If you’re vegan yourself or have done research into plant-based eating, you’ll already know that butter isn’t vegan. That’s because it’s made with milk, which is an animal (cow) byproduct.
Since butter is off the table for vegans, margarine seems like the next best thing. Margarine used to be made using animal-derived fats. However, these days, most margarine recipes are based around vegetable oil.
The key word here, though, is ‘most’. Although many margarine brands are suitable for vegans, some still contain animal byproducts, and vegans need to be aware of this.
Here’s everything you should know about the vegan status of margarine:
Is Margarine Vegan?
For the most part, margarine is vegan-friendly. Most margarine brands use vegetable oil to provide a creamier consistency and fat content rather than actual animal fats.
Since vegetable oil (which could be made from olives, soybeans, palm, canola, or corn) is vegan, there doesn’t seem to be a problem.
With that being said, if you take a look at the labels on different margarine brand packaging, you’ll notice that a surprising number of these actually use animal-derived ingredients.
Why Isn’t All Margarine Vegan?
The most common non-vegan ingredient used in some brands of margarine is milk. Milk, of course, is a dairy product, meaning it comes from cows and isn’t suitable for vegans.
And just because milk isn’t written in bold on the ingredients list doesn’t mean you should assume a brand of margarine is vegan. Some brands use lactose as part of their recipe, and whey protein is sometimes added, too.
Yet another ingredient to be on the lookout for when shopping for margarine is casein. This animal-derived protein comes from milk, and it can also be found in other non-vegan products such as cheese and yogurt.
How To Identify Vegan Margarine
Now that you know that not all margarine is vegan, you’re probably eager to know how you can spot non-vegan margarine in the grocery store. Luckily, this is fairly simple.
The first thing you should do when checking if a margarine product is vegan is read the label. If milk has been directly added to the recipe, it should be written in bold since it’s an allergen.
The same is true for lactose. Read the whole label carefully to make sure that whey and casein aren’t present in the recipe, either.
You might be able to skip the painstaking label-reading process if you can find the vegan symbol (usually some variation of a ‘V’ within a circle or with a leaf coming off it) on the labels.
If the symbol isn’t there, look for the word ‘vegan’ or the words ‘suitable for vegans’. If you see any of the above, you can trust that the product is vegan.
Most vegans won’t worry about warnings on the label such as ‘may contain traces of milk’ because these are for allergy sufferers to be aware of.
However, if you do have a milk or lactose allergy, or if you don’t want to eat anything that could have been contaminated with traces of dairy, this is something else you’ll need to consider.
Vegan Margarine Brands
Shopping for food is so much easier as a vegan when you know which kitchen staple brands are vegan-friendly. If you have this information beforehand, you don’t even need to check the label!
Here are just some of the vegan margarine brands you might find in grocery stores near you:
- Violife (All margarine products)
- Trader Joe’s (Vegan Buttery Spread)
- Milkadamia (Buttery Spread)
- Imperial (Lactose-Free Spread)
- I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (‘It’s Vegan’ Spread)
- Earth Balance (Original Buttery Spread)
New vegan products, including margarine, are being manufactured all the time, so keep an eye on new additions!
However, bear in mind that some of the products listed above might be vegan in the U.S., but still contain milk in other countries.
So, if you’re shopping for groceries while on vacation or abroad, reading the labels is a safe decision.
Margarine is usually vegan because most brands make their margarine with some form of vegetable oil to replace the traditional animal fat.
With that being said, it’s worth reading margarine labels and learning which brands are vegan since some manufacturers still use milk, whey, casein, or lactose during production.
Vegans should also be aware that recipes from the same brand can differ depending on what country you’re in.
Just because a margarine brand is vegan in America doesn’t guarantee that it’s dairy-free elsewhere, so it’s wise to double-check!