Butter-Free Butter

The first thing to remember when choosing a spread is that unless it says on the box that it contains no dairy products, it probably isn’t safe no matter how harmless the ingredients may look. Remember that many ordinary margarines contain skimmed milk powder as a bulking and binding agent.

There is a range of dairy-free spreads out there. Many are only available from health food shops, which makes them both inconvenient and expensive.

Pure Dairy-Free Spread

This is the one which we tend to use most of the time. The sunflower one is pleasant to eat on bread (butter eaters don’t usually object to it unless they see it being used!) and it works well in sauces and general cooking/baking. I don’t use it for are making pastry and crumble topping : Tomor works better. For cakes, puddings etc. I use either, depending on what I have in the fridge and whether or not the recipe works better with a hard or soft texture margarine.

The key thing with Pure spread is that it comes in three different varieties: the sunflower one which is perfectly pleasant, the soya one which tastes of soya (doesn’t rock my boat) and the organic one which this household voted as “Yuk!”. The sunflower one is in a yellow box, the soya one is green and the organic one is blue.

The Pure spread is readily available in most supermarkets and health food shops. If it isn’t in your local one, keep pestering customer services:  they can sometimes be persuaded to give it at least a trial run. All you have to do then is to buy lots of it!

Update: Pure seem to be pricing themselves out of the market. What used to be my spread of choice, is now becoming both hard to find and too expensive for every day use. Some time ago, Pure re-branded their packaging. Whereas it used to be simple to tell which type of spread was which, now the unwary shopper can end up with the wrong one all too easily. All the boxes are the same colour, with slightly different illustrations on the lids. Could it be that too many of us were avoiding the (in my opinion) nasty soya one? Are they trying to make us buy the wrong one by mistake? Well, they’re going to be lucky to get me buying any of them very soon. I’m struggling to get the sunflower one in Morrison’s. They’ve opted for the soya one (goodness knows why!) and the price continues to go up and up. It’s now £1.60 a box round our way and that’s getting too expensive for a regular thing. Tesco have brought out their own brand dairy-free spread (review coming very soon) and it’s 40p a tub cheaper. Now that starts to mount up quite quickly. Sorry, Pure, you’re about to lose out to Tesco!

Specialist Spreads

Of the specialist spreads from health food shops, there is a Granose one which is palatable (if a little flat tasting), but rather expensive. It’s soya based. There are also several sunflower oil spreads out there.

Hard Margarines

There are some block margarines out there which are edible, but you have to know where to look. Hard margarine is my favoured option over dairy-free spread for making pastry and crumble topping. It goes into the breadcrumb stage much more effectively than dairy-free spread because it is hard.

Rakusens Tomor

This one’s the bee’s knees. It’s a hard margarine designed for baking, and works brilliantly. It’s sometimes hard to find, though. Your best bet is to find a supermarket in an area with a high Jewish population, as it’s kosher.
Gotchas: Don’t use it on bread if you run out of dairy-free spread: not nice!.

Where to get it: Waitrose/Ocado, some Sainsbury’s, Jewish delicatessens.

Sainsbury’s own brand hard margarine

Hard to find at times other than around Christmas: it seems people only bake at this time of the year these days. The good news is that it keeps for ages in the fridge and it freezes well. I stock up each year and keep my eyes open in case a batch comes in out of season

Where to get it: Sainsbury’s

Gotchas: Don’t use it on bread if you run out of dairy-free spread: not nice!.