Cultured European Style Vegan Butter

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Cultured European Style Vegan Butter

The more I learn about pastry, the more I realize that European pastry is on a completely different level compared to classic American pastry. My impression is that European pastry is all about introducing flavor depth through manipulating eggs, butter and technique. Croissants, strudel and danish pastries come to mind. American pastry, on the other hand, tends to build off bold flavors with a strong sugar backbone accentuated by spices. Apple pie, cupcakes and cookies come to mind here. 
In the quest to become an adept baker, it’s important to draw from as many influences as possible. One trick that many American style bakers use to improve flavor depth is taking a cue from European bakers by using cultured European style butter.
How does American style butter differ from European style butter? Let’s take a look.

American Style Butter

American style butter has about 80 percent fat and is frequently pasteurized. Pasteurization wipes most of the naturally occurring microbes so the butter tastes clean. Most American cows are raised in factory farms and fed a diet of corn and soy so the butter is white and devoid of minerals also which accentuates this clean flavor. 

European Style Butter

European style butter is about 82 to 86 percent fat and is developed more slowly which enables the cream to slightly ferment which allows the butter to develop a subtle sour tang. European cows are more likely to be grass fed which contributes carotenoids and minerals to the butter, contributing to a more rich flavor and yellow color. The slightly higher fat to water ratio compared to American style butter means that layered doughs will have a slightly lower tendency for gluten development and the fat will remain solid for a longer period which can be beneficial for layered doughs and short crusts.

The Components of Vegan Cultured European Style Vegan Butter

I set out to create a vegan European style butter so I could have other options when baking things like croissants and danishes. I wanted this vegan butter to be easy to make so other bakers could replicate it so I utilized plain non-dairy soy yogurt to make the water-based component. I then used slightly more fat than I normally do in Regular Vegan Butter to be true to style. 

The Sad, Sorry State of Vegan Yogurts

Have you had vegan yogurt lately? If you haven’t tasted dairy yogurt in a while you may believe that it’s close to the quality of dairy yogurt and be content. It turns out that, in my opinion, vegan yogurt is in a very interesting place in the food world. Is it that vegan yogurt manufacturers don’t know any better or is it that most vegans keep buying lackluster yogurts to the point of where the vegan yogurt industry doesn’t feel compelled to change? It’s like the difference between Sunny D and fresh squeezed orange juice. Most vegan yogurts are just glorified starch slurries that have been hurried through any fermentation at all if they’re lucky. This made it tough to recommend a vegan yogurt for this vegan butter. I should mention that I do have a friend that is working to change the state of vegan yogurt in the form of a fermented coconut yogurt which I’m thrilled about.
Cultured butter utilizes slightly fermented cream so I would have to find a yogurt that had as complex of a flavor as possible. This automatically ruled out anything other than a couple soy yogurts. After reviewing vegan yogurts, I found that the yogurts with the most complex flavor available in the United States would be Wildwood Plain Soyogurt and Wholesoy Plain soy yogurt, in that order. I currently don’t recommend anything other than those two soy yogurts in the US.  If you make your own vegan yogurt or know of a small producer who uses traditional methods to make a higher quality yogurt, then use that. If you’re thinking of using coconut or almond yogurt made by a major manufacturer, don’t waste your time and just make Regular Vegan Butter. Furthermore, if you’re interested in producing European style vegan butter as authentic as possible, I strongly advise you to not sacrifice that container of peach non-dairy yogurt you have in the back of your refrigerator; the sweetness alone will not make your vegan butter true to style.

Wildwood Soyogurt
Combined with the slightly higher fat content and preferred soy yogurt, the vegan butter still didn’t have enough of the cultured flavor I was after so I included a small amount of apple cider vinegar to amplify it. Vegan yogurts are usually loaded with hydrocolloids so I was able to get away from using xanthan gum, but not lecithin. The lecithin will make your butter more plastic which means it will melt more uniformly without separating. This is especially important in layered pastry.

When making these vegan butters it's highly recommended that you use a silicone mold like the Tovolo King Cube Extra Large Silicone Ice Cube Tray. This will allow you to make gorgeous butter cubes that can easily be slid out of the molds.

