Taste Test: The Best Vegan Butters for Your Mashed Potatoes
There are cat people and dog people. There are beach people and mountain people. We just discovered that there are also butter and margarine people. So that may be why in our "which is the best plant-based butter" taste test, there was a divide between testers who liked a soft spread and those who preferred a block of hard butter that melted slowly, like an ice cube.
We tested five popular ones and found that other than texture or thickness the biggest divide was on health attributes. If you care about avoiding saturated fat for the sake of your heart health then you need to be mindful of those vegan butters that have palm oil, coconut oil or palm kernel oil as one of the top ingredients on the label since all three are extremely high in saturated fat. And studies have shown a direct link between sat fat and a higher risk of heart disease.
Look for other nut oils such as cashew or a vegetable oil lower in saturated fat such as canola oil, flax or more of an olive oil quotient. When you see a "hard block" or more solid butter at room temperature chances are it's higher in sat fat, since saturated fat is solid at room temperature.
The American Heart Association recommends we get no more than 5 percent of our total daily calories from saturated fat, which translates into about 10 to 13 grams depending on how much you eat in a day. The Miyokos we tested contains 8 grams in a single serving and the Earth Balance has 3 grams because it is a softer spreadable butter with a blend of oils.
Look at the labels before you buy your next vegan butter since just because it says vegan does not mean it's healthy, warns Dr. Joel Kahn, a leading cardiologist, and plant-based nutrition advocate, and author of The Whole Heart Solution. Read more on sat fat and The Hidden Danger In Your So-Called Healthy Vegan Butter.
Coconut and palm kernel oil are both about 85 percent saturated fat and so while you’re trying to eat healthier, you may not realize these fats undermine your long-term goal. Instead look for canola, olive, avocado, and other oils as based ingredients. The Earth Balance on this list also has pea protein so all in all, this tie comes down to choosing your preference and your nutritional pleasure or poison.
We also tested I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter… It’s Vegan, which lost out in the initial taste test round to Earth Balance. The reason? Even though I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter only has 2 grams of Saturated Fat it didn’t have the same salty satisfying taste.)
Bottom line: If you’re avoiding Sat Fat, go with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter. If you’re aiming to have a delicious toast or crumpet with your favorite buttery spread in the am, then choose these according to personal preference. Miyoko's will be the crowd-pleaser among butter lovers and Earth Balance will win among the margarine voters. We would love to hear your opinion!
The testing went like this:
The whole office joined us in this taste test. The toaster was working overtime to keep up with the demand of tasters, who circled back for more after their initial tasting. The minute people see some bread and butter they seem to lose all self-control.
We didn’t reveal to the tasters which butter was which. The only thing everyone agreed upon was that both butters tasted just like the real thing. The decision was split on which was tastier.
For all the Beet Meters, check out the best vegan products.
1. Miyoko's European Style Cultured Vegan Butter
This butter is the most like what you'd get straight from the farm: It comes in a block and has a consistency that is convincingly butter-like. It also spread like the real thing too. Butter lovers will be happy, but with 8 grams of Sat Fat, it's no health bargain.
2. Rich and Creamy Melt Organic Spread
Melt, which is made from the oil of coconuts, palm, canola, sunflower, and flaxseed, scored high in the taste test for those testers who love a salty buttery spread on their muffins and bagels. No one could drag themselves away from the office toaster and everyone admitted it might not be the healthiest thing to snack on, but it was satisfyingly delicious.
3. Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread
This has a whipped butter consistency and will be a crowd please for anyone who wants a salty smooth spread. Testers described this as more like margarine than butter, but they kept coming back for more. The number one ingredient in this product is palm oil, which is so high in sat fat that anyone with elevated heart disease risk will want to avoid it.
4. Earth Balance Olive Oil Buttery Spread
We loved the spreadable texture of this Earth Balance vegan butter. However, when we looked closely at the label, we felt duped: The front says it's made with a hint of olive oil but when you look closely at the label, the vegetable oil blend is made with canola, palm, sunflower, flax and then extra virgin olive oil in the fifth position. Still, it managed to be the second-lowest in sat fat in any that we tested with 80 calories and 2 grams of sat fat. Unless you're going to use olive oil on your bread or corn, this is a valid choice.
5. I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter… It’s Vegan
This spread is like margarine so if you like that, you'll love this. With only 60 calories and 2 grams of sat fat, this is the healthiest of the butters we tested. The more we know about how unhealthy sat fat is, the more we appreciate this butter. So though it may not have won in every category for taste, it definitely takes home the highest marks for being the healthiest option.
No matter the brand, all of our testers went back for seconds. The choices came down to personal preference. So if butter is your guilty pleasure, reach for Miyoko's European Style Cultured Vegan Butter and for all you margarine lovers out there, you will not be disappointed with Earth Balance Original Butter.