Wondering if margarine is dairy-free? Find out if this popular butter alternative is safe for a dairy-free diet and what to eat instead.
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If you follow a dairy-free diet, you may know that butter is a dairy product, but what about margarine? If you’ve been looking for a butter substitute, margarine may seem like a great idea to add to your diet.
In this post, we’ll discuss if margarine is dairy-free, which brands are safe for a dairy-free diet, and answer some common questions related to margarine.
Difference between butter and margarine
Before we dive into what margarine is made of, first we should talk about what margarine is and how it differs from butter.
Butter is a product made from the cream of cow’s milk that has been churned until it solidifies into a fat. This fat is called butter and is used in a lot of baking and cooking recipes.
Margarine is a processed food that is made to look and taste similar to butter, but is made from plant-based ingredients and oils, water, and salt.
The ingredients in margarine will vary depending on the brand that you purchase. For example, here are the ingredients on a few popular margarine products.
Country Crock margarine ingredients
Purified Water, Soybean Oil, Palm Kernel and Palm Oil, Salt, Lecithin (Soy), Vinegar, Natural Flavors, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta Carotene (Color), Vitamin D3.
Read on: Is soy lecithin gluten-free?
Imperial margarine ingredients
Vegetable Oil Blend (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil And Liquid Soybean Oil), Water, Salt, Whey (Milk), Soy Lecithin, Vegetable Mono- And Diglycerides, Potassium Sorbate (Used To Protect Quality), Citric Acid, Artificial Flavor, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta-Carotene (For Color).
Read on: Is soybean oil gluten-free?
Is Imperial margarine dairy-free?
No, using the ingredients list above, we can say with certainty that it does contain dairy in the form of whey. If you avoid dairy, you’ll want to look for a different margarine option.
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter margarine ingredients
Purified water, Soybean Oil, Palm & Palm Kernel Oil, Salt, Lecithin (Soy), Natural Flavor, Vinegar, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta Carotene (Color).
Land O’ Lakes margarine ingredients
Soybean Oil, Palm Oil, Water, Buttermilk, Contains Less Than 2% Of Salt, Potassium Sorbate (to Preserve Freshness), Soy Lecithin And Mono And Diglycerides (emulsifiers), Lactic Acid, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta-Carotene.
Blue Bonnet margarine ingredients
Water, Soybean Oil, Palm Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Salt, Less than 2% of: Emulsifiers (Mono- and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Propylene Glycol Monostearate), Preservatives (Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Disodium EDTA), Whey, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta Carotene (Color).
Smart Balance margarine ingredients
Ingredients: Vegetable Oil Blend (Canola, Palm, and Olive Oils), Water, contains less than 2% of Salt, Pea Protein, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sunflower Lecithin, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta-Carotene (Color), Vitamin D, Monoglycerides of Vegetable Fatty Acids (Emulsifier); and Potassium Sorbate, Lactic Acid, Calcium Disodium EDTA (To Preserve Freshness).
Earth Balance margarine ingredients
Natural Oil Blend (Palm Fruit, Canola, Soybean, Flax and Olive Oils), Filtered Water, Contains Less than 2% of Pure Salt, Natural Flavor (Plant Derived from Corn, No MSG, No Alcohol, No Gluten), Pea Protein, Sunflower Lecithin, Lactic Acid (Non-Dairy), and Naturally Extracted Annatto for Color.
As you can see, most of these popular margarine brands are a combination of vegetable and plant based oils, salt, and water, with some other natural flavors and additions for flavor and texture.
Read on: Is soy gluten-free?
Is margarine dairy-free? Does margarine have dairy?
Based on looking at some of these popular margarine brands and ingredients lists, you might have been able to spot some dairy ingredients within their ingredient lists, like whey and buttermilk.
There are no regulations around if margarine can contain dairy ingredients or not, which is why it’s so important to read ingredient lists. Don’t know how? Read how to read ingredient lists.
That said, while many of these popular margarine brands contain dairy, there are some that are safe for a dairy-free diet.
Is margarine a dairy product?
Margarine can be made without dairy products, but not always. Some brands of margarine contain only oils and flavorings, while other brands might contain whey or butterimlk.
