/ Food & Drink, Health

Butter vs spreads – what goes on your bread?

Are you a butter or a spreads fan? I’m very much in the butter camp – nothing else quite cuts it on my morning slice of toast. Even though it is 80% fat…

One of my best childhood memories is of being given a piece of toast, still slightly warm, and smeared with gently melting butter.

The creaminess and hit of smooth flavour on a cold winter’s morning was a glorious wake-up call to my taste buds after years of having eaten flavourless margarine.

How healthy is butter?

Advice has generally been to stay away from butter – it’s 80% fat after all. However, provided your doctor hasn’t told you to cut your saturated fat intake, you can use butter on your toast guilt-free as long as you bear in mind how much saturated fat you’re consuming from other sources. And, unlike spread, butter naturally contains Vitamin D. Although many spreads are fortified with added Vitamin D.

The British Heart Foundation advises people to swap butter for spreads and, as you can see in the graph below, you’ll be eating less saturated fat if you do.

Butter versus spreads for saturated fat

This shows how much of your Reference Intake (RI) of saturated fat you’ll get from a standard 10g serving of block butter, spreadable butter and spreads (enough for one to two slices of bread, depending on how thickly you like to spread it!).

The taste of butter

Personally, I much prefer the taste of butter. I don’t really like eating spreads on my toast all by itself. I’d have to add jam or marmalade, which means I’d be eating sugar I could’ve avoided if I’d simply used butter. Decent butter is packed full of flavour, so you don’t need to add anything else to your toast.

OK, not everyone likes butter. The best-selling product in the UK is actually dairy spread, which is why we asked members of the public to taste 11 of them so we could recommend the best dairy spreads. I even use it myself in sandwiches, as it’s easier to spread on the bread – especially in winter.

But for me, butter is best on toast. I love toast and even make my own bread, so it’s important to me that my butter is right. When I was a kid, Anchor butter did the job but it doesn’t seem to taste the same to me anymore.

French butter doesn’t work for my British taste buds – it’s too milky, as is alpine butter. Upmarket butters with sea salt aren’t right, are too expensive and a bit too subtle for my liking. After lots of research and chomping my way through many, many rounds of toast, my latest personal favourite is Waitrose Essential Butter.

Are you a butter or spread person? Which, if any, would you recommend?


I’ve only ever tried unsalted butter before and that wouldn’t spread or in some cases, melt in the same amount of time as margarine in the microwave. At the moment I do prefer margarine but I’m prepared to switch my opinion.

Has to be butter.Goodness knows how much chemicals and processing goes into so-called dairy spreads. I have only used butter for many years, real cream etc. but I do not overdo it . I have low cholesterol despite being overweight. I think processed foods are the biggest worry. Vegetable oils are liquid at room temperature hence need treating to solidify. They say its not hydrogenated but what have they done to it….?The impression in the catering trade that these ‘buttery’ products are actually butter is worrying too . Many times when I ask if it is butter used the assistants seems to think because like butter is named in the spread means it is actually butter. I currently cannot get my local Waitrose café to understand Lurpak spreadable is not butter despite complaining. They still only have Flora or the spreadable Lurpak over a year later.
For those who worry about butter being hard to spread 10 seconds in the microwave in 2×5 second bursts soften it enough to spread.

Peter says:
11 August 2017

I understand that in most cases low fat spreads are better than butter for a low fat diet. However is ‘no spread’ better than a low fat spread if trying to reduce cholesterol??

Therefore is it better to have some ‘good fats’ rather than ‘no fat’??

We all need some fat, as pointed out in the current advice from the NHS: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/Fat.aspx

Years ago I started to eat fresh bread without butter or spreads. I really enjoy the texture of fresh bread that is full of seeds. I sometimes have butter because I like the flavour and use a low fat spread for sandwiches but don’t eat much of either. It may seem eccentric to eat bread without one bread or spread but it is worth trying, particularly if you like the flavour and texture.

Sorry everyone, maybe I’ve missed it, but where in the heck is the full review? Am I the only one who sees the introduction, the winner as “Waitrose Essential Butter”, with nothing about any of the butters tested and how they all compared?

Apologies for missing something that surely is here – but where is the review of butter? I can only find review of butter spreads, but not real butter. Obviously its somewhere, given the New Zealand butter comments — am I the only one who can’t see it?

I am on a tight budget so have started to use Utterly Butterly and Clover. I do this for the sake of economy only. I am not worried about fat content or other possible dietary concerns. I still use butter but now see it as a treat. In an ideal world I would always use butter, preferably unsalted and I would spread it on thick. Waitrose Essential is fine. Kerrygold is good and many French butters are good (not cheap though).
I can’t see the point of so-called spreadable butters, it’s a way of diluting butter with rapeseed or sunflower oil rendering the so-called butter halfway to being a spread anyway.

A great disadvantage of many of the spreads is that they can’t be used for cooking. Clover says light frying is possible but I have yet to find out. One certainly would not want to make a roux or an hollandaise with spread, that would be sacrilege.

I do occasionally use ghee which is clarified butter for certain recipes. It cooks well and has a long shelf life.

Lizziewig says:
10 January 2021

‘Dairy spread’ is a Frankenfood, developed in a laboratory. I cannot, for the life of me, see how that muck can be healthy in any way. Real butter anyway!

All I know is that I pack on hell of a lot of belly fat when I use butter instead of a spread.