Scientists create butter-like spread that’s mostly water

Scientists create butter-like spread that’s mostly water

If you can’t believe it’s not butter, that’s because it isn’t. Food scientists at Cornell University have invented a low-calorie, butter-like spread that is made mostly from water.

For the health conscious, here’s the tale of the tape: A tablespoon of the new spread has 2.8 grams of fat and 25 calories. Butter, by comparison, weighs in with almost four times more fat and calories.

Here’s how they found a way to mimic real butter: Using a new process, the scientists combined two ingredients that usually don’t like to stick together — water and vegetable oil. The end product is produced by combining large amounts of water and tiny drops of vegetable oil. The findings were published recently in an American Chemical Society journal.

 The idea of combining oil and water, known as an emulsion, isn’t new to scientists. But in the Cornell lab, they used a process known as high-internal phase emulsion that keeps adding water until it accounts for 80 percent of the mixture.  And — BAM! — a butter-like product is born in the lab, not the kitchen.

But then comes the inevitable questions: How does it taste? Does is feel like butter in the mouth? The project’s lead scientist says their invention delivers the consistency of butter along with a similar “mouth feel” and creaminess.

It’s also highly adaptable, the researchers said. It can be tweaked to adjust for taste and health preferences. Adding in plant- or milk-based proteins as well as vitamins and flavors is also possible — and that could be one way to bring the new spread’s taste closer to real butter.

That all makes for a potentially healthier butter substitute — but one without all the saturated fat.

Related Episodes