It’s become very cool to renounce dairy, but I am and will always be shamelessly addicted to it. I’m the last person in the world to order an almond-milk latte, and when I had my baby last fall, my mom made me a cheesecake and I ate the entire thing in a week. In December, though, I found out that my baby was allergic and I’d have to completely eliminate it — including any and all foods where it’s hidden as an ingredient — to continue breastfeeding, something I’d always planned to do.
I can’t tell you why, but upon hearing the news, I asked my daughter’s doctor, “Even butter?” She laughed. In my initial shock, the idea of giving up feta and yogurt made me sad, but the thought of dry toast in the morning or a northeastern winter without my signature browned-butter cookies made me choke up. In recent years, I’ve grown particularly fond of European-style butters from brands like Vermont Creamery, Ronnybrook, and Straus (when I’m visiting California). European butter is cultured, giving it a subtle, buttermilk-y flavor, and it has a higher fat content (a minimum of 82 percent butterfat), which makes it softer and creamier than your average American stick.
I’ve given up dairy once before, for a brief stint as a vegan in college. That’s when soy milk was still cool, though, so I had a lot of sampling to do this time around. Things have improved in the dairy-free section — bless you, Oatly — but a lot of it is still processed garbage. After a few failures, it became less depressing to avoid the dairy impostors. But then I discovered Miyoko’s European Style Cultured Vegan Butter.
Unlike Earth Balance, which is, in my opinion, thoughtfully branded margarine, Miyoko’s is made out of real ingredients like coconut oil and cultured cashews (which gives it a great tang that’s slightly more intense than cultured butter’s and makes me think it’s good for my gut health). It’s wrapped in wax paper, so it’s a similar experience, and it comes in a nice eight-ounce block reminiscent of Kerrygold. It’s salty, creamy, browns like butter, makes a phenomenal fried egg, and tastes insanely good melted on pancakes (I make them with Oatly), grilled corn, and my favorite sunflower-seed bread with creamy honey.
The texture is butter-esque, but more crumbly than creamy while it’s cold, and because it’s mostly coconut oil it tends to go soft even quicker on your countertop (making it ideal for spreading). I also love that it’s from Northern California, which happens to be where my favorite all-time dairy bands are based (Cowgirl Creamery, Straus), so I feel like I’m getting the good stuff. I wouldn’t say it’s got the same warm flavor as true butter because, well, it isn’t — but then again, my Alabama-born best friend, who knows a thing or two about butter, was fooled into eating Miyoko’s for months by his health-freak boyfriend and was none the wiser. It’s just that good.
Miyoko’s is even more expensive than craft European-style butters — at $8 for eight ounces, it’s multiple dollars more than Ronnybrook or Vermont Creamery at my local Whole Foods. But if you’re avoiding dairy or can’t have it like me, it’s worth the extra cost if you’re craving. I’d love to say that I use less of it and it lasts a long time, but I find myself eating even more of it than I did regular butter. It’s just that addictive.
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