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How to Make a Compound Butter for Simple Delicious Flavor

a rich herb compound butter melting atop a juicy steak
Lisovskaya Natalia/Shutterstock

Stop with the storebought steak sauce and ditch the simmering stockpots. Next time you need a flavor boost on meat or veggies, forget intricate sauces and keep it simple with compound butter.

Compound butters are glorious combinations of our favorite solidified fat with herbs, spices, and other flavor enhancements. The result is a highly flavored butter that melts into an instant sauce for your steak, seafood, or vegetables.

The possibilities for flavor with something like this are endless. Maybe you feel like gorging on garlic or perhaps want to taste garden-fresh basil in every bite. Either way, compound butter is the perfect flavor vessel.

Rather than spending hours on a sauce or running to the store for a sub-par flavor boost, you can have a compound butter in about ten minutes of hands-on time. Plus, it’s easy to store and keep on hand. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s make some butter!

Compound Butter, Step by Step

To make compound butter, you’ll need softened butter and whatever mix-in(s) you’d like. You might include fresh herbs, raw or roasted garlic, fresh citrus like lemon or lime, or spices like turmeric or cumin. The possibilities are limited only by your creativity because pretty much everything tastes better with butter.

You can mix in flavor enhancements either using a food processor, immersion blender, or, for those who don’t like appliances, a fork with a bowl will do just fine! You will want to ensure your mix-ins, regardless of what, are chopped small and that you mix them into the butter as evenly as possible. From there, dump the butter onto a piece of parchment or plastic wrap, form a log, and roll it tightly. It will need to chill in the fridge at least two hours before use.

How Long Does Compound Butter Last?

In the fridge, tightly wrapped, compound butter lasts about five days. However, it freezes for up to six months. Freezing a batch of compound butter is a great idea when you have an abundance of fresh herbs. You don’t have to freeze the butter as a full log either. Break it up and freeze it in an ice cube mold, so you’ll have small cubes that you can defrost for individual use.

A Note On Butter Substitutes

If you’re butter adverse, other solid fats mixed with flavor components can be used as a compound butter substitution. Coconut oil is the most popular because it will harden in the fridge, just like butter. Of course, you will have a lot of coconut flavor that you’ll need to tie-in to the final meal.

Margarine technically works too, but we don’t recommend it. The flavor tends to taste artificial, and when it comes to compound butter, the flavor is the whole point!

Uses for Compound Butters

fresh bread with delicious compound butters in dishes

When you hear compound butter, steak probably comes to mind. And it’s true, classic compound butters loaded with parsley, chives, or garlic are delicious on a rib-eye. But don’t stop there.

They’re also incredible on baked goods like waffles or scones. See, your add-ins can be just as sweet as they can be savory. We’ve seen recipes for everything from lemon-honey butter to sweet-cream coffee butter. And really, does anything sound better than Saturday morning pancakes with sweetened, coffee-flavored butter?

Vegetables do well with compound butters too. Corn with a cilantro and lime infused butter is a great start. If you’re feeling a little more gourmet, perhaps a miso-butter over green beans is the way to go. You can also use your vegetables as the flavor mix-in. English Peas, for example, blend beautifully into butter and the bright green result certainly makes your morning toast exciting.

Seafood is another great place to use flavor-infused butter. Here, your classic citrus combinations are always a great choice. However, any herb-filled approach will be fantastic. If you’re feeling extra creative, charred scallions give a whole new smoky-feel to compound butter, and with a grilled seafood dish, they’re phenomenal.

Regardless of what you choose to use it on, or what you want to flavor it with, compound butter is a home cook’s best friend. It’s simple to make, easy to store, and has unlimited flavor combinations. So, ditch the sauce and make all your dishes better with butter.

Lauren Sakiyama Lauren Sakiyama
Lauren Sakiyama is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry. She has managed restaurants, country clubs, and large-scale event operations, but her passion has always been about the food. Read Full Bio »
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