There are so many dairy-free butter options in stores these days, but which one is best for baking? I had several plant-based butters on hand from our Dairy-Free Hot Buttered Rum trials, so I decided to put them to the ultimate test, in cookies. I chose a very basic shortbread recipe, since it showcases butter, and has very few variables.
My friend Eleanor had dairy butter on hand, so we baked some with butter as the control batch for comparison. I wanted to offer a visual for how the end result spread and browned, and Eleanor was able to judge the taste.
Which Dairy-Free Butter is Best For Baking? We Compared …
Despite the fact that she eats dairy, my friend Eleanor enjoyed each variety of these cookies. She said she wouldn’t turn a single one down if offered. For the most part, I agreed. But I took notes, and put together our more picky responses and comparisons.
NOTE: We used salted varieties for two reasons. Salted dairy-free butter alternatives are easier to find (though Miyoko’s and Flora below each have unsalted varieties), and the recipe we used called for salt. We omitted the salt in the recipe. So the tests do take salt into account! If we had tested with unsalted, we would have added salt to the recipe, as written.
Earth Balance Buttery Spread (Original)
Eleanor said this dairy-free butter alternative produced the closest taste and texture to the dairy butter version. It had a similar spread to butter, nearly the same crispiness with a very light chew, and a well-rounded buttery flavor that married the cookie ingredients nicely. We were surprised since this was the only variety we tested that isn’t made specifically for baking.
Earth Balance Buttery Spread is a good option for mimicking butter, but there was one caveat. Due to its higher water content, these cookies had limited shelf stability. The chewiness increased a touch and they tasted slightly stale after a few days. (Of course, that didn’t stop Tony from eating them!) Earth Balance Buttery Sticks might be a better option for longevity (and they spread a little less), but we didn’t have them available to compare.
Miyoko’s Cultured Vegan Butter (Hint of Salt)
If you don’t want your cookies to spread at all, this is the best option. The dough was very crumbly, and the hardest to work with, but this equated to very little spread. The cookies were crisp on the outside, but very flaky and a bit biscuit-like. We also thought the flavor lacked butteriness and fell a little flat. They were good, but didn’t make us crave more.
This might be a good option for biscuits or other flaky baked goods. Or when you don’t want to impart too much butter flavor. But since it is so pricey, we’ll probably reserve this very pleasant-tasting butter for spreading and no-bake applications.
Country Crock Plant Butter Sticks (Almond Oil)
This is by far the most flavorful brand and the cookies had a nice light crispness with the perfect touch of flakiness. They also spread about the same as the dairy butter version. I loved the very rich, buttery flavor of these cookies. Eleanor liked them, but immediately said she tasted almond, even though I didn’t tell her there was almond oil in the plant butter.
All varieties of Country Crock are boldly salted and have underlying semi-fragrant oils. They seem to perform quite well, and are buttery. But since they carry more flavor, I wouldn’t use this brand with more delicate-tasting baked goods.
Flora Plant Butter (Salted)
These cookies spread the most, and also baked up a bit more quickly, as you can see by the more golden hue. They had a nice dense crispiness and a notable buttery taste. Eleanor really liked this version, saying the flavor was very similar to Earth Balance. But she preferred the slight chew of the Earth Balance texture. I liked the texture of these and the initial flavor, but the cookies had an “off” after taste that I couldn’t get past.
If your looking for a crisp finish and light buttery flavor, then this could be a good option. But expect free-form baked goods, like cookies and scones, to spread more and bake faster. And some people, like me, might notice the an after taste. Eleanor and Tony did not.
How Eleanor Ranked Them (Best to Worst)
Note: Eleanor compared these to dairy butter shortbread using the same recipe.
- Earth Balance – The closest to butter, hands down. Crispy but with a little chew.
- Flora Salted – Similar to Earth Balance, but they spread too much, making them a little crisper.
- Country Crock – Good overall, but the almond oil flavor was too strong.
- Miyoko’s – Lackluster in flavor and the texture was too biscuit-like.
How Alisa Ranked Them (Best to Worst)
Note: I only taste-tested the dairy-free butter shortbreads, so my picks are based purely on what I enjoyed.
- Country Crock – I loved the bold buttery flavor and light crisp and slightly flaky texture.
- Earth Balance – Well-rounded, delicious, and definite buttery flavor, but I didn’t like the slight chew.
- Flora Salted – Nice crisp and rich buttery vibe, but they spread too much, and had an aftertaste.
- Miyoko’s – Lackluster in flavor and the texture was too biscuit-like.
Quick Rankings: Dairy & Dairy-Free Butter
Spread (Most to Least)
- Country Crock / Dairy Butter (tie)
- Earth Balance
Crispiness & Shelf-Life (Most to Least)
- Flora – Relatively heavy crisp; fine for a week in an airtight container.
- Country Crock – Crisp but light; fine for several days in an airtight container.
- Earth Balance / Dairy Butter (tie) – Crispy and a little chewy; freeze within 3 days.
- Miyoko’s – Flaky more than crispy with a little chew; freeze within 2 to 3 days.
Flavor (Boldest to Blandest)
- Country Crock – Very rich, flavorful, and buttery.
- Flora – Boldly buttery with good balance.
- Earth Balance / Dairy Butter (tie) – Expected butteriness and just the right pinch of salt.
- Miyoko’s – Very mild with very faint butteriness, and less oomph.
How to Reduce Cookie Spread
- Use parchment paper instead of greasing the pan. Adding any grease / oil can encourage the cookies to spread more. Stick with parchment paper, if you can. Silicone baking mats work okay, for a while. But over time, they tend to absorb oil and become greasy themselves.
- Place the dough on completely cool baking sheets. Don’t be tempted to put your second batch of cut dough on a hot from the oven baking sheet. Let it cool completely or rotate in another sheet.
- Refrigerate the dough before baking. This is a step in my dairy-free shortbread cookies recipe. Depending on the butter alternative that you use, your dough might actually get too firm in the refrigerator. If it does, let it warm just a little at room temperature before rolling. You can re-refrigerate the cut dough, if you wish, before baking.
- Increase the oven temperature by 15 to 25°F. The higher temperature helps the cookies set more quickly, allowing less time for spread. But this does mean they will cook quicker, so begin checking for doneness sooner. I baked the Flora cookies at a hotter temperature, and they spread far less (looked more like the Earth Balance cookies), but they were also golden 5 minutes sooner.
- Sprinkle on just a little more flour. If the cookie dough feels far too greasy, it might benefit from just a little more flour. Don’t go overboard though, or they might taste too floury once baked.