What to use instead of butter

The problem with margarine

Many margarines have no animal products but most of them do have palm oil, for which many animals are killed, rain forests are destroyed, and often local communities uprooted. For this reason vegans who are aware of the problems with palm oil usually do not use products with palm oil. Fortunately, there are lots of alternatives.

Make your own vegan butter

There’s a technical explanation of butter and recipes for several varieties of vegan butter on veganbaking.net. Or try a simpler recipe for futter.

Olive Oil and Sea Salt

For toast, try olive oil and sea salt.

Flax Seed Oil

Serve your vegetables with flax seed oil instead of butter. But only drizzle it over your cooked vegetables. The fatty acids in the oil become unstable at high temperatures, so you should never cook with flax oil.

Mashed Avocado

Mashed avocado is a great spread for bread. Although its flavor is different, its texture is rich and creamy. It is sometimes used in baking as well.

Onion Butter

If you’ve never tried onion butter, you won’t believe how sweet and creamy it is. Onion butter is made by slowly cooking onions for 6-8 hours. They shrink down into a very soft and spreadable vegetable butter. It’s great on toast, crusty bread or vegetables.

Carrot Butter, Squash Butter and Carrot Cashew Butter

Carrot butter, ginger squash butter, and carrot cashew butter go well with any type of bread or toast, but they go especially well with corn bread.

Fruit Butter

Fruit butters like pear and apple butter make great thick spreads for pancakes and waffles.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil tastes nothing like butter, but it makes a great oil for baked goods and sauteeing foods. In Indian cooking, coconut oil can be used in place of ghee. It can also be used on pancakes, muffins and sweet breads.

Sesame Oil or Corn Oil for Baking

Light sesame oil or corn oil can also be used in place of butter in baking. If you use sesame oil, make sure to get the untoasted sesame oil, not the toasted oil which has a strong flavor and is better suited to savory dishes. Corn oil has a slightly buttery taste. If you use corn oil, make sure it is organic and GMO-free. Corn is very often genetically modified and also a frequently pesticide-laden crop. Or skip the oil altogether and just use applesauce to moisten your baked goods.


Margarine is often considered an essential ingredient in frosting, but there are alternatives. Coconut oil can sometimes be used. Cooked flour frostings usually call for only a small amount of margarine, so coconut oil can often be used instead. Some types of frosting don’t require margarine at all, like ganache, cashew cream frosting, and cream cheese frosting. If you’re making a cream cheese frosting, be sure to use a brand that’s vegan, palm oil-free and trans fat-free, like Galaxy Foods or Trader Joe’s vegan cream cheeses.


Caramel also calls for butter or margarine most of the time. But with a little creativity, you can make a margarine-free version, like coconut caramel.