Is Margarine Vegan? The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Butter Alternatives

We're here to spread the truth about whether this butter substitute is vegan.

is margarine vegan stick of margarine with butter knife

Treehugger / Catherine Song

While the first margarine arrived in Europe at the end of the 1860s due to a butter shortage, it was made with beef tallow churned with milk. We've come a long way since then. During the 20th century, further development of margarine—as well as other butter alternative spreads—led to an expanding market thanks to the combined efforts of food technologists, oil chemists, and chemical engineers.

But while margarine was once marketed as a healthier alternative to butter, is it a vegan alternative?

Produced simply from water, plant-based oils, and salt, margarine can be vegan. However, some kinds of margarine contain animal fats and other non-vegan additives. Here, we discuss the modern-day, plant-based truth about this spread.

When Is Margarine Not Vegan?

By the United States Department of Agriculture's definition, margarine is no less than 80% fat and no more than 2% salt. Vegan margarine is made from a relatively simple recipe, combining water and plant-based oil, such as soybean or corn, along with salt.

However, it is not uncommon to find animal products on margarine ingredients lists. Make sure to look out for whey, lactose, buttermilk, and casein (all dairy products). Likewise, sometimes suet, an animal fat, is included in the mix, along with Vitamin D3 and marine oil derived from fish.

Treehugger Tip

Our recommendation is to look for margarine or butter substitutes with a clear, certified vegan label rather than sifting through a complicated and questionable ingredients list.

Vegan Margarine and Butter Substitutes

There's a plant-based butter substitute for every taste and budget, from familiar name brands to artisanal versions sold in specialty stores and online. Whether you prefer simple butter flavor, lightly whipped recipes, or a decadently rich spread, a vegan option is available.

  • Earth Balance Vegan Butter
  • Earth Balance Organic Cocoanut Spread
  • I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter It’s Vegan! Spread
  • Country Crock “Plant Butter” sticks and spread in olive, almond, and avocado oil varieties
  • Fleischmann's Margarine
  • Ellyndale Organics Buttery Spread
  • Miyoko’s Creamery European Style Cultured Vegan Butter
  • Nuvita Organic Buttery Cocoanut Oil
  • Wildbrine Cultured Cashew Butter Alternative
  • Wild Creamery European Style Butter Alternative
  • Park Butter Vegan Buttery Spread Butter Substitute
  • Milkadamia Salted Buttery Spread
  • Forager's Project Buttery Spread
  • Wayfare Foods Dairy-Free Salted, Whipped Butter
  • Wildbrine European-Style Cultured Cashew Butter
  • Om Sweet Home Non-Dairy Butter Alternative

Non-Vegan Butter Substitutes

While margarine formulas have improved in taste and quality through the years, there are a few familiar names that should be passed over due to their inclusion of animal-based ingredients. Some brands that are now producing certified vegan spreads have other, earlier recipes still on the market with animal-based elements. Steer clear of:

  • Blue Bonnet Margarine
  • Imperial Margarine
  • Country Crock Light
  • Parkay Margarine
  • Parkay Squeezable 60% Vegetable Oil Spread
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Is butter or margarine vegan?

    Traditional butter is not vegan because it contains dairy. Some kinds of margarine are vegan, while others are made with animal fats and other non-vegan products. It is best to buy butter substitutes with a certified vegan label.

  • Is Country Crock margarine vegan?

    Regular Country Crock margarine is not vegan. However, the company offers "plant butter" options that are entirely vegan. Look for spreads made with oil, almond, and avocado oil.