Whether you want a buttery spread for toast and sauces, or buttery sticks for baking and sweets, this homemade dairy-free butter alternative has you covered. This delicious, budget-friendly recipe is from my flagship book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook. I’ve put it through the ultimate tests—including batches of vegan (egg-free) “Tollhouse” cookies at high altitude. There was no greasy separation, just perfect chewy cookies every time.
Homemade Dairy-Free Butter for Spreading, Cooking, and Baking
The base of this inexpensive dairy-free butter recipe is simply two types of oil and milk alternative. But I explain below the lesser ingredients, their functions, if you need them, and options.
What is a Neutral-Tasting Oil?
It’s a cooking oil that doesn’t impart a notable taste. I often use grapeseed oil, extra-light olive oil (not extra virgin), or rice bran oil. But oils like safflower, canola, and vegetable are also considered neutral oils. You can use any type of liquid oil for this ingredient, like avocado oil or a nut oil, but they will impart a little more flavor on this homemade dairy-free butter recipe.
Is There a Good Substitute for the Coconut Oil?
Saturated fat is what allows dairy to thicken into butter. Unfortunately, there are very few plant foods that are high in saturated fat. Coconut oil and palm oil the primary sources, which is why you see one or both in all store bought dairy-free buttery spreads and buttery sticks. Cocoa butter is another one, but it is far more dense at room temperature. You can substitute palm oil for the coconut oil, but other oils will not set up properly.
Does this Homemade Dairy-Free Butter Taste Like Coconut?
I’ve used unrefined coconut oil, and we didn’t notice an overwhelming coconut flavor by any means. But, to mitigate any coconut flavor, use refined coconut oil. It’s been processed to remove the coconut flavor and scent for a more neutral oil that’s still rich and buttery.
What is Lecithin?
Basically, lecithin is a type of fat that has excellent emulsification properties. It helps to bind oil and water. That’s why it’s such a common ingredient in dairy-free buttery spreads and sticks, milk alternatives, mayonnaise, and salad dressings. The three most readily available lecithin products are made from egg, soy, and sunflower. I tested this homemade dairy-free butter recipe with a liquid version of sunflower lecithin. You can find lecithin at supplement stores or in the supplement section of many grocers. You can also order it online from stores like Vitacost and Amazon.
Is Lecithin Required?
As mentioned, it helps to emulsify oil and liquid, which is important to this recipe. But some milk alternatives contain enough lecithin in their own ingredients to catch a proper emulsion, and soymilk tends to emulsify quite well. So you might find the recipe works well without the added lecithin. If you struggle to get an emulsion and/or it separates easily, then you do need the added lecithin.
I Used Lecithin in Another Recipe and it Didn’t Work. Why?
Some recipes tell you to simply stir or blend it in. You do need to properly emulsify the lecithin into the liquid, and then slowly add the oil. Follow the steps in the recipe below.
What Does the Gum Do?
Xanthan gum is added to help bind that emulsification so it doesn’t break when baking. If you’ve ever ended up with greasy dairy-free cookies then you’ve witnessed a separation issue.
Can I Omit the Gum?
You can omit the gum if you’re just using this dairy-free butter alternative for spreading, cooking, or baked goods that work well with oil, like cake. Like lecithin, some milk alternatives are already made with gum, and might have enough gum in them to help bind the emulsification in this homemade dairy-free butter alternative. But if you notice any greasy results in a well tested recipe, it’s most likely due to separation that xanthan gum or guar gum would fix.
What Milk Alternative Works Best in this Dairy-Free Butter?
I stock simple unsweetened coconut milk beverage for most recipe tests, because it’s richer, allergy-friendly, and versatile. But it also isn’t high in lecithin or gums. Pea milk, other protein milks, and certain oat milks tend to be higher in lecithin, gums, and other binders and emulsifiers. So they are better options if you want to try making this dairy-free butter alternative without adding more lecithin or gum. Soymilk also tends to emulsify quite well, as you can see in my Soy Whipped Cream Recipe. So it might also work well if you want to avoid purchasing lecithin and/or gum.
Does this Dairy-Free Butter Hold Up at Room Temperature?
Yes, like regular butter, this dairy-free butter alternative won’t melt at room temperature (unless your home is quite warm!), but will soften. The picture below shows a buttery stick after it’s been out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
Special Diet Notes: Homemade Dairy-Free Butter
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free, peanut-free, optionally soy-free, vegan, plant-based, vegetarian, and keto-friendly. If you are confused about the status of coconut, please read this post: Is Coconut a Tree Nut?
- ½ cup unsweetened plain dairy-free milk beverage
- 2 teaspoons liquid sunflower lecithin or soy lecithin (see post above for options)
- ¾ cup neutral-tasting oil
- 1 cup coconut oil, melted (use refined for no coconut taste)
- 1 teaspoon sustainable red palm oil, for color (optional)
- ½ teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum (see post above for options)
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Put the milk beverage in a blender, food processor, or medium mixing bowl. With the motor or a hand mixer running, slowly drizzle in the lecithin. Continue mixing until it is completely incorporated, about 1 minute (this may take a little longer with a hand mixer).
- With the motor or mixer still running, add just a few drops of the neutral oil. Once it has emulsified, very slowly drizzle in the remaining neutral oil, followed by the coconut oil.
- Add the red palm oil (if using), xanthan gum, and salt. Process or mix to combine.
- If it isn’t already in a bowl, pour the emulsified liquid into a medium mixing bowl. Place the bowl in an ice water bath within a larger bowl or pot. Immediately begin mixing with your hand mixer on low speed until softly whipped. It will thicken before your eyes in just a couple of minutes!
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.