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How Much Lactose is in Butter?

I’m lactose intolerant and I always wanted to know if there was a lactose free butter, turns out there is. Drum roll please… Butter is lactose free butter. Well pretty close.

Butter is a staple of baking and cooking but that can be an issue when you are lactose intolerant. Butter is a low lactose dairy product, and while some people can tolerate it, there is still lactose present, about 0.1-1.0 grams per 100 grams. The majority of lactose-intolerant people can consume up to 12 grams of lactose at a time without symptoms, and 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of butter contains nearly undetectable levels. Different brands have different lactose content, so unless you know how you react to a certain brand of butter, it may be worth avoiding. Unless you are highly sensitive to lactose, most recipes that call for butter will be well tolerated. Lactaid can help alleviate symptoms, but rather than be reliant on a supplement, which should produce no side effects, there are products that you can use in cooking to replace butter.

There are so many substitutes available to replace butter; however, some recipes seem reliant on the real thing. For most recipes butter can be replaced with something that has a similar fat and water content or ratio. Although where the finished result relies on the flavor and richness of butter, such as pastry, toffee, or a roux this is where finding a vegan, dairy-free butter comes in. Sautéing shrimp, mushrooms, or anything similar cannot simply be replaced with coconut oil. Buttercream on a frosted cake needs that rich creaminess that is often missing from butter substitutes.

Vegan Butter – No Lactose

Vegan butters have taken off, with multiple substitutes gracing the shelves of grocery stores. Note, not all dairy free, vegan butters are made equal for each task, what works in one recipe may not work in another. Finding if a butter substitute works in a chocolate chip cookie and not in a biscuit could take some experimenting, but someone out there might have already done the experimenting for you; Facebook groups, a blogger or a friend might have already tried and tested the different butters in different recipes.

  • Earth Balance, is free from animal-based ingredients, made from a blend of palm, canola, soybean, flax and olive oils.
  • Country Crock Plant Butter Sticks features oils from almonds, olives and avocados.
  • Culcherd supplies a range of dairy free butters, using coconut oil, cashews and sunflower oil, it comes in original, garlic, cinnamon swirl and turmeric black pepper.
  • WayFare dairy free salted and whipped butter is another vegan option, whose whipped texture lends itself to being spread on warm toast or muffins rather than baking.
  • Blue Bonnet lactose free sticks is a blend of soybean, palm and palm kernel oil.
  • Miyoko’s Creamery vegan butter is made with cashew nuts and coconut oil, excluding palm oil found in a number of vegan butters.
  • Faba butter, a substitute that uses aquafaba, the left-over liquid from cooking chickpeas, to bind water, coconut oil and a plant-based liquid oil.
  • Califia Farms Plant Butter is made from cashews, nutritional yeast, avocado oil, and olive oil.

Vegan butter substitutes are the closest replacement you will find for dairy free cooking tasks that require the rich buttery flavor. However, when you are looking for a substitute for butter that does the same structural work there are a much wider range of options.

Margarines – Mostly No Lactose

Margarines are a tricky one to navigate and require checking each brand to ensure that no dairy is included. One sure-fire way to make sure the margarine you are using is dairy free is to opt for a vegan version. A butter substitute is classed as a margarine when it has a fat content of 80-81%, which is similar to butter. Some margarines have water added, which can make them a little more difficult to use in cooking.

  • Smart Balance buttery spreads is a brand to look out for, it is free of dairy, gluten and diacetyl. Smart balance has reduced the water is contains, which is better for cooking, baking and spreading.
  • Milkadamia salted buttery spread is made with a macadamia oil blend, boasts about being palm oil free.
  • Blue Bonnet vegetable oil spread is a classic brand that can be found in most grocery stores.
  • Fleischmann’s margarine unsalted soft spread sticks are another replacement that is made from vegetable oils.


Oils can work well as a dairy free substitute for butter. In baking, oil is often used to create moisture instead of butter; however, if the baking process requires creaming of the butter and sugar, you will be better off using a vegan butter or a margarine as an alternative. If you have a suitable recipe and intend to use oil, liquid oils can use about three quarters of the amount of butter required. The flavor of the oil can also impact the recipe, olive oils tend to be quite strong in flavor, while vegetable oils will blend seamlessly.

Coconut oil is one of the easiest lactose free substitutes. It has similar properties to butter, it is solid at room temperature and liquid at higher temperature and can be used in a 1:1 replacement. However, if it is for something that normally requires a lot of butter, coconut oil can impart a coconut-y taste. Coconut oil works well for pastry, while it will not have that buttery taste, it will provide a decent structure.

Other Butter Substitutes with No Lactose

Vegetables and fruit can often replace the moisture that is imparted by butter. Avocado, mashed bananas, pumpkin, zucchini, applesauce can provide the moisture and structure component to a baked good. They can also lead to a cakey texture when used in cookies, so using just the egg yolk could help avoid this.

Clarified butter, or Ghee, has an even lower lactose content that regular butter. Note, clarified butter still contains lactose; it is almost pure butterfat that is created by melting butter until the fat separates from the water and other milk solids. The milk solids are then removed. It can be used almost interchangeably with butter, and it has a brown nutty taste that lends itself well to some recipes.

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