Compound butter, or more commonly known as flavoured butter is a really easy and cheap way to add flavour to a dish without the effort of making a sauce. You’ve probably seen it most often on top of a steak in a restaurant, melting slowly adding a little zing of flavour to the meat. The other common use for compound butter is in garlic bread where butter is mixed with fresh chopped garlic, and sometimes herbs to make garlic butter also known as beurre à la bourguignonne in French cooking. Though sometimes you can buy compound butters in larger supermarkets, it is very easy to make at home and it can be made in advance and kept for a long time in either the fridge or even the freezer.
Once you start experimenting with different flavors, you’ll wonder how you ever used to manage without this amazing kitchen secret ingredient. Obviously different flavored butter recipes are required for different dishes, but since they are so easy to make you can have many different ones prepared in advance in your freezer, ready to chop off a slice to add before serving. As well as a great way to boost the flavour of steak, chicken, turkey, fish, barbeque, potatoes, seafood, bread, corn, vegetables, popcorn, etc, you could also make sweet flavored butters for the top of breakfast pancakes, or to finish off a sauce by adding flavor and to help thicken it.
Tips on how to make compound butter
- It is best to use unsalted butter, because you can always add salt, but you can’t take it away. If you do end up using salted butter, you will have to be more careful about balancing the flavors.
- Make sure that the butter is at room temperature.
- Make sure that all of your other ingredients for the flavoured butter are at room temperature, e.g. roasted garlic, otherwise they can cause the butter to melt and split.
- Add all your ingredients to a bowl and work together with a fork until combined or use a food processor to mix. However if you use a food processor, don’t run it for too long as it can break down the ingredients too much and the heat of the motor can start to melt the butter causing it to split.
- Let the butter rest for about an hour before wrapping and putting it in the fridge or freezer as this will help the flavour of ingredients such as herbs to infuse through the butter. Dried herbs will need longer than fresh herbs to infuse their flavors.
- I find wrapping the compound butter in plastic wrap and keeping it in the freezer is best as it keeps for longer, but it melts better on top of food when serving. However you can keep it in the fridge wrapped in parchment paper.
- Using a food processor you can make a lighter, airier version of compound butter using whipped butter. First you whip the butter using the paddle blade, then beat the butter mixture until fluffy using the whisk, and then gently mix through your ingredients. Whipped compound butters should be used straight away as they don’t keep that long.
- Compound butter is a great way to use very expensive ingredients e.g. truffle, to make them go further.
- Some spices such as cumin, cardamom, coriander, etc only release their flavors when cooked. So if you use these spices in your compound butter, quickly cook them in a little butter, then cool before mixing.
- Try making your own butter from cream for an even more amazing butter or clarified butter to help it last longer in the fridge.
Some Compound Butter Recipes and ideas
All these recipes will require 1 stick (1/2 cup or 115g) of unsalted butter, but you can easily double up as required.
To make your own compound butter think of what herbs, spices, cheeses, wine reductions, vegetables, fruit and stocks would go with your dish and experiment till you find the one you like best. Here are a few suggestions.
Garlic butter – Best with steak, for making garlic bread, vegetables, seafood and escargot (snails)
- 4 cloves of crushed garlic
- 1/2 tsp of salt
Rosemary and Garlic – Best with lamb or vegetables, but also good with seafood or bread
- 1 roasted clove of garlic
- 2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
- 1/2 tsp of salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bacon Chive Butter – Best with steak or baked potatoes
- 1 tbsp fresh chives
- 1 strip of cooked bacon crumbled into small pieces
- 1 clove of minced garlic
Truffle butter – Best with steak, risotto and pasta dishes
- 1 small black or white truffle (about 1/2oz or 15g) shaved very thinly
- 1/2 tsp of salt
Cinnamon and vanilla butter – Best for breakfast on pancakes or toast
- 2 tsp of sugar
- 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
- The seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Some other flavour combinations to experiment with
- Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
- Bacon and blue cheese
- Sumac and mint
- Basil pesto
- Mustard and brandy
- Chile, cilantro and lime
- Bacon and Bourbon
- Honey and Dijon mustard
- Lemon and Dill
- Red wine, shallots and parsley
- Fig and maple syrup
- Roasted red pepper
- Basil, Parmesan and sun-dried tomato
- Horseradish and chive
- ……and the list goes on and on.
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