Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
26 Mar

Homemade Cultured Butter

Instead of going on and on about how good butter is and stringing together mouth-watering adjectives to describe the nuances of flavor and incredibly rich texture, we’re going to assume that butter needs no introduction. It’s butter, for Pete’s sake. We’ve all tasted it before and all of us are probably more than familiar with its charms. However, consider yourself warned that the recipe we’re sharing here is a little bit dangerous – it’s not just for butter, it’s for homemade cultured butter. If you find store-bought butter hard to resist, you don’t stand a chance against homemade cultured butter. For better or for worse, you’re going to want to eat this stuff with a spoon.

Homemade cultured butter has a rich, glossy texture that’s silky, not waxy. But it’s not just about texture. Unlike most supermarket brands of butter, homemade cultured butter has noticeable flavor: tangy, fresh, lightly sweet and extremely, well, buttery. Science backs us up on this. The good bacteria that’s in cultured cream produces an aroma compound called diacetyl. When the cream is churned into butter, this compound intensifies the buttery flavor. An optional sprinkle of sea salt ups the flavor even more, or, you can get really creative and delve into the world of compound butters. Compound (flavored) butter is an easy way to perk up a meal. Instead of dealing with a complicated sauce, simply top whatever you’re eating with butter that’s been enhanced by another ingredient. Mix fresh herbs, ground spices or garlic into the butter for a savory topping you’ll never forget. Mash crumbles of fried bacon or prosciutto into homemade butter and melt it over steak or cooked vegetables if you think you can handle the butter nirvana that follows. For something a little on the lighter side, stir fresh lemon zest into your homemade butter and spread it over seafood.

To make cultured butter at home you only need one ingredient: cultured cream. Although regular whole cream will whip into butter as well, it produces butter that is relatively bland and is missing the tanginess of cultured butter. You can buy whole cream and culture it yourself, or you can buy crème fraîche, which is cream that has already been cultured. In either case, look for high-quality whole cream or crème fraîche, ideally made from organic, grass-fed milk. The crème fraîche should have only one ingredient listed, cultured cream, not any stabilizers or thickeners.

In countries other than the U.S., crème fraîche is often made from unpasteurized milk with naturally occurring bacteria that cultures the cream, turning it thick and flavorful. In the U.S., laws require that products made from unpasteurized milk be aged at least 60 days before being sold, which means raw crème fraîche is not available in stores. Instead, bacteria cultures are added back into the cream after it is pasteurized. In the U.S., the best brands of crème fraîche are made by artisanal cheesemakers who can coax flavor out of pasteurized cream by using high-quality bacterial cultures and grass-fed milk. If you can find crème fraîche made by a cheesemaker, it will often be superior in flavor and texture to cream that you culture yourself at home using a bit of buttermilk in place of bacteria cultures. On the other hand, if you’re making crème fraîche at home for your own consumption, you do have the option of using raw cream if you can get your hands on some.

However you decide to make it, or whatever you decide to add for extra flavor (we’re hooked on chive butter right now), your batch of homemade cultured butter is guaranteed to taste like a little bit of spreadable heaven. Cultured butter is a luxurious, voluptuous, flavorful ingredient that is well worth the little bit of time and effort it takes to make at home.


  • 2 cups crème fraîche, either store-bought or homemade (see recipe below)
  • A pinch of sea salt (optional)
  • To make compound (flavored) butter, considering adding bacon or prosciutto bits, minced herbs, spices (try curry powder, paprika or red pepper flakes), minced garlic, cinnamon, lemon zest


Yield: About 1/2 – 3/4 cup butter

Take the crème fraîche out of refrigeration 45 minutes or so before you start so it gets close to room temperature.

Fill a bowl with 3-4 cups of water. Add ice so the water is cold. Set aside.

Put the crème fraîche in the food processor with the blade attachment, a stand mixture with the whisk attachment, or in a glass canning jar with a lid. All three work equally well. The benefit of using a food processor is that it is the fastest method and liquid won’t splatter everywhere like it will with a stand mixer. Manually shaking a glass jar builds a workout into the recipe, but takes longer.

To make the butter, process or whisk the crème fraîche for about three minutes, sometimes a bit longer. If you’re using a jar, shake for as long as you need to. With each method, the mixture will begin to thicken and look like whipped cream, then it will thicken even more and start turning a pale yellow color. At this point, buttermilk will begin separating from the butter.

Stop and pour the buttermilk out, then process a little longer and pour out any additional buttermilk that appears. (You can save the buttermilk to drink or use it in any recipe that calls for buttermilk.)

Taste the butter. It will have a sour quality, which is from buttermilk that has not separated out yet. To give the butter a purer flavor, it must be rinsed.