Learn more about the food science behind Vegan Butter.
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Cultured European Style Vegan Butter Recipe

¼ cup + 1 teaspoon plain, non-dairy yogurt (unsweetened if possible and preferably soy)
½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
¼ + ⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup + 2 Tablespoons refined coconut oil, melted

1) Curdle the yogurt

Add the non-dairy yogurt, apple cider vinegar and salt to the food processor. Process it for about 30 seconds and allow it to sit for a few minutes so the soy yogurt slightly curdles.

2) Mix the Vegan Butter ingredients

Melt the coconut oil in a microwave so it's barely melted and as close to room temperature as possible. Measure it and add it and the canola oil to the food processor. Making smooth vegan butter is dependent on the mixture solidifying as quickly as possible after it's mixed. This is why it's important to make sure your coconut oil is as close to room temperature as possible before you mix it with the rest of the ingredients.

3) Transfer the Vegan Butter to a mold so it solidifies

Add the lecithin and process for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides halfway through the duration. Pour the mixture into a mold and place it in the freezer to solidify. An ice cube mold works well. The vegan butter should be ready to use in about an hour. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month or wrapped in plastic wrap in the freezer for up to 1 year. This recipe makes 1 cup (215 grams), or the equivalent of 2 sticks Cultured European Style Vegan Butter.

For more vegan butter recipes check out the Vegan Butter section.

Get a price on the Liquid Soy Lecithin I Recommend at Amazon.

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Thank you for your reply. I did as you said, and without adding the lecithin at all , it turned out perfect. I did another batch, and added the lecithin at the end, and it separated again. So for anyone that has this problem, try it without lecithin, it is amazing without.

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when you say "splits" do you mean it doesn't fully emulsify? like you have two different fats, one sitting atop the other? i've had that trouble before and what i do now is put the coconut oil first (at room temp) in a blender and blend it til it's no longer a full-on solid. something thick & creamy. then with the blender on low i'll add the liquid fat. after this i add in my yogurt mix followed by the emulsifying agent last. not rushing it seems to be key for me. i definitely think it'll break if you just throw it all in the blender together.

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I really love the taste of the butter, but it splits every time I make it. I tried with 2 different types of lecithin and it stills splits. I added xanthan gum and it still splits. What can I do?

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The Croissant/Euro-Butter Struggle Is Real

Been struggling to make my own butter for croissants. Virtually every attempt renders the butter in some rather unusable way (too runny, too hard, etc). The closest I got thus far was a quick mimic of the cocoa butter version on this site. I'm going to give this recipe a go and see where I get. I also looked up weighted conversions for these volume measurements and will try that! If my sprouted rice rejuvelac is ready I may use that as well!

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European style cultured butter

This is the best butter recipe I've found bar none. It is very easy & ready in less than 2 hours. I made the spreadable version using home made yogurt. I used an immersion blender & it worked just fine.

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palm oil

Biona do NOT have a palm oil free spread.

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very similar to german Sauerrahmbutter

Dear Mattie,

the first try did not reveal a completely homogenous result. the taste is very similar to german Sauerrahmbutter (I do not know if sour cream butter is the correct translation). Do you have any idea how to produce Suessrahmbutter (sweet cream butter). Thank you so much for your research and the recipes.

best regards

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This is great!!

Thanks a lot for this recipe, it's delicious!!! I was really missing butter for toast...etc, but this is even better than real one!!
I use lecithin granules, so I just soak them in boiling water and then add the gooey mix to the rest. Perfect!!

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Vegan Butters


I am thrilled to find your recipes for vegan butters! I sent your link immediately to my daughter who is off to Paris, France in September to study at Ferrandi. She ultimately wants to have a catering/event company that distinguishes itself with luxury, vegan and common allergen free offerings.

Any recipe you want to post that is gluten, soy, milk, sucrose, peanut and nut free (including coconut,) would be greatly appreciated. We are going to experiment with a cocoa butter, olive oil, flax milk, apple cider vinegar one

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I have tried your butter with soy and it turned out great. I have also tried it with a brand of almond yoghurt here in Vancouver, BC. It is made with whole almonds, brown rice, water and cultures and is really tangy and similar to real yoghurt. It turned out just as good and because I used sunflower lecithin it was soy free for anyone that cares about that. So if you can find that yoghurt from 'crave conscious' I would recommend it. I may try adding a little apple cider vinegar next time. I omitted it because I thought the yoghurt would be tangy enough. Anyway, thanks for the recipe.

