Margarine is an emulsion of vegetable fats and water, and offers a satisfying cruelty-free alternative to butter.
For decades, margarine was considered a far healthier choice than butter, since it’s typically much lower in artery-clogging saturated fats. But between 2000 and 2010, nutrition researchers discovered that the trans fats found in most commercial brands of margarine are actually even more hazardous than saturated fat. All was not lost, however. Faced with a growing body of evidence damning trans fats, producers reformulated their margarines to exclude hydrogenated vegetable oils. Today, most margarine brands are free of trans fats.
Margarine comes in tubs and sticks. It’s most commonly used as a fat for baking, and for spreading onto toast. Like butter and cream cheese, whipped versions for better spreadability are available.
Is Margarine Vegan?
Margarine was invented in 1869, marketed as a substitute for butter during European dairy shortages. The stuff was originally made from rendered animal fats rather than expensive cream. A hundred years later, most margarine products had switched to primarily vegetable oil, and also usually contained some whey or other dairy by-products. Very few margarine brands were vegan until the market for vegan food started taking off in the 1990s.
There’s no difference between vegan butter and vegan margarine. Many brands eschew those terms in favor of the more ambiguous “spread.” Whatever you call them, I maintain a list of these products on Vegan.com’s butter page.