Use a spatula to scrape the butter into a bowl. Add 1/2 cup of ice water and mash the butter and water together with a fork for about 30 seconds. The butter will repel the water, not soak it up, and the water will clean off any remaining buttermilk. Pour the liquid (which will be cloudy) out of the bowl.

Continue this process, 4 or 5 times, until the water no longer becomes cloudy.

Continue mashing the butter with a fork and pour out any last bits of liquid it releases. Stir in sea salt to taste if desired. If you are making a compound butter, mash the ingredient in with the butter now.

Wrap the butter in wax paper and shape it into a log, or fill a small container with the butter. Keep the butter well-covered in the refrigerator and use within a week or so. You can also freeze the butter for future use.

Homemade Crème Fraiche


2 cups whole (whipping) cream
4 tablespoons buttermilk


Combine in a glass container. Let sit at room temperature (around 70 degrees) at least 8 hours and up to 24. It is done when the cream is very thick. Can be refrigerated about a week if not used immediately.

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. I absolutely love butter, but always wanted to make my own. Homemade will always win with me. I’m going to try this, this weekend.

    Jonathan wrote on April 1st, 2011
  2. Wow, I swear sometimes it’s like we’re on the same wavelength. I just started making my own homemade butter over the last three weeks (in fact, before getting online today I made up 2 more batches!). I’m really glad you posted this up because I will definitely be making the homemade creme fraiche for my next butter adventure!

    Andrea wrote on April 4th, 2011
    • Made my second batch today. The first time I made it I used Creme Fraiche that I found in the grocery store which was quite pricey ($10 for 16 oz.) However, I saved the buttermilk from it and last night put the buttermilk into some cream and let it sit for about 16 hours until it got really happy (seriously it smelled so good I felt like drinking it). Then today made butter with it. It was a lot softer than the first batch and not yellow at all, but oh, is it tasty!!

      And I have buttermilk from this batch, so the cycle will continue.

      I’m taking some to my Mom tomorrow, because she has not had fresh homemade butter since she help her Mom churn it when she was a kid. (Then her Mom discovered margarine and never made it again–sad, really, but I guess she saw it as once less chore for her.)

      Grace wrote on April 9th, 2011
  3. I made this today with the kids. We all agreed it was the best butter we have ever had! Thank you for the recipe!

    Rock Farm wrote on April 12th, 2011
  4. I tried a little experiment – put kefir grains into grass-fed cream and after a few days had the most divine, thick, cultured cream-kefir. Tasted so good, I just ate it by the spoonful instead of trying to make butter with it. Hmm, maybe next time, if I don’t eat it all first! A bit like creme fraiche, tho slightly sourer flavour.

    Bronwen wrote on April 18th, 2011
  5. I am lucky enough to have access to raw dairy from an Amish farm in PA, that uses the jersey milking cows. However, it is quite expensive, so I tend to buy the larger sizes to compensate, which is a little silly since only I consume the raw milk products in my household. I have had some of the cream mold in the past because of my slow usage. Also, I tend to lose weight slower with dairy, not necessarily because of my body not processing it or higher resulting insulin, but because it is so delicious, I am adding about 300+ daily calories to what I normally eat when I stick to only meat, fat and veggies.
    However, I do want to offer my body and my tastebuds the unique nutrition raw grass-grazed dairy provides! Despite this, I have been fretting about quitting my orders and thereby support of this wonderful farm because of my cost, rate of use and added calories. Then I read began to read some of Mark’s archived articles and member’s posts, whereas it was pointed out that access to raw milk and cream is seasonal, and then the cultured products and butter are utilized until the following season. Then viola! I read the above article on making butter! Problem solved, I will continue my raw cream in season, and turn my excess “value cream” into butter and creme fraiche!
    I added some creme fraiche, made by the farm, to my already thickening heavy cream and let it sit for a few hours to add some cultures. I beleive, when the cream thickens it is already starting to culture, so I was hedging my bet. I used the food processor, the white dough blade was too short, so I stuck with the longer metal blade. I processed for around 3 minutes, it thickened and yellowed, but did not separate. I rinsed it to get the sourish smell off, as I want it to last. I assume it didn’t seperate because the heavy cream was already very thick, or else I did not mix it long enough???
    I was so happy that I got to use some chives and parsley from the garden! I keep neglecting to harvest and use the herbs, but there is nothing better than herbed butter to motivate! I added green herbs plus organic lemon zest to one batch, and I grated shallot to add to the other. I added a grind of pink salt to one, but not the other. So I am curious which will be yummiest on steak!
    My butter was much softer, than what it appears in the photos, and I couldn’t shape it with wax paper without putting it into the freezer for a few minutes first. Is my butter too soft from not mixing it enough? Or was that beautiful photo of the stick of butter above, cooled before it was molded?
    Either way, both batches look scrumptious, and I am no longer fretting about whether to quit ordering my dairy! I now have many easy and delightful uses for the cream, and I will be saving the cost of ordering the raw cultured butter and creme fraiche from the farm! (They also provide pastured beef, pork and chicken.) A few hours exploring Mark’s articles and the intelligent and humorous posts on this site have not only educated me, but solved my dilemma! Thank you everyone! Also, I am going to take Bronwen’s suggestion and kefir some of my next order of cream!

