No, butter is not dairy-free. Butter is made from the fat found in milk or cream, which are dairy products. If you’re looking for dairy-free alternatives, plant-based butters made from ingredients like coconut oil, olive oil, or various nut and seed oils are available. These substitutes may suit those with lactose intolerance, milk allergies, or a vegan or dairy-free diet.
Cross Contamination: Most brands process dairy-free butter varieties on the same equipment that processes dairy versions. Most store-bought butters come with this warning. You can look for a 100% vegan or dairy-free brand or make the butter at home to avoid this problem.
Natural Dairy-Free Substitutes
Coconut oil is a versatile and natural dairy-free substitute for butter. It has a similar texture and can be used for baking, cooking, or spreading on toast. Its high smoke point makes it suitable for frying as well. However, it has a distinct coconut flavor, which may not be suitable for all recipes.
Olive oil is another natural dairy-free alternative to butter. It is a heart-healthy option rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. It works well in recipes that call for melted butter, such as dressings and sautés. Use a light or extra-light variety to minimize the olive taste for baking.
Mashed avocado can be used as a dairy-free butter substitute in various recipes, including baking and spreading on toast. It provides a creamy texture and is rich in healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins. However, it may slightly change the color and flavor of the final product, so it’s best used in recipes where the taste can be complementary.
Unsweetened applesauce is a popular dairy-free and low-fat substitute for butter in baking recipes. It provides moisture and sweetness, allowing you to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe. Substitute half the butter with applesauce, but remember that this may result in a slightly different texture and flavor.
Nut and seed butters
Almond, cashew, and sunflower seed butters are great dairy-free alternatives to butter, offering a creamy texture and rich flavor. They can be used in baking, cooking, or as spreads. Be aware that they may change the taste of your recipe and may not be suitable for people with nut or seed allergies.
Dairy-Free Butter Brand
Earth Balance: Earth Balance offers a range of plant-based buttery spreads, sticks, and shortening made primarily from a blend of oils like palm, soybean, canola, and olive oil. They are vegan, non-GMO, and free of artificial ingredients.
Miyoko’s Creamery: Miyoko’s vegan butter is made from organic coconut oil, cashews, and other plant-based ingredients. It is crafted to mimic the taste and texture of traditional dairy butter and is free of lactose, gluten, and soy.
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter: This brand has a dairy-free, plant-based version of its popular spread made from a blend of oils, including palm, soybean, and canola oil. It is suitable for vegans and those looking to reduce their dairy intake.
Melt Organic: Melt offers a range of dairy-free butter spreads made from a blend of plant-based oils like coconut, palm fruit, and canola oil. Their products are vegan, non-GMO, and free from gluten, soy, and trans fats.
Country Crock: Country Crock’s Plant Butter line is available in sticks and tubs made from oils like almond, olive, or avocado. These dairy-free alternatives are suitable for vegans and those avoiding dairy without sacrificing taste or performance in cooking and baking.
Pure Blends: Pure Blends offers plant-based buttery spreads from avocado or coconut oils. They are vegan, gluten-free, and non-GMO, making them a good option for dairy-free alternatives.
WayFare: WayFare offers dairy-free butter made from a blend of plant-based oils and natural ingredients. Their vegan butter is free from gluten, soy, and palm oil and is designed to work well in cooking, baking, or simply spreading on your favorite foods.
Tips to Ensure that you only eat Dairy-Free Butter
Read labels: Always check the ingredient list on the packaging to ensure the product is dairy-free, vegan, or plant-based, and look for allergen warnings related to dairy.
Consider the base: Opt for plant-based butters made from oils like coconut, olive, avocado, or various nut and seed oils, which are naturally dairy-free.
Allergen certifications: Look for products with allergen certifications or “dairy-free” claims on the packaging, which can provide additional assurance.
Research brands: Familiarize yourself with popular dairy-free butter brands and their products, making it easier to spot them while shopping.
Check for taste and performance: Read reviews or ask for recommendations to ensure the dairy-free butter you choose works well for cooking, baking, and spreading and has a taste you enjoy.
Eating out: Inform the staff about dietary restrictions and ask for dairy-free alternatives or substitutes. Many restaurants are accommodating and may offer your meal plant-based butter or oil options.
Homemade Dairy-Free Butter Recipe
- 1/2 cup refined coconut oil (melted and cooled)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk or any other dairy-free milk
- 1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil (e.g., grapeseed, sunflower, or light olive oil)
- 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional, to taste)
- Combine the almond milk and apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in a small bowl. Stir well and let the mixture sit for a few minutes to create a “buttermilk” effect.
- Combine the melted and cooled coconut oil, the dairy-free milk mixture, and the neutral-tasting oil in a blender or food processor. Add sea salt if desired.
- Blend or process the ingredients until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides as needed. This should take about 1-2 minutes.
- Transfer the mixture to a lidded container or a silicone butter mold. Smooth the top with a spatula and cover it.
- Refrigerate the dairy-free butter for at least 2 hours or until it has set and become firm.
- Once set, you can use your homemade dairy-free butter as a spread or in cooking and baking recipes that call for regular butter. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for longer storage.
Note: The texture of homemade dairy-free butter may vary depending on the oils used, and it may become softer at room temperature. If this happens, simply return it to the refrigerator to firm up.
Is Butter High or Low in Lactose?
Butter is relatively low in lactose compared to other dairy products. While making butter, most lactose-containing liquid (whey) is separated from the butterfat. As a result, butter contains only trace amounts of lactose. However, it is not completely lactose-free, so individuals with severe lactose intolerance should still exercise caution and consider using lactose-free or dairy-free alternatives if necessary.
Is Vegan Butter Always Dairy-free?
Yes. Vegan butter is necessarily dairy-free. However, dairy-free butter may not always be vegan. Vegans don’t eat anything derived from animals, like honey, meat, eggs, or milk. A dairy-free diet only excludes milk and milk products. Hence, checking the labels and ingredients before buying if you are following a particular diet is important.
Is Peanut Butter Dairy-free?
Yes, peanut butter is typically dairy-free. It is made primarily from ground peanuts and may contain additional ingredients like oil, sugar, and salt. However, always check labels for added dairy or cross-contamination warnings, especially if you have a severe allergy or dietary restrictions.
Is Clarified Butter Dairy-free?
Clarified butter, also known as ghee, is not dairy-free. It is made by simmering butter to remove water and milk solids, leaving mostly butterfat. Although it has reduced lactose and casein content compared to regular butter, it is still a dairy product and unsuitable for those avoiding dairy completely.
Is Cocoa Butter Dairy-Free?
Yes, cocoa butter is dairy-free. It is a natural fat extracted from cocoa beans, the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree. Cocoa butter is commonly used in chocolate production and cosmetics, and it does not contain any dairy, making it suitable for those with dairy restrictions or following a vegan diet.
Is Shea Butter Dairy-Free?
Yes, shea butter is dairy-free. It is a natural fat extracted from the nuts of the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa), native to Africa. Shea butter is widely used in cosmetics, skincare products, and hair care. It does not contain dairy, making it suitable for those with dairy restrictions or following a vegan lifestyle.