The Real Difference Between Vegan Butter And Margarine

If you've ever used vegan butter and margarine, you may have noticed that the two butter substitutes are fairly similar in color, consistency, and taste. The main difference between these two spreads, however, is that margarine is sometimes made with dairy, while vegan butter is not (via MyRecipes).

While margarine is made predominantly with vegetable oil, some brands can still contain trace amounts of dairy. Margarine must contain at least 80 percent fat, according to the US Department of Agriculture, and adding milk is one way to achieve this requirement.

Not all brands of margarine specifically state whether or not the product is vegan, so it's important to check the list of ingredients to find out for sure. Margarine that is not vegan or dairy free will likely contain whey, lactose, casein, or caseinate (via The Spruce Eats). Vegan butter, on the other hand, is essentially dairy-free margarine and is made entirely from plant-based oils.

Plant-based butter vs. regular butter

Vegan butter and dairy-free margarine are both popular alternatives to butter, but is plant-based butter really healthier than regular butter? Unlike regular butter, plant-based butter and dairy-free margarine are made with either olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, or palm kernel oil (via Healthline).

As a result, they tend to be higher in monounsaturated fats and lower in saturated fat than regular butter. Multiple studies have found that monounsaturated fats may help reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity. While preliminary studies have linked saturated fat with high cholesterol, more research is still needed to determine whether or not this is accurate.

In addition, plant-based butters can often be high in omega-6 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat found in vegetable oils. Having too much in your diet can lead to increased inflammation. Other than this, there are no major nutritional differences between the plant-based butter and regular butter. Both have high calorie densities and should be consumed in moderation.