in a cream separator.
  1. Skimming: The cream is carefully skimmed off the top of the milk, leaving behind the lower-fat milk.
  1. Churning: The cream is then placed in a container or churn and agitated vigorously. Churning can be done using various methods, including hand churning, mechanical churns, or even electric mixers. The agitation causes the fat globules in the cream to clump together.
  1. Butter separation: As the cream is agitated, the fat globules begin to stick together and form larger clumps. Eventually, these clumps separate from the liquid portion of the cream, known as buttermilk.
  1. Washing and working: The clumps of butterfat are removed from the churn and rinsed with cold water. This helps remove any remaining buttermilk, which could cause the butter to spoil faster. The butter is then worked or kneaded to further remove moisture and improve texture.
  1. Salt addition: Some butter varieties include salt for flavoring and as a preservative. If salt is desired, it can be mixed into the butter during the working stage.
  1. Packaging: Finally, the butter is shaped into blocks, sticks, or other desired forms and packaged for sale or refrigeration.

It’s important to note that traditional butter-making often uses cream from animal milk, such as cows or goats. However, there are also plant-based alternatives, such as vegan butter, made using different methods and ingredients to replicate the taste and texture of traditional butter without animal products.

Vegan Butter Substitutes

There are several vegan butter substitutes available that can be used as alternatives in cooking, baking, or spreading. Here’s what you can use in your next vegan butter recipe.

Margarine

The use of vegan margarine is a popular type of butter alternative. Look for margarines labeled as vegan or dairy-free to ensure they do not contain any animal-derived ingredients. Margarines made from vegetable oils such as palm oil and sunflower oil are commonly used in baking and cooking and have a buttery taste.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a versatile and popular option for replacing dairy butter in many recipes. It has a similar texture when solid and can be used in baking, sautéing, or spreading. It’s also gluten-free and soy-free.

Nut And Seed Butters

Seed and nut butter, such as almond butter, cashew butter, or tahini, can provide a creamy and rich texture similar to butter. They can be used as spreads or in baking recipes. Nuts and seeds also add a variety of essential vitamins and minerals that are known to be beneficial to your well-being.[6]

Avocado And Avocado Oil

Mashed or pureed avocado can be used as a healthy substitute for butter in certain recipes, like in a creamy Alfredo pasta sauce or as a spread on toast. Avocado adds a creamy texture and a nutritional boost of healthy fats. Many vegan meal replacement bars include avocados in their ingredient list.

Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil can be used as a butter alternative in some recipes, particularly in savory dishes. It works well for sautéing or roasting vegetables and can add a rich flavor to dishes.

Applesauce Or Mashed Banana

In baking recipes, unsweetened applesauce or mashed ripe banana can act as vegan butter to add moisture and texture. These substitutes work best in recipes like muffins, quick breads, or cakes. They can also be added to green powders and fruits and veggies for delicious and creamy smoothies. 

When substituting butter, it’s important to consider each vegan butter’s specific qualities and characteristics and how they may impact the final result. Experimenting with different options can help you find the best vegan butter brand for your needs and preferences.

Many vegan meal delivery services often use vegan butter in their ingredients, helping you learn how to replace this staple ingredient in a delicious vegan butter recipe. 

Final Thought

Although traditional butter comes from animal sources and cannot be eaten on a vegan meal plan, many vegan butter alternatives are made from plant-based sources. They can include olive, coconut, and other vegetable oils to improve flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do vegan people eat butter?

Vegans don’t eat butter as it comes from animals.

What do vegans eat instead of butter?

Vegans eat vegan butter substitutes from non-animal sources such as nuts, seeds, plant-based milk, and vegetable oils.

Do vegans eat butter and eggs?

Vegans do not eat butter and eggs as they’re animal byproducts.


+ 6 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Dimitra Rafailia Bakaloudi, Halloran, A., Rippin, H., Artemis Christina Oikonomidou, Theodoros Dardavesis, Williams, J., Kremlin Wickramasinghe, Breda, J. and M. Chourdakis (2021). Intake and adequacy of the vegan diet. A systematic review of the evidence. [online] 40(5), pp.3503–3521. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2020.11.035.
  2. Craig, W.J., Ann Reed Mangels, Ujué Fresán, Marsh, K., Miles, F.L., Saunders, A., Haddad, E., Heskey, C., Johnston, P.K., Enette Larson-Meyer and Orlich, M.J. (2021). The Safe and Effective Use of Plant-Based Diets with Guidelines for Health Professionals. [online] 13(11), pp.4144–4144. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13114144.
  3. Paszczyk, B. (2022). Cheese and Butter as a Source of Health-Promoting Fatty Acids in the Human Diet. [online] 12(23), pp.3424–3424. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12233424.
  4. Engel, S. and Tine Tholstrup (2015). Butter increased total and LDL cholesterol compared with olive oil but resulted in higher HDL cholesterol compared with a habitual diet. [online] 102(2), pp.309–315. doi:https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.112227.
  5. Marrone, G., Guerriero, C., D Palazzetti, Paolo Lido, Marolla, A., Francesca Di Daniele and Noce, A. (2021). Vegan Diet Health Benefits in Metabolic Syndrome. [online] 13(3), pp.817–817. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13030817.
  6. Rajiv Balakrishna, Tonje Bjørnerud, Mitra Bemanian, Aune, D. and Lars Thore Fadnes (2022). Consumption of Nuts and Seeds and Health Outcomes Including Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes and Metabolic Disease, Cancer, and Mortality: An Umbrella Review. [online] 13(6), pp.2136–2148. doi:https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmac077.
Karla Tafra

Medically reviewed by:

Chelsea Rae Bourgeois

Karla is a published author, speaker, certified nutritionist, and yoga teacher, and she's passionate when writing about nutrition, health, fitness, and overall wellness topics. Her work has been featured on popular sites like Healthline, Psychology.com, Well and Good, Women's Health, Mindbodygreen, Medium, Yoga Journal, Lifesavvy, and Bodybuilding.com. In addition to writing about these topics, she also teaches yoga classes, offers nutrition coaching, organizes wellness seminars and workshops, creates content for various brands & provides copywriting services to companies.

Medically reviewed by:

Chelsea Rae Bourgeois

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