When I first started trying to cook gluten, dairy and corn free I was astounded by the number of margarines and other imitation butter products that were totally unacceptable. So many contained dairy protein, hydrogenated oils, GMOs, or major allergens (soy) that even after half an hour standing in front of the cold case reading labels I found only a few alternatives.

Eventually I did find products that met my criteria, but it took time. The following are the products that I personally use. Most are soy-free. All are dairy-free, gluten-free, corn-free and truly vegan. All are certified kosher. Most use palm oil although sometimes they use coconut oil. Please note that ALL of these products are in the Whole Foods system which means that if you want them and your local Whole Foods does not have them, they can order them for you.

1) Spectrum Naturals Butter Flavor Shortening – Made with palm oil, shelf stable even after opening, yellow like butter and with a butterish taste, this is my go to margarine for cooking and baking. I prefer not to use it in butter cookies or sugar cookies because there is a more flavorful alternative and in those cookies, the lack of “real” butter stands out. But for anything savory like mashed potatoes, stuffing, or for chocolate or other strong flavors, I love this stuff. It is free of all of the big eight allergens and also free of corn. It is also available from Vitacost and Amazon.

2) Earth Balance Organic Whipped Spread
– this product contains soybean oil. It also is the one thing out there that makes soft, rich, airy, buttercream frosting accessible to people who cannot have butter or eggs or totally fake food (there are canned frostings that are airy, they just aren’t Feingold approved). I wish aerating margarines was not such an excellent science experiment on the failure of an emulsion. That said, Until someone comes out with a whipped version using palm oil, this is the best one that I have found for making vegan frostings… but only if you can handle soy. Also be aware that it is not totally corn-free. This product uses a natural flavoring made from corn. Now that could be something super-refined so no proteins survive, like maltodextrin or hard liquor, but since natural flavors follow proprietary processes and food companies are concerned about litigation, it may be hard to uncover. Long story short, if I stopped breathing when I ate corn, I probably would not use this product. I use it exclusively in frostings

3) Earth Balance Coconut Spread – My favorite for holiday cookies, or even spreading on toast. This coconut and palm oil combination is slightly sweet but not very coconutty. It is the best tasting of the three right out of the container, but it does contain coconut and it is white. I put this one on bread.

This is not to say that there are no other good products out there. Every time I shop it seems like more have been added. That said, if you want a simple list of shortenings that are free of the big eight, non-GMO, non-hydrogenated and taste good (for margarine) here is my list.