But is it better than the real thing?
It was just a couple years ago that mainstream food media began to care about aquafaba, the starchy water inside a can of chickpeas. Since then, the liquid has been whipped into everything from vegan meringues to eggless omelets. Aquafaba is once again making headlines (it even caught the eye of New York Times food writer Florence Fabricant), and this time it’s in dairy-free butter. FabaButter, produced by Fora Foods, began as a Kickstarter campaign in March and met its fundraising goal within a week. Now the butter replacement is being sold at Eataly.
FabaButter, which is formulated to work just as well when spread on toast as when baked into scones, comes in a tub with instructions to keep the container refrigerated. Like most butter substitutes, it’s not just one ingredient. I was slightly disappointed to see that aquafaba was the eighth ingredient on the list, behind coconut oil, coconut cream, sunflower oil, sea salt, cultured dextrose, nutritional yeast, and sunflower lecithin (the remaining ingredients are vegan lactic acid and Vitamin D2). So, essentially, we’re dealing with a coconut-oil-based buttery spread, and plenty of those already exist. Those other spreads, however, do often contain palm oil. Though palm oil tastes good and is easy to source, the industry is linked to a host of unsavory practices, among them deforestation and human rights violations. FabaButter proudly notes their status as “palm oil-free” right on the container.
The spread, which is firm when cold and softens at room temperature, smells surprisingly similar to real butter. Opaque and cream-colored (likely due to the addition of coconut cream), the spread also looks remarkably like butter.
I first tasted FabaButter directly out of the fridge. Initially I was shocked at how much it tasted like the real thing—most vegan spreads taste distinctly not like butter, which isn’t a negative attribute per se, but it still changes the eating experience. After those first buttery notes, I noticed that the FabaButter has a slightly earthy aftertaste, not unlike nutty chickpeas, but certainly weird when coming from butter. As the spread softened, however, I was too excited about slightly melty butter on a piece of bread to care (or really notice) any aftertaste. Additionally, though the spread contains sea salt, it wasn’t nearly as salty as regular salted butter. This might be something to note when baking with the spread, but even with salt called for in a recipe, I don’t think you’d run the risk of over-salting here.
For those who care about nutrition facts, 1 tablespoon of FabaButter has 90 calories, 9 grams of fat (7 of which are saturated fat), 50 milligrams of sodium. The container lists 0 grams of carbohydrates and 0 grams of protein; as it does not even list cholesterol, it’s probably safe to assume that would also register 0. A single tablespoon of salted Kerrygold (our favorite grocery store butter) has 100 calories, 11 grams of fat (8 of which are saturated fat), 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 100 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbohydrates and 0 grams of protein. So technically, real butter is just slightly higher in most areas, but keep in mind that butter is just pasteurized cream and salt, while FabaButter contains several oils and other ingredients. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. That’s ultimately your call.
Realistically, I would eat FabaButter again if it were placed in front of me and I was looking at a dry piece of toast. I’d also probably pick it over most other vegan butters, as it’s probably good to avoid palm oil. Will I start spreading it on radishes or use it my my next batch of chocolate chunk shortbread over those pale yellow sticks of grass-fed butter in my fridge? Not so much.