Butter substitutes: Which are the best and how do you use them?
A quick guide to butter substitutes for the uninitiated
For those of us who can't do dairy, whether it's due to intolerance (like me) or dietary choice (e.g. you're a vegan or just want to cut down a bit), we lose out on a lot of things. One of those things, unfortunately, is butter. Thankfully, if you can't have butter anymore or don't want to use it, there are plenty of substitute choices out there.
My almost entirely dairy intolerant family has tried all the different options available to us at some point or another. So, I've decided to put a quick guide together: what butter substitutes are around on the market, which ones are the best and what are the best uses for them?
(Disclaimer - I live in the UK and I am mentioning products that are all available in the UK. If you live elsewhere, some of these products may not be available, or they may be marketed in your country under a different brand.)
Flora has been around for donkey's years, although it's only recently gone dairy-free. It's a well-known, well-trusted brand and millions of people buy and use it every year. It's a great tasting product across the board, but the Buttery version is the best of the bunch: I'd even go as far as to say Flora Buttery is the best-tasting option out there.
Flora Buttery also has a low moisture content compared to other kinds of margarine/butter substitutes, making it a really good option for baking (and frosting in particular). It also makes very good shortcrust pastry. Flora is pretty much a global product, so you should be able to get it in any supermarket anywhere.
While all varieties of Flora are good for basically all applications, Flora Light tends to have a fairly high moisture content, so it's not a brilliant option for cakes (you can split it half and half with another, less wet spread, to sort that out). Personally, I wouldn't recommend it for frostings.
Stork is another brand that's been around for absolutely ages. It's the granddaddy of them all when it comes to dairy-free spreads: it's been around since the 1920s and it's still manufactured in the same factory in Purfleet to this day. It became a very popular product during wartime and after, as butter was heavily rationed. This popularity was partly driven by the Stork Cookery Service, which published multiple Stork-centric cookbooks that you can still find today.
The village of Madeley in Staffordshire even became associated with Stork, as a lorry laden with it overturned on a corner of the A531, resulting in a crowd people coming to try to salvage the precious cargo on board. The turn ended up becoming known as Margarine Corner.
If you're a keen baker, Stork is probably one of the options you want to go for as it's low in moisture content, making it absolutely fantastic for any kind of cakes. Some bakers prefer using Stork in their cakes to butter, as it can give a lighter cake and a better rise. It is, however, not really brilliant for anything else. Other well-known and well-trusted brands like Flora and Pure (we'll get to Pure in a little bit) are better for uses outside of baking and Flora Buttery can put up a good competition to Stork when it comes to baking.
Pure is another well-known brand. Pure comes in several varieties; sunflower, soy and olive. It's definitely one of the best ones you can find on the market and all the variants are pretty good for every use.
While it is a really great product and it has a generally inoffensive taste, it is a little bit high in moisture content compared to butter and other butter substitutes. While this won't really affect your cakes if you're making something like a Victoria sponge, it does create some issues if you're using it to make icing or toppings. If you're using Pure for this, you may need to adjust your recipes slightly to accommodate for the higher water content, such as adding extra icing sugar.
Marks & Spencer
Believe it or not, Marks & Sparks makes its own brand of butter substitute. As you'd expect from an own-brand supermarket product, it's nothing flashy, but it does the job pretty well. The only problem with this product really is that unless you have a Marks near where you live, or you can get delivery from them online, you can't get hold of this stuff.