I thought we could do a dive into compound butters today. Compound butters are a lazy cook’s secret weapon. They’re a way to add intense flavor to preparations without a whole lot of extra effort. They also freeze really well, earning them bonus points as far as I’m concerned. Thaw, stir, and you’ve got a powerful flavor accent at your disposal. To make a compound butter you incorporate ingredients into a butter base. As much as I love good butter, I also can’t help but constantly ask myself – what can I add to this butter to make it extra awesome? I’ve included a few recent favorites here, and I’ll also mention a few things to think about for when you set out to try out your own ideas.
Compound Butter Ideas & Variations
The range of possible compound butters is limited only by your imagination. Here are a few past favorites to get you thinking, but please think of them as jumping off points! Have fun and experiment.
Roasted Strawberry Ginger Compound Butter
Roasted Strawberry Ginger Compound Butter:
Let’s kick things off with a sweet compound butter. I make it on occasion during strawberry season using strawberries I’ve roasted and cooled. Use a food processor to whip 1 stick (4 oz.) of room temperature unsalted butter until fluffy. Transfer to a bowl and old in 1/8 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, 3 tablespoons chopped candied ginger, 15 chopped candied pecans, and a couple teaspoons of runny honey. Stir until everything comes together and then loosely fold in about 1/4 cup roasted strawberries. Great with: brunch.
Lemon Miso Compound Butter
Lemon Miso Compound Butter:
Use a food processor to whip 1 stick (4 oz.) of room temperature unsalted butter until fluffy. Pulse in 1 tablespoon miso, zest of one lemon (or yuzu), 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon ground toasted cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Taste and adjust if needed. Fold in 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds. Great on: brown rice bowls, roasted delicate squash, sautéed vegetables, baked potatoes, roasted tomatoes.
Saffron Date Compound Butter
Saffron Date Compound Butter:
Add 1 pinch of saffron threads in 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, allow to sit for five minutes. Use a food processor to whip 1 stick (4 oz.) of room temperature unsalted butter until fluffy. Pulse in 1 tablespoon honey, and 1/8 teaspoon fine grain sea salt. Add the saffron-almond extract mixture, scraping down the sides of the processor bowl regularly. Pulse in five plump dates, leaving them a bit chunky. Great on: hot oatmeal, flatbreads, sautéed greens.
Green Garlic Olive Compound Butter
Garlic Green Olive Compound Butter:
Use a food processor to whip 1 stick (4 oz.) of room temperature unsalted butter until fluffy. Pulse in 1 large clove of peeled garlic, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Start with 1/8 teaspoon, but add more if you like. Pulse in a dozen plump green olives that you have pitted, rinsed, and dried in a clean towel. I like to squeeze the olives between my palms to rid them of as much olive water as possible before pulsing them in. Great on: pasta, polenta, a wide range of vegetables, it’s easy magic.
Scallion Dill Compound Butter
Scallion Dill Compound Butter:
Use a food processor to whip 1 stick (4 oz.) of room temperature unsalted butter until fluffy. Pulse in a scant 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, a large clove of garlic (or 1 head of trimmed green garlic), 2 scallions, and a handful of fresh dill you’ve de-stemmed. Pulse well here, until everything blends together into a vibrant, electric green butter. Great on: just about everything – grilled asparagus, to finish sautéed mushrooms, perfect on corn later in the year, or cornbread. Also, biscuits, polenta, rice bowls, potatoes, egg salad. It’s incredibly versatile.
More Compound Butter Recipes!
Dry Desert Lime Compound Butter: I’ve been playing around quite a bit lately using tea as a seasoning. Many times I’ll grind up tea leaves in a mortar and pestle and use it the way you might use a pepper. The fragrance that comes off the ground leaves is wonderful and brings an unexpected element to many preparations. Depending on the tea I am using this can range from smoky to floral to fresh and bright. In this case I choose a dried lime tisane (or herbal tea) instead. There is something haunting, vibrant and ancient in the taste of dried lime and I thought it might lend itself nicely to a compound butter for use on a range of foods like: sweet potatoes (mashed/roasted), grilled corn, or as a spread on sandwiches, etc. To make: 4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 1 or 2 Numi Desert Lime tea bags (depending on how strong you want it), cut open and the contents ground in a mortar and pestle 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt. Combine in a small bowl and refrigerate.
Freeze-Dried Strawberry Compound Butter: Freeze-dried fruit is quite common now. You can get strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and pineapple. Crush and chop these strawberries, whip them into butter and you get a textured, color-flecked spread perfect for pancakes, toast, muffins and the like. The strawberries are on the very tart side of sweet so I sweetened this one up with a bit of sugar – I used Florida Crystals because I didn’t want a browner sugar to impact its bright color. To make: 4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar, 1/3 cup dehydrated organic strawberries, minced. Combine in a small bowl and refrigerate.
Raw Serrano Compound Butter: This one is for the cornbreads of the world. It has a little heat and a lot of flavor. I used 2 medium serrano chiles, but you can scale up or down on the chile scale depending on your tastes. A pretty pale green butter flecked with dark green freckles I’m also love it on crepes, and grilled corn, and to toss fresh summer shell beans, and for pasta. I think a great variation on this one would be to add roasted garlic and pan-toast the chiles before blending them in. To make: 4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 2 serrano chiles, deveined and seeded, loosely chopped plus 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt. Combine in a small bowl and puree with a hand blender until the chiles are fully incorporated. Refrigerate.
Smoked Paprika Compound Butter: Fragrant, delicious, and a stunning rusty-orange color a little of this butter goes the distance. It will lend itself nicely to brown rice, certain kabobs, sandwiches, corn soup, toasted artisan breads, and zucchini muffins. To make: 4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika plus 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt Combine in a small bowl and refrigerate.
Let me know if you come up with any special butters we should know about. Keep in mind, compound butters are a great way to use up smaller quantities of herbs, spices, the odd clove of garlic, the bottom of the jar of sun-dried tomatoes, or capers. Melted, many are great on your favorite pancakes or homemade popcorn. They also freeze really well. I recommend freezing in small quantities, so you can easily pull just enough for a couple of days use. One other tip – concentrated ingredients with little moisture work best. For example, roasted strawberries versus fresh strawberries. Orange zest versus orange segments. Have fun! -h
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