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Mattie, can you recommend a good yogurt, now that the processing of soy yogurt has been such an issue? I know WholeSoy is supposed to return, but would love to get started on this recipe. I miss "real" butter...don't mean the animal-based product, but cultured European butter. Thanks for any advice!

Owner's reply

Great question Michele! The latest buzz on WholeSoy according to their Facebook page is that their yogurts are finally being rolled out to stores nowish. In the meantime there's also a company called Nancy's that distributes a so-so vegan yogurt so parts of the western US.

Other than that, the best way to get your hands on real vegan yogurt without additives is to make it yourself. I use a starter culture blend called GI Pro Start to do this. Good luck!

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how to replace coconut-oil with cocoa-butter ?

Hi Mattie,
I was so happy to have found your site. I also miss butter since I've become vegan. I've tasted earth-balance vegan butter (that I brought home from the US) but it tastes like our margarine (and the ingredients are very similar).
Vegan baking is new in my country it usually includes the use of margarine or coconut-oil. I did not find refined coconut-oil here and I don't like the strong taste of coconut it gives the food. So I was wondering "how can I substitute the coconut-oil with cocoa-butter" in your receipts?
I have compared the receipts that contain cocoa-butter with the regular vegan butter receipt but you've made other changes to the ingredients which makes it harder for me to come to a conclusion.
P.S. I can find here very good quality of cocoa-butter which makes it more interesting to me then coconut.

Owner's reply

Hi Roalexa! Due to popular demand, I've decided by create a Vegan Butter that uses cocoa butter as a base instead of coconut oil. I posted it recently here:
It should work better for things like puff pastry due to the slightly higher melting temperature that is more similar to real butter. Good luck!

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UK yoghurt?

Hi Colleen interested to read your review as I've had probs finding liquid lecithin too and the granules aren't the best in the UK. Just wondering what yoghurt you used. I like Alpro plain just to eat but it's a bit sweet. Sojade is pretty good just as a sour plain yoghurt. I'd be interested to know what you used since you say the taste is really like butter. By the way you could try putting a pin in the end of the lecithin capsules and squirting it out!! I've done that before with other oil filled capsules.
I'm looking forward to trying this as I loved Mattie's original recipe for coconut oil butter. I buy my coconut oil from a local Asian shop too and it's tons cheaper than from the health food shop. You can also buy it in the Asian section of bigger Tescos.

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unrefined version OK for baking?

Just tried this and overall it seems great texture-wise, etc. -- except that I used unrefined coconut oil (didn't think to check until I was in the process of melting it so I just kept going) so it tastes pretty strongly of coconut. Would this variation still work if I'm using it to make a crumble topping or tart crust or something where the coconut flavor would be a welcome addition? Or will the unrefined oil behave in some not-good way when baking?

Thanks so much for all of your research and recipes... will definitely try again with the specified unrefined coconut oil!

Owner's reply

Hi MizShrew! No worries on using unrefined coconut oil. The oils are going to behave exactly the same whether they're refined or unrefined. I often use unrefined coconut oil just for fun because I love the coconut flavor so much. Good luck!

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The one thing I really miss about dairy is butter. Especially when I treat myself to some fresh crusty bread at the farmer's market. Non dairy spread just doesn't cut it. I've made some fresh rhubarb compote to have on good quality bread and was missing butter like crazy. I had to hunt down the ingredients for this but it was SO worth it.

I can't believe how much this tastes like butter - and not the generic bland butter but the expensive French salted kind. It has exactly the creaminess and the fresh salty lactic taste I've been craving.

Mattie, you are a GENIUS. Thank you so much. A tip for those in the UK - coconut oil sold in health food shops is ridiculously expensive - £14 or so for a tub. My local 'ethnic' supermarket sold it for £2. Apple cider vinegar in the same store was 89p. The only real struggle was fining lecithin. I found some old out of date liquid gel caps in the cupboard and was so desperate to try this recipe I spend half an hour sawing the hardened caps open and scraping out the liquid (NOT recommended). So now I have to find a proper supply because I want to have this butter at all times. Seriously - genius.

Owner's reply

So glad this worked so well for you Colleen! It is funny how coconut oil is so much cheaper at the ethnic food market instead of the health food market. I order my lecithin online which works well because it has a ridiculously long shelf life.

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