Better than Butter

Rarely does being a vegan feel limiting, despite the [uninformed] majority opinion on everything that might be “lacking” from a plant-based diet. However, even I have to balk when confronted by the idea of a soy-free vegan. That protein-packed little bean seems to sneak into just about everything these days, and can be hard enough to avoid for an omnivore, let alone a traditionally tofu- and soymilk-heavy veggie diet. Politics aside, I agree that we’ve gone overboard with the soy additives in recent years, and it simply can’t hurt to seek out more alternatives when given the option.

Well, up until just a few months ago, soy-free, dairy-free folks have been plum out of luck when it comes to finding a suitable buttery spread; Absolutely nothing fit the criteria, always being based on soybean oil with a pinch of soy lecithin thrown in for good measure. Finally, demand has created supply, and Earth Balance has expanded their line of vegan spreads to include a Soy-Free Natural Buttery Spread.

Spreadable right out of the fridge, this tub-based spread will undoubtedly be the answer to many buttery prayers. Almost indistinguishable in flavor from its predecessors, you won’t miss the soy one bit here. I did feel that when used plain to top bread or toast, it could stand a good hit of salt, and was just a tad waxy while still cold, but just a few moments at room temperature will remedy that. It does melt quite quickly, so don’t leave this one out on the counter in the middle of a hot summer day- You’ll find a tub full of plain oil in no time at all.

Happily, it also proved to be a perfectly acceptable margarine substitute for most baking applications as well. Creamed with sugar, flour, and spices to make a quick batch of ginger snaps, I was thrilled to see that they looked almost exactly the same as when they’re made with a solid stick margarine. Although somewhat cakier than usual, owing only to the added water inherent in a spreadable tub-based spread, no one could really complain about the sweet results.

Upping the ante a bit, I began to wonder- Would it be possible to make browned butter with this product? Well, why not? And happily, after a moment or two of nervous bubbling and sputtering on the stove, I found myself with a pot full of rich, nutty, amber-colored liquid, looking every bit as good as something dairy-based! Now, what to do with this fragrant fat?

Browned butter vanilla bean cupcakes, anyone?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Made by simply substituting my browned “butter” for the oil called for in my favorite basic vanilla cupcake recipe, this is a grown-up take on the classic that everyone could appreciate. Much more nuanced in flavor than the standard, and oh so rich, I can only imagine how fast they would fly if served instead of plain vanilla at a birthday party.

Lest I ignore all of the potential this product holds for savory applications, it seemed only appropriate to try out a nifty technique that I had so far only heard of, and typically applied almost exclusively to seafood: Butter poaching. Having recently stumbled upon butter-poached radishes, I figured that I could try other vegetables as well, and settled on the humble potato for my experiment.

Creating incredibly rich, tender slices of potato, accented with tarragon and a splash of vinegar, this is a side dish that couldn’t be easier to whip up; a real treat. Too morish to make often, but appropriate for occasional splurges, I’ll definitely have to try butter-poaching other vegetables now!

In case you’re looking for a cruelty-free and soy-free alternative to butter, look no further. This simple spread is the first that meets the criteria, and passes the taste test!

[Written for Go Dairy Free]

34 thoughts on “Better than Butter

  1. I usually use Nuttlex. I havent seen earth balance in Adealide supermarkets, although I havent looked for it either.
    Those cupcakes look delicious! Is there a recipe for them somewhere on your blog?
    Also, thankyou for your reply about the soyatoo cream :)


  2. Sadly we don’t get Earth Balance in Australia and according to the company there are no plans to bring it over here (well it’s been a year since I asked, so I guess I can always hope). It looks amazing though and I’m absolutely drooling over those taties!!

  3. Wow, yay for Earth Balance! It is so nice to see a company responding well to customer demands. Luckily I can eat soy in all its forms, but I know many vegans who cannot or choose not to so this makes me very happy for them. GREAT review, fabulous post as always! :-)

    And on a side note: butter poached potatoes? YES PLEASE!!!

  4. As a soyfree vegan, I’m glad it works just the same. But I was really hoping it would taste better and not at all like the original EB, which I do not like. Your cookies sure look good!

  5. I like Earth Balance. The first time I used it I wasn’t expecting it to mimic butter so closely, but I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve baked with it a bunch of times and it’s always worked perfectly. I am not a soy-free vegan, but I do try to limit my consumption of it. It’s nice that there is at least one soy-free margarine on the market now.

  6. I haven’t had butter in a LONG time, because I used to be scared to use it, and now I can’t have soy. This spread looks absolutely fabulous!

    I am dying over here staring at those cupcakes!!! Must. Have. Some.

  7. Wow! I never think of substituting butter. I love butter, that is. But you have really inspire me to expand my search. Great post as usual!

  8. oooh thanks for the info – that is actually the butter I use, even though I’m not a vegan. I’ve always wondered if you could use it in baking and I guess you can! Your pictures, as always, look amazing.

  9. It’s so funny, I was just at the store and picked up a tub of the soy-free Earth Balance. Glad to hear it passes the taste test, can’t wait to try it out! :-)

  10. There’s soy-free vegan? Wow, that’s quite a lot of restrictions. But I’m glad there’s a good butter sub out there for people who can’t take in such products!

  11. but but i looooove my soy….can’t imagine giving them beans up…i already gave up cheese! what more do you want from me!?!?

    *excuse the melodrama.reruns of 90210

    A lil’ theater for ya to perk up your weekend:)

    Anyhoo – things need to stop tasting better when cooked in butter. I refuse to go up a dress size!hehe

  12. Wow, no soy, vegan – what is *in* it then? I must admit, I would find the vegan lifestyle slightly constricting because the alternatives aren’t easy to find where I live, but taking soy out of the equation as well? Yikes! (No judgement here, just not my thing, you know?)

  13. Wow it looks like you cooked up some pretty gorgeous food using it, we can’t get earth balance here in the UK.

    P.s I wanted to grab that cookie and cupcake out of the picture and eat it!

  14. I love Earth Balance! I’m definitely going to try this new soy-free version. I agree- going soy free seems to be overboard. I was actually thinking about this a lot today. Yes, we shouldn’t have a diet based mostly on soy protien. We should have a large variety of foods we consume. But soy has great heath benefits, but with everything, use in moderation. Anyway, thanks for the review. Have a great week!

  15. I think that there is nothing better than butter, but your food looks outstanding and made a believer out of me. Trully creative, Hannah!

  16. Yay for the soy free version! Don’t get me wrong, like you I enjoy my tempeh, tofu and soy milk but there they are using soy ingredients for so many products. When you look at a salad dressing you see soy oil, energy bars-soy protein and so many more products. I can see why more people are becoming allergic because it’s in so many products, it’s like it’s a cheap filler or something. Anyways, I can’t wait to try this new Earth Balance.

  17. I love how informative your blog is about the vegan lifestyle (and your photos are just gorgeous). Browned buttery spread sounds rather innovative! I do wonder about the safety of heating unsaturated oils to the point at which they turn brown. I know browning butter is safe because it is a stable saturated fat. Just something to consider from a health standpoint! :)

  18. It’s April 2016 and I am looking for a buttery replacement without soy for dairy butter.

    1. Luckily, there are many more alternatives on the market these days! Melt is a mainstream option that is great for spreading on toast, but less promising for baking. A high-end option is Mikyoko’s Kitchen, which is the gold standard for butter as far as I’m concerned. I haven’t tried the Coconut Infusions by Ellyndale, but it seems like a promising choice for a more coconut-forward flavor. That’s just off the top of my head for soy-free products!

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