the best vegan spreads

The lowdown on vegan spreads

Veganism is on the rise.

The number of vegans in the UK quadrupled to 600,000 between 2014 and 2019. The amount of food products available to vegans has also risen and is continuing to rise, with the UK launching more vegan products than any other nation in 2018.1

Vegan spreads, cheese alternatives, sweets, chocolate and plant-based burgers, sausages, meatballs, and so on, the list of vegan food stuffs is growing longer by the day. That’s not including the number of people who are having a go at cooking up their own homemade vegan dishes too, and not simply relying on shop-bought stuff.

One of the ingredients most of us tend to use to give our morning toast some moisture, make our sandwiches stick together, and also cook with, are spreads, which also happen to come in a vegan variety too.

So, what do vegans spread on toast?

They use butter or margarine, but not just any old butter or margarine – vegan butter or margarine. The vegan butter alternatives are made from plant-based milk and have a similar texture and taste to dairy butter. But they’re not made from cow’s milk or sheep, goat, yak or buffalo milk.2

And then, of course, there’s not just margarine and butter to think about, there’s also your other toppings too, such as your jams, peanut butters, as well as other jars of ingredients that you/we use to make things taste just how we like them.

What makes vegan spreads vegan?

Vegan spreads, i.e. butter alternatives are made minus the traditional dairy butter that comes from fresh cream or milk. Instead, a similar process is followed, but vegetable, coconut or sunflower oils are used instead of the animal-based butterfat.

Interestingly, pretty much any type of plant-based oil can be turned into spread. This includes olive, avocado and almond oil.3 (Note – it’s still possible for some vegetable spreads to contain dairy, so make sure you double check the ingredients).4

What are the benefits of eating vegan spreads?

Well, if you’re vegan, then you’re not consuming a product that’s originated from animals because, as we all know, vegan diets are plant-based. Vegans do not eat any food that comes from animals or has been produced by animals.

When it comes to vegan spreads, e.g. your vegetable, coconut, sunflower, olive, avocado or almond oil-based spreads, most of them are fortified with vitamins.

Is margarine vegan?

It depends on what it’s been made from. Not all margarine is made from plant-based ingredients, so don’t assume it has been. If they’ve been made using buttermilk, they don’t tick the vegan box.

But, just like vegan butter, if they’re made from vegetable, coconut, sunflower, olive etc. oil, then they’re vegan. If in doubt, always double check those ingredients lists!5

What is the best vegan spread?

Good question! Well, we guess that very much depends on personal preference, as our tastebuds are all very different.

With that in mind, here’s a rundown of some of the alternatives to using butter or margarine as a spread or cooking ingredient. Here they are:6

  1. Oils – sunflower, olive, vegetable etc.

Rather than using a knob of butter to fry your onions or eggs, grab a bottle of sunflower, olive or any other type of plant-based oil instead. They’ll do just the same job, and can add some extra flavours to certain dishes. I.e. using toasted sesame oil for Asian dishes.

  1. Coconut oil

Believe it or not, coconut oil has a similar texture to butter when you’re cooking with it. It’s because of this that it’s great for baking. As for how much you need to use of it – look to replace any butter that’s in your recipes with 3/4 of coconut oil mixed with ¼ of cold/tepid water.

  1. Nut butters, hummus, vegetable pate

While you may not necessarily bake with these ingredients, you can most certainly pop them on your meals and snacks to give them some extra flavour! We’re thinking , mushroom pate on toast,  houmous and carrot sticks or on rice cakes or jacket potatoes, or a nut butter sandwich.

  1. Vegan butter and margarine

Which we’ve touched on up above. There are vegan-certified brands out there, as well as supermarket-own options. You can even make your own vegan butter spread (more on this below).

Popular vegan spreads to check out

The more you look for vegan spreads, the more you will find, and that doesn’t just include vegan butter and margarine either!

The vegan spreads list is definitely one to check out and keep monitoring, because more-and-more different products keep coming on to the vegan scene, including these popular options:

Meridian Organic Strawberry Fruit Spread (284g)

Available in four other different, but equally-popular flavours (blueberry, orange, apricot and blackcurrant), this fruit spread is suitable for both vegans and vegetarians.

It is perfect for breakfast on crumpets, toast or in natural yoghurt or porridge. It’s made with organic strawberries that are harvested and graded before being gently cooked in organic apple juice concentrate to produce a flavoursome lightly set spread.

Holland & Barrett Malt Extract (454g)

Made from selected English barley, this malt extract can be used as a replacement for refined sugar in most recipes. You can spread it on bread and toast, add it to cereals or eat a spoonful as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.

Meridian Natural Yeast Extract (340g)

Meridian's Natural Yeast Extract can be used as a spread or diluted in hot water for a drink or as stock.

It can be spread on toast or used to add some 'zing' to snacks or favourite dishes. It can also be diluted to create a savoury drink or used as a stock for stews and sauces. It contains added Vitamin B12.

How to make your own vegan spread

Quite like the thought of making your own vegan spread before you buy one? Or maybe you’ve already bought and tried one from the shops and want to see how the homemade variety compares?

This recipe, courtesy of Vegan.com, explains what you need and what you need to do7...

Ingredients

  • ½ cup soy milk, or almond or hemp milk—original, not unsweetened, not flavoured
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup canola oil or alternate (sunflower or safflower oil)
  • 2 tsp liquid soy or sunflower lecithin
  • 85 oz (109g) cocoa butter
  • ½ tsp guar gum or xanthan gum
  • Optional 1/8 tsp turmeric (for brighter yellow colour)

Method

  1. Blend or whisk together the non-dairy milk, lemon juice and salt. Add the oil and lecithin, but don’t stir. Put it to one side.
  2. Chop the cocoa butter into small bits and melt it in a small heatproof dish in the microwave. Let it cool down to below 90°F.
  3. Pour the liquid mixture (milk, oil, etc) into the cooled-off melted cocoa butter and add the guar or xanthan gum. Blend for a couple of minutes until thick and creamy.
  4. Immediately distribute the mixture evenly into six silicone cupcake liners or similar moulds and put them in the freezer for one hour.
  5. Take the butter out of the freezer and individually wrap in liners or cling film. Keep refrigerated and reuse within three weeks. You can freeze the other blocks.
Shop Vegan Spreads

Last updated: 30 November 2020

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