    Gardennymph wrote on April 28th, 2011
  6. Wait, is it really that easy? Why aren’t I doing this *right now*?

    Kitty wrote on May 11th, 2011
  7. Can’t wait to try this – it sounds heavenly! And if you make your own creme fraiche, and ferment it for a minimum of 36 hours, it will be lactose-free and then you can have lactose-free butter (which my husband will definitely enjoy!!).

    oliviascotland wrote on May 12th, 2011
  8. I was wondering if 55% clotted cream would work well here?

    Yasmine wrote on May 24th, 2011
  9. I’ve been wanting to try this for a while, but haven’t had a good opportunity to until today. I was at the farmer’s market, asking the cheese guy if his dairy offered butter, and he said they wanted to start, but didn’t have anyone to play with it. I then asked about raw cream, explaining that I had found this how-to. SO HE GAVE ME A GALLON OF FRESH, RAW CREAM FOR FREE provided that I bring a sample for him to try so he can decide if he wants to start offering it. Win.

    Ware wrote on May 28th, 2011
  10. So THAT’s why there’s such a big difference between the butter I’m used to, and the NZ brand I’ve been buying recently – Danish butter is cultured by standard!

    I have to admit I like the culture stuff a lot better ^^
    I use the NZ brand for ghee – it’s cheaper 😉

    Rikke wrote on June 12th, 2011
  11. Could you use whey to culture the butter instead of buttermilk?

    Kels wrote on September 1st, 2011
  12. Thanks. I made my first batch this evening. I made one gallon which became around 3-4 pounds of butter.

    EISutton wrote on October 4th, 2011
  13. Sorry but I am starting with having a cow and your directions include buy stuff at a store that I am sure I can not find nor could I afford.
    How do I start the process when I begin with a cow?

    Joe in Missouri wrote on January 7th, 2012
  14. Have just come across this site, been making butter for a while using cream, will give it a go this weekend using my home made creme’ Fraiche’, can’t wait.

    Thanks for the recipe

    Wal Laven wrote on May 17th, 2012
  15. Howdy very cool website!! Guy .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your site and take the feeds additionally?I am satisfied to seek out a lot of helpful information here in the put up, we want develop more strategies in this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

    Best Yogurt Recipes wrote on August 3rd, 2012
  16. In India there are several traditional ways of making butter. One of the most traditional is to take the cream off the top of the yoghurt everyday and set it aside. In India many people make yoghurt at home each day, and as it is made from non-homogenised milk the cream rises to the top. The cream is collected for maybe a week until there is enough to churn. This makes butter and real buttermilk. The butter is used as it is or made into ghee. Nowadays many people also collect the cream off milk after it has been boiled and cooled. However, if you do this, then you should add 1 tsp of yoghurt to the collected cream and leave it to culture for a few hours before churning to get the proper taste.

    Jaya wrote on August 14th, 2013
  17. I wonder what honey would do to the flavour?

    C Bomb wrote on February 3rd, 2014
  18. I know you can homemake buttermilk by adding an acid (like a citrus juice) to milk. Does anyone know if that affects the culturing of the whipping cream or does it matter? You can also make it by adding milk to yogurt or sour cream which I think should work better because the yogurt has a bunch of good bacteria in it. Does anyone know the answer?

    Kyle wrote on June 27th, 2014
  19. Well, let me see if I got it right. I’m from Brazil and here, you don’t find buttermilk or creme fraiche. Even whole fresh cream is hard to find and expensive.

    So, first, the buttermilk. Mark tells us that it naturally happens as you whisk the cream, it would be the milklike liquid that it releases. So I need to make a butter without buttermilk to get the buttermilk and then add it to another cream to actually make the “real” butter?

    If I make the buttermilk this way, how much time will I be able to keep it in the refrigerator?

    Thank you.

    Felipe Oliveira wrote on October 9th, 2014
  20. Why is the butter in your pictures so pale? I make mine from unpasteurized jersey cream which I leave to culture. It makes yellow, almost orange butter.

    Mary wrote on August 22nd, 2015

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