If the margarine you’re buying contains any dairy ingredients, it isn’t a dairy product.
This can be a confusing question, because margarine is often sold in the dairy case at the grocery store. While it may or may not contain dairy, this is where you’ll find it in the store. Always read ingredients lists before purchasing if you want to stick with a dairy-free diet.
How to tell if margarine contains dairy
The quickest and easiest way to determine if a package of margarine contains dairy is to read the ingredients list.
Here are some hidden names of dairy that you can be on the lookout for so you can avoid these brands if you try to follow a dairy-free diet.
What brands of margarine are dairy-free?
Some brands of margarine may contain dairy ingredients, yet have a specific product that is dairy-free.
For example, Country Crock margarine contains dairy, but they have their Country Crock Plant Butter which is created without any dairy ingredients. This is a safe product for anyone following a dairy-free diet.
Many butter alternatives that are dairy-free can also be found under the name “buttery spreads.”
While these also don’t have regulations around if they can contain milk or dairy ingredients, there are more options under this name than under dairy-free margarine.
You can look for these also when searching the store for a good dairy-free margarine for you.
Here are some more dairy-free margarine products to be on the lookout for.
- Califia Farms Plant Butter
- Country Crock Plant Butter
- Earth Balance Buttery Spread and Sticks
- Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread
- Forager Dairy-free Buttery Spread
- I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spread – It’s Vegan!
- I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spread with Coconut Oil
- Melt Organic Buttery Spread and Sticks
- Milkadamia Buttery Spread
- Miyoko’s Vegan Butter
Note that I’m avoiding saying that these “brands” are dairy-free, as the presence of dairy can differ from product to product. Be sure to look at the ingredients lists of a product and don’t rely solely on a brand name to give you your answer.
Plant Based Butter and Country Crock Plant Butter
Going through this list, you may have seen the term “plant based butter” and wondered what this means.
Plant based butter is a combination of vegetable oils, water, and salt, without the use of any dairy ingredients added in. When margarine was introduced in the 1950’s, it was created with trans fats.
Since the rise of understanding the effects of trans fats on health, many companies are opting to use no trans fats and no dairy products, appealing to a vegan and dairy-free group of consumers.
Country Crock Plant Butter is the answer to this plant based butter from the Country Crock brand.
Here is the ingredient list for Country Crock Plant Butter with Olive Oil: Blend Of Plant-Based Oils (Soybean, Palm Kernel, Olive, Palm Fruit And Extra Virgin Olive Oil), Water, Salt, Faba Bean Protein, Soy Lecithin, Lactic Acid, Natural Flavor, Vitamin E Acetate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta Carotene (Color)
You can see from this list that the ingredients don’t vary greatly from their original margarine. I confirmed through their website that both the Country Crock Original and Plant Based Butters are dairy-free. If you’re thinking about buying one of these products, they are safe for your dairy-free diet.
So why go for the plant based butter over the original Country Crock margarine? Personal preference. The plant based butter option looks to have more plant based oils than the original variety offers. You can make the best decision for you about these products based on some of the information shared in this post.
Is margarine vegan?
As a general rule, don’t assume any margarine is vegan. After reviewing the list of ingredients in some of the popular margarine brands, we know that most of them aren’t dairy-free. If a product contains dairy, it won’t be vegan.
There are some margarine options that are vegan, however, such as Earth Balance buttery spread and Miyoko’s Vegan Butter. If you’re looking for other options, start with the short list of brands in the section above to review the ingredient lists to discover if the one you’re looking at is vegan.
What is vegan butter?
Vegan butter is essentially margarine, but made from plant-based milk and ingredients, as opposed to dairy ingredients. In regular butter, cow’s milk (or other animal milk) is churned to create butter. In vegan butter, you’ll find the ingredients are from vegetable and other plant based oils only and are safe for a vegan and dairy-free diet.
If you’ve been looking for a butter alternative for your dairy-free diet, I hope this post gave you some helpful information to help you find a margarine, vegan butter, or plant based butter to try out! If you find one you love, be sure to share it in the comments below so others can learn what brands are the best!
Wondering if other ingredients or foods are dairy-free? Check out the FAQ’s on my Gluten and Dairy-free Diet Basics Page for more.