How to make a homemade dairy & soy-free margarine alternative that spreads and melts!

(Our dairy and soy free homemade butter/ margarine alternative)

Every now and then I get asked to create a recipe for someone and usually I relish the challenge. So last year when I was asked to create a margarine alternative, I liked the idea and it was one of those recipes on the “to create” list for awhile, but frankly I thought it was a bit beyond me. Don’t get me wrong, I had some basic ideas about the “bits” of the recipe I’d need to bring together, e.g.:

  • a saturated fat (like coconut oil – a saturated fat is one that’s solid at room temperature)
  • an oil like olive oil, safflower oil, flaxseed oil. (An oil is a fat that is a liquid at room temperature) basically combining the two would help make the margarine a soft solid. Also, coconut oil is one of those fats that melts when it gets warm, so adding the coconut oil to the mix and spreading it over a freshly baked scone (dairy, soy, gluten and egg free of course;-) would allow it to melt (Yuuuum!)
  • I would need something that would help hold all the ingredients in my butter alternative together
  • as well as something to contribute to a creamy / yellowy colour and an opaque appearance (without adding too much external flavour because margarine and butter are creamy but they don’t really have a strong flavour).

It was the “something that would hold the oils together” which had me a little stumped. Commercial margarine alternatives usually contain lecithin which is an emulsifier (basically it holds the different parts of recipes together).

While I’ve seen soy lecithin in stores, I wanted to avoid soy (mostly because it makes me itchy) and so that left option 2: sunflower lecithin. The only problem is that I’ve never seen sunflower lecithin in my local supermarket or my local health food store (and I’ve got two local health food stores which have a pretty good range of options). When creating recipes for Alternative Chef Kitchen and The Little Book of Allergy-Friendly Recipes Series I really wanted to stick to ingredients that people could find relatively easily. So I found myself wondering about what I could use and essentially put the recipe in the “too hard for now” basket.

(my Butter Bean Butter garlic bread:-)

Anyway, a few months ago Glenys and I were troubleshooting a part of her Tasty Cheese recipe and as we were talking about options, I suggested trying butter beans. We thought it might work, so I went home and gave it a go and voila! It solved our cheese problem and as I tasted the butter bean blitzed with coconut oil, I knew I’d found the solution to the margarine problem too.

After the first experiment was a success, and I was trying different ways of making the margarine, I decided to try cashews and sunflower seeds (because blitzed cashews hold coconut oil and other liquids together really well in vegan cheesecakes and sunflower seeds are a great emulsifier in rice milk). So I soaked some cashews and sunflower seeds and what do you know, that worked too!

The last challenge was getting the flavour right, because although a pinch of turmeric will give you a yellow colour, you can’t add too much or you’ll be overpowered by the taste of turmeric (I like the flavour, but when I’m eating a scone and re-living childhood memories of butter melting I don’t especially want turmeric overpowering that experience;-). Anyway, I managed to figure that out too (with a pretty simple solution that you can find in the supermarket or health food store, and if you make some of our other recipes, you’ll probably already have on hand).

(Our gluten, dairy, soy and egg free scones with Butter Bean Butter – it melts! Sooo yummy!)

Part of the problem was solved by making sure I had the right oils e.g.

  • the right type of coconut oil (e.g. refined coconut oil as it doesn’t have a coconut taste) and
  • the right unsaturated oil (I’d suggest avoiding strong flavoured oils like extra virgin olive oil unless you love it – but even then that can be a bit overpowering;-)

These were the basic steps for the three butter/ margarine alternatives I created:

  • the Butter Bean Butter
  • the Cashew Margarine and the
  • Sunflower Seed Spread

I had to add in some extra tweaks for each recipe:  and you can find those tweaks and the recipe for each of the three butter alternatives in our ebook  The Little Book of Allergy-Friendly Sandwich Fillers.

I should add that these recipes are really easy to make (no butter churners or elbow grease needed!;-) Though you’ll need either a food processor or really good stick blender.

I’m still having fun experimenting with this butter/ margarine but so far I can tell you that it’s not just great on scones (recipe for those above coming soon), and it’s also great on baked potato and garlic bread too:-)

Anyway, I’m off to experiment some more. If you’d like the recipes, just click here. As our book is available on all major online ebook retailers. If you’re dairy and soy free, and you’ve been missing butter, we’d love to hear what you think:-)