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Usually made with vegetable oils such as palm and rapeseed, plant-based block spreads can be used as an everyday alternative to butter, whether you’re baking fluffy sponges or slathering it over a slice of toast.
But does ditching the dairy mean sacrificing a creamy, buttery taste? To find out, we asked a panel of 102 people to blind-taste and rate three vegan butter alternatives.
We were pleasantly surprised by the results. Naturli’s Vegan Block and Flora’s Plant B+tter both went down well with our tasters, scoring 73% and 72% respectively. And plenty of tasters felt they made a convincing substitute for the real deal.
Pure’s version scored slightly lower overall, but it’s still one to consider if you’re looking for a cheaper non-dairy option.
Read on to find out how each plant-based spread fared, what they’re made of and what this means for your health and the environment.
Naturli’ Organic Vegan Block – £1.95 for 200g
- Overall score: 73%
- Preferred by: 39%
Naturli’s Vegan Block, the most expensive we tested, got the highest score overall, just edging ahead of Flora.
Tasters gave it good marks for its rich, creamy texture, and several described it as having a buttery flavour. But while its taste impressed, our panel didn’t think it looked as appealing as the Flora or Pure versions, with around half finding the colour too pale.
However, most thought it did a pretty good job of mimicking the real thing overall, with 82% considering it a convincing substitute for dairy-based butter.
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Flora Plant B+tter Salted – £1.80 for 250g
- Overall score: 72%
- Preferred by: 37%
Flora’s butter alternative came a very close second, and 37% said they preferred it over Naturli and Pure.
Its taste and texture satisfied most of our panel, and three quarters said it was a convincing substitute for dairy-based butter. Some found it more difficult to spread compared to Naturli and Pure though, so it might be better suited to cooking rather than as a spread for sandwiches.
As well as being cheaper than Naturli, Flora is also more widely available, so you should be able to find it in most big supermarkets.
Pure Dairy Free Vegan Slightly Salted – £1.30 for 250g
- Overall score: 69%
- Preferred by: 24%
While it didn’t quite match up to Naturli and Flora, Pure’s vegan butter alternative still scored well overall, and nearly a quarter said it was their favourite of the three.
For some, the flavour verged on too weak, and just over half of tasters found it lacking in saltiness. It looks the part though, with 87% rating the colour as just right.
Pure’s offering costs 52p per 100g, which is close to half the price of Naturli’s (98p per 100g), so if you’re looking for a more affordable option, it could be worth a try.
Available from Sainsbury’s.
Are vegan butter alternatives better for the environment?
Cutting down on the amount of dairy you consume can help to reduce the environmental impact of your diet. A 2020 life-cycle assessment of plant vs dairy-based butter (Liao, Gerichhausen, Bengoa et al.) found that plant-based spreads had a lower climate impact than dairy butter. However, when choosing which vegan butter alternative to buy, it’s also important to consider other ingredients that may affect the environmental impact.
For example, if it’s made using palm oil, it’s important to check whether the palm oil is sustainably sourced. You can also look for organic butter alternatives which contain ingredients grown without the use of pesticides and herbicides.
Both the Flora and Pure butter alternatives we tested are made using RSPO certified sustainable palm oil. Naturli is the only organic butter alternative we tested, and doesn’t contain any palm oil.
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Are vegan butter alternatives healthier?
All three butter alternatives we tested contain less saturated fat per 100g than popular branded dairy-based block butters including Lurpak, Anchor and Country Life. However, they’re still classed as high in saturated fat, as they contain more than 5g of saturates per 100g.
Of the three we tested, Pure’s butter alternative has the least saturated fat (25.6g per 100g) – almost half the amount found in Flora’s version (47g per 100g). Flora also has more calories and salt per 100g compared to Pure and Naturli.
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How we tested
We asked 102 consumers to blind-taste each butter alternative and rate the flavour, texture, appearance and aroma of each one. Our panel included a mix of vegans and non-vegans.
The order they sampled the products in was fully rotated, and each panellist had a private booth so they couldn’t discuss what they were tasting or be influenced by others.
The overall score is based on:
- 50% flavour
- 20% appearance
- 20% texture
- 10% aroma
Looking for more taste test recommendations? Head over to our Best Buy food and drink roundup.