This allergy-friendly spread tastes like the real thing
I’m allergic to gluten, dairy, soy, grapes and mint and have navigated a special diet for 27 years.
Five years ago, the manufacturer of the only margarine I could eat began adding soy to its formula. I resorted to using peanut butter, mayo and oil as spreads but I longed for the comfort of melted margarine on my hot (tapioca) toast.
My nostalgia for margarine stems from childhood. When I was growing up in Minnesota, my family used to buy white margarine in a bag that came with a yellow “color bead.” We’d take turns kneading the color into the margarine so that it looked like real butter. Back then, people made margarine runs to neighboring Wisconsin and sold it out of the trunks of their cars. They were actually stopped at the border, searched and arrested if found transporting “contraband” into the dairy state. These memories were significant in my ponderings about life with allergies.
I spent a lot of time looking around for margarine that didn’t contain soy, gluten and dairy and grew increasingly frustrated. There was nothing available locally and the few brands I found online were costly.
One day, I spotted a newspaper article that mentioned homemade margarine. I was immediately intrigued. Using the Internet, I found a number of recipes, each calling for the same basic ingredients—oil, water, salt, food coloring and lecithin. I tried them all but not one was workable. They separated, didn’t set up right, got watery when spread (yuk!) or just didn’t have a satisfying taste.
So began my pursuit to make my own.
In my first attempts, the margarine didn’t set up well when refrigerated and got icy when frozen. I decided to omit the water and try coconut creamer instead. Then I divvied up the oil—half olive, half sunflower. Eventually, I tried corn oil, rather than harder-to-find sunflower oil. I played with the quantity of coconut creamer to get a thicker product and tweaked the salt to my liking. I found that a dash of turmeric, rather than food coloring, gave good color but two dashes affected the flavor.
All this trial and error occurred over several weeks until finally—I had my own allergy-friendly margarine.
It was time to test it on others. I served it to houseguests and they, being none the wiser, enjoyed it on sandwiches and mashed potatoes and were complimentary. A few weeks later, I gave it one more trial with dinner guests. When I told them it was homemade, they begged for the recipe. That’s when I knew I had a winner.
MAKES ABOUT 1¾ CUPS
Free of dairy, gluten and soy, this margarine is close to butter in taste and can be used as a tasty spread and in cooking and baking. It contains no hydrogenated or trans fats. Vary the taste by adding parsley, chopped scallions, basil, thyme, tarragon, cayenne or other spices.
1 tablespoon coconut oil (liquid or solid)
½ cup sunflower oil or corn oil
½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon liquid lecithin*
½ cup So Delicious coconut creamer
½ teaspoon salt, more to taste
– Dash ground turmeric
1. Put all ingredients in a blender with a deep 2- to 3-cup container. Blend on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes until ingredients are well incorporated and mixture is creamy, similar to cake batter.
2. Pour margarine into a shallow 2-cup container, cover tightly and place in the freezer for several hours or overnight.
3. About 10 minutes before using, remove container from freezer and uncover. With a table knife, scrape across the top to make “buttery curls” for hot toast, waffles, pancakes, muffins, mashed potatoes and more. Store margarine in the freezer for up to a month.
Each teaspoon contains 26 calories, 4g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 14mg sodium, 0g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g protein.
*Lecithin can be made from soy, eggs, sunflower or corn. Many people who are allergic to soy can tolerate soy lecithin. Check the label carefully. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer to confirm ingredients.
Reader JM Shephard lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.