I heard about Nina's vegan butter via Instagram Stories, a truly 21st-century version of a recipe swap.
Molly Oberstein-Allen, who lives in Kansas City, posted several months ago that she had made an out-of-this-world coconut oil-based butter substitute that was relatively well-known in vegan circles online.
The recipe originated from a Danish blogger named Nina, who first wrote about her discovery in 2015. The Washington Post republished the recipe later that year in a story about using aquafaba, the thick water left over when you cook chickpeas and other legumes.
Nina's technique called for mixing the chickpea water with an acid and salt and then emulsifying with oil. Simple enough, right?
This recipe is similar to vegan mayonnaise made with oil blended into aquafaba, but the apple cider vinegar, salt and coconut oil transform the ingredients into a slightly firmer but still spreadable fat that's perfect for toast, open-faced sandwiches or even baking.
I cooked up a batch of chickpeas last week to make hummus and held onto the cooking water specifically to try this butter. We also had some extra heavy cream in the fridge that needed using, so I set up a butter experiment. How would Nina's vegan butter hold up to fresh butter made from heavy cream?
While I made the vegan butter in a food processor, my boyfriend, Frank, used his glass butter churner - he's a modern-day homesteader who has things like a glass butter churner in his kitchen - to make the real thing. We chilled both overnight and had them with toast for breakfast the following day.
The results were surprising: The vegan butter, thanks to the vinegar, salt and coconut oil, was bursting with flavor, while the homemade butter fell flat and tasted, at best, neutral on the bread.
Because it's summer, the homemade butter held up better on the table after an hour out of the fridge - the vegan butter melts quickly in the heat - but there was no comparison on the flavor.
We usually eat store-bought salted butter, but I liked this vegan butter even better. It wasn't too difficult to make, especially when I already had the food processor on the counter to make the hummus and the aquafaba from the just-cooked chickpeas.
One last note: Because we eat with our eyes first, I decided to add a hint of color to the vegan butter by using a few drops of yellow food coloring, but you could also use a pinch of turmeric powder. A yellowish, almost orange oil, such as canola, will also give the spread a slight hue.
If you're looking for more recipes like this, Nina's website, plantepusherne.dk, also has recipes for dishes such as almond milk sour cream, dandelion tea honey and plant milk-based feta cheese. It's a great resource if you're transitioning away from animal products but don't want to rely on store-bought versions of your favorite kitchen staples.
Nina's Vegan Aquafaba Butter
Aquafaba, or bean water, is what helps this vegan butter substitute hold together. You can use the water from a can of beans or from home-cooked beans, but make sure the liquid has cooled before you make the butter. Unrefined coconut oil makes a softer spread, but refined coconut oil is fine.
- Addie Broyles
• 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon coconut oil
• 4 teaspoons canola oil or olive oil
• 3 tablespoons aquafaba (chickpea water)
• 2/3 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or freshly squeezed lemon juice or 1/8 teaspoons lactic acid)
• 1/3 teaspoon salt
If the coconut oil isn't liquid, melt over low heat and then let cool. Mix with canola or olive oil and set aside.
Place the aquafaba in a food processor or a narrow container that will fit an immersion blender. Add the vinegar or lemon juice and salt.
With the blender running, slowly drizzle the oil mixture in, making sure that the oil is incorporated before adding more. It should take a few minutes to add all the oil, so go slowly. Store it in the fridge, especially during the summer months.
- Adapted from a recipe on Plante Pusherne