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Recipes / Compound Butter

Compound Butter

By Mark Bittman

Published May 23, 2024

Compound butter is nothing more than butter mixed with a flavorful ingredient: an herb, like parsley; a spice, like cumin; an aromatic, like garlic; a bit of fruit, like lemon; or a prepared ingredient, like mustard or soy sauce.

Compound butters, made with (L-R) smoked paprika, wasabi, dill. Photo: Burcu Avsar and Zach DeSart
Compound butters, made with (L-R) smoked paprika, wasabi, dill. Photo: Burcu Avsar and Zach DeSart
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The possibilities here are endless, though traditionally compound butter has been used as a finishing ingredient in sauces and to top grilled or broiled items. But those limits need not concern you. Since it can be made in advance, compound butter is a handy way to add flavor and a luxurious texture to pasta, grains, beans, veggies — whatever.

Compound butter can be refrigerated for days or frozen for a month or so. Make it, roll it into a log, and wrap in two or three layers of plastic before storing. When you need some, cut off a piece and return the rest to the freezer.

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Compound Butter

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Makes about 5 tablespoons 1x

Time 10 minutes

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs (like parsley, chervil, cilantro, chives, dill, or sage), or a smaller amount of tarragon, rosemary, or thyme, or a combination
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, just below room temperature
  • Salt
  • Pepper (optional)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)

Instructions

  1. Use a fork to cream the herbs with the butter. Taste and add salt as needed, and pepper and lemon juice if you’d like.
  2. Use or form into a log, wrap, and refrigerate or freeze until needed.

— Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Completely Revised Tenth Anniversary Edition 

Recipe variations

11 Add-Ins for Compound Butter
These can be used in conjunction with an herb or not, as you prefer (same with the lemon juice) or combined with one another. Amounts are approximate to be added to 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter and should be adjusted to suit your taste.

  1. 2 tablespoons minced scallions
  2. 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger; for a sweet compound butter, also add a tablespoon or 2 of honey or minced candied ginger
  3. 1 teaspoon grated lemon or lime zest, along with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
  4. 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and mashed, with 1 teaspoon minced or grated lemon zest
  5. 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, with 1 tablespoon minced shallot if you’d like
  6. 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard or 1 teaspoon wasabi powder
  7. 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  8. 2 tablespoons minced pitted green or black olives
  9. 1 teaspoon minced garlic or 2 or more cloves Roasted Garlic
  10. Mashed flesh of 1/2 peach, plum, or pear
  11. 1 to 2 teaspoons soy sauce