first of all, basically what is the difference?

what are their uses and is there a big difference? for example is there a case where I should use pure butter for some things but never a spread or vice versa? When the recipe says butter which one should I use?

  • 2
    Can you define butter spread for us? Do you mean margarine or other non-butter spreads? Or is there some spread that uses butter as a component that you're referring to?
    – bikeboy389
    Nov 19, 2010 at 16:48
  • 2
    Most things I've seen marked "butter spread" in the store have a subtitle or ingredient list explaining what they actually are.
    – Cascabel
    Nov 19, 2010 at 16:50
  • @Jefromi While you are right about the ingredient lists, perhaps for the sake of the site's international diversity, it's not so bad to explain a little what those "common terms" or "shelf commodities" mean. In my country (as an example) you can't use the label "butter" if the product contains vegetal by-products. Nov 19, 2010 at 18:20
  • @belisarius: True, true. I figured since there were possibly multiple formulations of "spread butter" it might be helpful to be specific.
    – Cascabel
    Nov 19, 2010 at 18:33
  • the ingredient list says vegetable oil, butterfat, milk oil, emulsifier, etv
    – Fitri
    Nov 19, 2010 at 22:43

5 Answers 5


Generally speaking, butter spreads have a water component to them. That's what the emulsifier is for, as it keeps the fat and water from separating.

The problem is that you can't fry/cook with it. If you place it in a pan it will separate, and sizzle in a very unpleasant manner. If I remember correctly, it actaully smells quite awful in the process.

As for baking, I think it'll be fine anywhere there needs to be fat as fat. Wherever you need fat as something to hold the structure, you had probably best not use it. Caveat emptor, as I don't bake very much at all.

Let it be aid, however, that margarine as opposed to butter spread, can be used anywhere that butter is used. It isn't as tasty, and has trans-fats. On the other hand, it has less cholesterol.

  • Thanks! I would have upvoted this if I had enough rep lol
    – Fitri
    Nov 21, 2010 at 2:33
  • There -- I did it for you. :-)
    – Martha F.
    Nov 23, 2010 at 14:02
  • "butter spreads have a water component to them" doesn't tell us about butter spreads versus butter, since butter also has a water component. The USA requires that butter be at least 80% fat. Most USA butters will be 80% fat since the fat is more expensive than water. There are premium butters that have higher fat content. The remaining 20% is mostly water. My understanding is that many European countries have higher required fat contents, but none are so high that butter does not contain water. In the USA margarine also must have at least 80% fat, it is "just" a radically different fat. Nov 29, 2010 at 23:28
  • 1
    In a TV commercial for butter--long ago--Vincent Price exclaimed, "Margarine always claims it's just like butter but we would never claim butter is just like margarine!".
    – Rob
    Jun 27, 2019 at 12:41

Usually things titled butter spread are actually made from largely vegetable oil. They can be a replacement for butter in recipes where the fact that there is fat in the recipe is all that matters (quick breads, brownies, muffins, etc.). In general if you have a recipe where melted butter joins the wet ingredients and those wet ingredients get mixed into the dry ingredients, you should be able to get by using butter spreads (at least the oil-based kinds).

On the other hand, butter spreads aren't going to work well in baking that requires the creaming method (where butter and sugar are creamed together) because the texture is "firm out of the refrigerator, softens quickly" (source) as one spread maker says. The bubbles needed to make baked goods rise using the creaming method won't hold.

  • 2
    Yep. Butter Spreads are usually a mix of butter and vegetable oil (that you may prepare in-house processing the ingredients COLD) Nov 19, 2010 at 17:30

Butter Spreads are used as Butter substitudes in Baking. Usually containing Animal fats from bovine and ovine along with water, Butter Flavour, Emulsifiers and food acids. The results in baking is almost very close to the natural butter but the taste is a bit different in comparison with unsulted butter. It is not recommended to use butter spreads for frying but it can be used in cooking which I personally do nut suggest that !


Definitely check the labels. "Butter spreads", that is vegetable oil spreads that have a small amount of butter for flavor, aren't a suitable substitute while baking because they usually have too low of a fat content. Most vegetable oil-based spreads, with or without a butter component for flavor, don't actually meet the legal definition of margarine, which must be at least 80% fat to match the fat percentage requirements of solid butter, so it can be used as a one-for-one substitute in all uses, like baking.

Conversely spreadable butter, usually labeled as "butter with X oil", can be used for cooking, as the oil content is usually just the small amount needed to keep it soft in the fridge, and is still fat, so it doesn't change the fat percentage.


To determine the difference we must first take in to account the ingredients found in them.

Butter - pure butter is made from buttermilk or cream. As a result it contains some saturated fats and cholesterol (30mg per serving).

Butter Spread - is a combination of oils (mostly vegetable oils) and buttermilk that taste like butter. They offer lower calorie count; some choices offer "Zero Cholesterol".

  • 2
    Buttermilk is not used to make butter... It is what is left over after you make butter. Also, we aren't a health site, so discussion of the health quality of these products is inappropriate.
    – Catija
    Mar 4, 2016 at 13:40

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