What Is the Difference Between Vegan Butter and Regular Butter?

Plant-based eating has been around for millennia.

However, it’s exploded in popularity in recent years for a variety of reasons.

From milk alternatives to plant-based meats, plant-based products are on the rise. One of the most popular plant-based products is vegan butter. It can be used as an alternative to regular butter to turn recipes that typically require butter into plant-based recipes like Vegan Brownies and Vegan Biscuits

The question is, what’s the difference between vegan butter and regular butter made of dairy?

In this article, we’ll break down the difference between vegan butter and regular butter, including the health differences, flavor, and more!

Let’s dive right in!

Here’s What the Difference Is Between Vegan Butter and Regular Butter:

Regular butter is a dairy product sourced from milk or cream from cows. On the other hand, vegan butter is sourced from plants like coconuts, vegetables, and nuts to create a plant-based alternative to butter. Vegan butter is lower in cholesterol and higher in good fats but it is often more processed and higher priced than regular butter.

Vegan Butter vs. Regular Butter

So, what makes vegan butter different from regular old-fashioned butter?

The main difference comes down to the source of the fat. With regular butter, it sources its fat from cream or milk from cows. On the other hand, vegan butter derives its fat from plants.

How Is Vegan Butter Made?

Plant-based butter is typically created from a combination of different vegetable oils like soy, palm, or coconut oil. Typically, other ingredients are added like emulsifiers, salt, and water. Some brands like Nutiva also do a great job of using different flavors and colorings to closely mimic the taste and texture of regular better.

One reason vegan butter is rising in popularity so much is that it’s recently become much closer to the look, taste, and texture of real butter. For people who are vegan due to a healthier diet, because they’re lactose intolerant, or for ethical reasons, plant-based butter offers a wide variety of benefits.

How Is Regular Butter Made?

Regular, dairy butter is made from cow’s milk. After milking a cow, the milk or cream is then churned until it forms a solid. The solid is the fat from the milk or cream that becomes separated and shaped for use in cooking. 

Dairy butter is high in cholesterol and saturated fat. For those who are lactose intolerant or have dairy allergies, this can be a problem.

Regular butter has a distinctly rich and creamy taste and texture to it. On the other hand, vegan butter has a slightly different taste and texture depending on the brand. However, in recent years, plant-based butter has become much more similar to dairy butter in terms of texture and taste.

What Is the Difference Between Vegan Butter and Margarine?

Technically speaking, vegan butter is a type of margarine. However, not all margarine is vegan.

Let me explain.

The definition of the term “margarine” is simply a butter substitute made from vegetable oils or animal fats.

This means that you can call vegan butter margarine since it’s not derived from dairy. It’s spruced from vegetable oils. 

However, margarine can also be derived from animal fats which means not all margarine is plant-based.

Is Vegan Butter Better for You than Regular Butter?

So, is vegan butter better for you than regular dairy butter?

Here are a few pros and cons when it comes to the health impact of vegan butter:

High in Good Fats

Vegan butter is often packed full of monounsaturated fats. This type of unsaturated fat is derived from plant oils and nuts. Diets that have lots of monounsaturated fats in them have been associated with hearth, blood sugar, and body weight benefits.

Low in Saturated Fat

Vegan butter is typically lower in saturated fats compared to regular dairy butter. Studies show that saturated fat can be an increased risk factor for heart disease. Diets high in saturated fat can also be indicators of increased inflammation and chronic diseases.

On the other hand, plant-based diets are typically associated with lower risk of heart disease and chronic inflammation due to lower saturated fat.

Often Highly Processed

One of the biggest health disadvantages of vegan butter is that it’s often highly processed. This is because it takes quite a bit of work to extract and combine different vegetable and nut oils in order to craft vegan butter. 

While it’s not difficult to create a usable oil, it is a challenge to match the flavor and particularly the texture of dairy butter when creating a plant-based butter.

Studies have shown that diets that are filled with processed foods can be lower in essential ingredients and lead to increased risk of heart disease and obesity.

Often High in Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Another con of many vegan butters is the high amount of Omega-6 fatty acids. While Omega-6s are typically fine when in a diet alongside Omega-3s, they can be potentially harmful health-wise.

Studies have shown that diets high in Omega 6s but low in Omega 3s have been shown to increase inflammation.

Is Plant-Based Butter Healthier Than Regular Butter?

Wondering if plant-based butter is healthier than regular dairy butter?

Let’s take a look at the nutrition of 1 tablespoon of a popular vegan butter: Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks when compared to one tablespoon of unsalted butter:

Nutritional ValuesEarth Balance Vegan Butter SticksUnsalted Dairy Butter
Calories100 calories102 calories
Cholesterol0 mg30.5 mg
Sodium120 mg2 mg
Saturated Fat3.5 grams7 grams
Trans Fat0 grams0.5 grams
Monounsaturated Fat5 grams3 grams
Polyunsaturated Fat2.5 grams0.5 grams
Total Fat11 grams11.5 grams

As you’ll see by looking at the chart, the main differences in terms of overall nutrition are that vegan butters are cholesterol-free, have lower saturated fat, and have higher monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

On the other hand, they have nearly the same amount of total calories and higher sodium.

In summary, plant-based butters often provide healthier fats. However, they shouldn’t be used as a significant source of healthy fats in your diet since they can still be high in overall fat and sodium. 

Plus, they’re typically heavily processed. Diets that have a high percentage of processed foods have been shown to lead to a higher risk of obesity.

Does Vegan Butter Work the Same as Regular Butter?

In terms of cooking and baking, you may be wondering if vegan butter works the same as regular butter.

For the most part, vegan butter can be used interchangeably with regular butter in recipes.

However, vegan butters can vary from one brand to another. Some brands of vegan butter—like Nutiva’s Coconut Oil with Butter Flavor—work much better since the texture and especially the flavor is almost identical to regular butter.




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