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I used to make dishes like risotto, for example, with dairy butter.

Is there a vegan way to approximate that rich flavour?

It would be awesome if I could do this with simple ingredients rather than a specific product available only in a limited geographical area - is there a particular oil or fat or spice extract or something like that I could use?

  • I don't know exactly. But if you are of the opinion (as I am) that linseed oil tastes slightly fishy/seafoodish, then probably the way to go is to recreate the particular mix of fats present in butter. So start with palm oil, coconut oil, a bit of olive oil. Have a look at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfat. – Turion Mar 21 '17 at 12:48
  • @Turion I'm of the opinion that linseed oil tastes vile ;) The rest of your comment looks suspiciously like the makings of an answer... – Zanna Mar 21 '17 at 14:24
  • I'd test it first before I'd make an answer out of it. But since I detest the taste of dairy, I'd be a bad choice to test this ;) I haven't written it as an answer since it's purely a speculation of mine. – Turion Mar 21 '17 at 17:13
  • @Turion me too, I just want to find something to help my mum & dad quit butter :) – Zanna Mar 21 '17 at 17:15
  • I'm also sometimes reluctant to post a non-ideal answer (as I've done now) because it might get upvoted and defer other answers. – Turion Mar 21 '17 at 17:20
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In many markets, butter flavoured oil exists that is also labelled (or documented so by the manufacturer) as vegan. Eg "Alba oil", common in Sweden and Germany.

Do keep in mind that the most potent and close butter flavourings are based on diacetyl (which also is naturally present in cow milk butter), which can be made by vegan or non vegan methods - and which also is a very potent irritant in concentrated form, and probably unhealthy if overused.

Also, some makers of flavouring essences have a vegan butter aroma in their catalogue nowadays.

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In Germany, at least, there exists a margarine that (according to some non-vegans) tastes a lot like butter.

I personally like the taste of it a lot and I abhor the smell of butter, so maybe some important flavour is missing, but it might be a good approximation.

You might find this margarine in other countries, but I don't know where. I think I saw it in the UK occasionally. (I'm glad about comments for other countries.)

  • 1
    It is a great baking margarine though. Probably the best around. – rackandboneman Mar 21 '17 at 17:42
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Separate answer, since it pertains to a different angle of the question:

Dishes that are good with a saturated fat as a finisher for texture/flavor balance reasons (risotto, many indian dishes using the tadka method, etc.) can often be adapted to use coconut oil (both the deodorized and the coconut flavoured ones can make sense here). Specifically for risottos, it depends on the other flavorings/toppings whether the end result will be good - or even better - with coconut oil. Citrusy ingredients, or combinations that will go well with citrus (asparagus, salsify...), can work extremely well - mushrooms, however, could conflict with non-deodorized coconut oil.

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I'm italian and I do risotto very often, my preferred is with porcini mushrooms, but all vegetable are good to make a risotto. First of all I recommend you to use rice "Carnaroli" (best) or "Arborio" (alternative) , if possible find partially integral rice . 3-5 minutes before the end of cooking, I advise you to put a teaspoon of soya lecithin in granules, 2 tablespoons of soy milk (high fat content) every 100 grams of rice. At the end of cooking (dung off) 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil for each pound of rice. Let stand 4 minutes with lid before eating. Buon appetito.

I use this rice http://www.ecor.it/it/prodotti/confezionati/chicchi/riso-semilavorato/riso-carnaroli-semilavorato-per-risotti/0017965 or this http://www.ecor.it/it/prodotti/confezionati/chicchi/riso-semilavorato/riso-arborio-semilavorato/0034487

  • I am afraid that although your recipe for risotto sounds very tasty, it is not the answer to a question that the OP asked. – Alexander Rossa Mar 18 at 21:46
  • Why not ? Did you try this step "3-5 minutes before the end of cooking, I advise you to put a teaspoon of soya lecithin in granules, 2 tablespoons of soy milk (high fat content) every 100 grams of rice. At the end of cooking (dung off) 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil for each pound of rice. Let stand 4 minutes with lid before eating." ? Try it and let me know if it's not like or better than the dairy butter. Also the rice choose is extremely important because Carnaroli and Arborio create a cream that other rices do not produce. All these elements togheter does the butter job. Try it. – gr68 Mar 20 at 6:34
  • Sorry for the confusion, my bad. I thought your answer to be too risotto specific but it seems it's okay as an answer in this thread in general and I do think that your solution is quite nice. Will definitely try it some day :). – Alexander Rossa Mar 20 at 9:43
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I hope my answer isn't too risotto specific - stir your rice every 2 minutes adding a little water at a time, that's what makes the creamy consistency - allowing the starch from the rice to separate, thus thickening the water/broth. If you've sauteed a celery stick, onion and your mushrooms beforehand in the same pan and dump in your rice in there - no compromise in flavour could be sensed. Now speaking in general, I've made "butter" cookies (salty) using sunflower oil as a substitute and it came out the same as with butter. One thing to keep in mind - plant-based and whole is better, wait for your palette to clear. PS. Alternatives for dairy are often derived from nuts. Hope this helps :)

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I have found that the addition of a 2:2:1 combination of good quality coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and flaxseed oil to dishes such as risotto and biryani gives a pleasantly rich flavour which seems to me (a long term vegan) nicely "buttery". These oils should not be subjected to high heat, rather just stirred through at the end of cooking.

You can also use this mixture on toast, scones, pancakes etc with, I think, good results.

If you live in a climate where coconut oil is solid at room temperature, gently melt the coconut oil and stir in the other oils to prepare this mixture.

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I really like a butter substitute called Earth Balance. I find that it replicates the taste of butter very well, and even makes pastries flaky.

EDIT: I know Earth Balance is available in the US, but I'm not sure about other countries. This link can find stores. I was referring to the "Original" flavor in my post.

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    Do you think you could add the country for which this applies to or perhaps a link to a online store where this can be purchased? With specific products there is the problem of not applying to all of the visitors equally and so it is good to have this information inclued in your answer. Thanks. – Alexander Rossa Feb 16 at 11:03
  • Thanks for adding that information and welcome to the community by the way :) – Alexander Rossa Feb 17 at 14:56
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My wife makes an excellent vegan risotto. Meat eaters happily eat it and some vegans worry that it is not really vegan (it is). Her "secret" ingredient is dried Chinese mushrooms. She soaks them first in boiling water. The mushrooms are used of course and the water is used as stock. She uses a generous amount of olive oil but no other oils or fats. This dish certainly has no need for butter.

In some other dishes, I have used crushed and gently fried cashew nuts to make the flavour richer.

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