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Jewish Law prohibits the mixing of milk and meat in cooking. However, butter, a milk product, is a kitchen staple for most cooked emulsions (eg. pan-sauces, sauces béchamels, or roux-based sauces). While I use appropriate cooking fats for making non-dairy versions for meat dishes, this frequently doesn't work.

What is a non-dairy fat which may be used to as an emulsifier or roux ingredient?

  • I'm curious what you've already tried. Gumbo is often started with a roux that uses canola oil. I wonder if refined coconut oil could be used? – lspare Aug 10 '17 at 18:51
  • I'm surprised that schmaltz wouldn't work in a roux. What happens when you use it as a butter replacement? – Kevin Nowaczyk Aug 10 '17 at 18:59
  • @Ispare, I've used olive oil and fat remaining from cooking. Neither works particularly well, in fact, I need to add something water-soluble to get things to work out properly – NoahM Aug 10 '17 at 19:53
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    @NoahM what does not work when you use a different fat? Does it fail to thicken the sauce? Have you tried adding extra starch? The point of the fat is not to form an emulsion. The fat is able to wet the flour without causing it to stick together, so it can cook without forming lumps. Once the flour or cornstarch is wetted, it should disperse in your broth evenly and allow the broth to thicken. In restaurants, oil is frequently used instead of butter to make a roux. I've successfully used rosemary infused olive oil in a mac and cheese recipe. – Kevin Nowaczyk Aug 10 '17 at 23:08
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    I am also surprised by your question. Butter is not an emulsifier, it is the fat in the emulsion. For me, other fats (animal or vegetable derived) work just as well in almost all sauces, except for a few corner cases like hollandaise. – rumtscho Aug 11 '17 at 11:05
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Sauces like pan sauces and Roux-thickened sauces like bechamel or veloute are not traditionally finished in the same way.

  • Pan sauces, like for steak au poivre involve deglazing, reducing (still primarily water-based liquid,) and either reducing further with heavy cream, or adding cold butter directly and not heating anymore, so it stays emulsified.

  • Roux sauces like bechamel and Espagnole are made by adding hot liquid to hot roux in a pan. Though roux does a bit of emulsification— which is bonding fat based liquids with water based liquids— its primary purpose is still as a thickener. The starch cells in the flour explode, thickening the liquid. An uncooked version, beurre manie works the same way.

Roux itself simply involves toasting flour in fat, in approximately a 50/50 (by weight) mixture. From what I understand (I don't have my copy of On Food and Cooking around to double check,) the primary purpose of the fat in the roux is to keep flour from clumping up as the starch cells expand in hot water-based liquid, so the water and milk solids in the butter doesn't aid that goal in any way; in fact, in my experience, it causes some of the starch cells to explode prematurely, which makes butter roux a little more difficult to work with.

As the commenters pointed out, roux can be made with any fat— I've made it with many fats— so I'm guessing the trouble you're having with it might just be technique related. Since you said that you needed to add a water-based liquid to the roux to get it to work out, maybe your fat/flour ratio might not be right so it's too clumpy? As soon as you add a water-based liquid to a roux, you've stopped making a roux and started making a sauce with the roux.

Roux troubles aside, if you're looking for a parve emulsifier which adds a bit of richness— something to replace the role of butter in a pan sauce– letting your sauce cool a bit, whisking egg yolks into it and heating it to around 175F would work really well. If you don't have a thermometer, look on google images/youtube or whatever how to determine if a sauce is 'napé'... something which I think you have to see, rather than have it explained to you. Keep in mind that heating it to anything much above 180F and you'll have scrambled eggs. This would be my go-to for something like a kosher steak au poivre pan sauce.

You could always go the food nouveau route and use a glace— a heavily reduced stock. Boxed stock won't do, but if it's for a special meal, a pressure cooker or crock pot stock will work beautifully.

  • Hmm, I never thought to use egg, although I certainly know how to lower the temperature sufficiently to let it properly emulsify. – NoahM Aug 11 '17 at 3:18
  • So, my roux problem is that sometimes, despite adding sufficient flour, my fat and flour don't mix and stratify, despite my best efforts to the contrary. I remember once, probably about 10 years ago, where I kept adding flour, since the flour and fat wouldn't mix. When I finally got them to mix, I added liquid and the whole thing practically solidified. Since then, I've been more careful, but unless I'm making a cold mixture (a question of available space) I end up having to add a bit of liquid to test the roux for consistency. – NoahM Aug 11 '17 at 3:21
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    Separation usually means too much fat– not really a problem. The starch cells will still explode upon contact with a water-based liquid, and thicken it properly. If some of the fat doesn't emulsify into the sauce, skim it after simmering for a few minutes. Adding liquid before you're done could reduce the thickening power your roux. Not the end of the world, but not ideal. If you can't make it work, many restaurants/hotels/etc pre-mix a bunch of flour and fat (often plain veg oil,) oven-bake it to the desired color,and refrigerate until needed. It can even be whisked cold into boiling liquids! – ChefAndy Aug 11 '17 at 14:34
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You can use most margarines, which are pareve. Most margarines contain lecithin to emulsify the (vegetable) oils with water to yield a butter-like texture. The lecithin should serve the same purpose as the emulsifiers found in butter.

Kosher cooks have long used margarine as a general substitute for butter. I have not tested it in a pan sauce, but I would expect it to work.

  • Hate the fake butter flavor so I never think to use them, but that would definitely be the closest mechanical equivalent. – ChefAndy Aug 12 '17 at 14:18

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