What is Herb Butter?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Dried marjoram, which is often included in herb butter.
Dried marjoram, which is often included in herb butter.

Herb butter, or herbed butter is a seasoned butter made by blending butter with an assortment of herbs and spices. It is a popular addition to dishes such as pasta, rice, fish, and fresh vegetables, and it also makes an excellent spread for fresh breads. Many cooks like to keep a stock of herb butter around to quickly dress up dishes, and it is often available at gourmet markets and grocers. It is also very easy to make herb butter at home, and many cooks prefer to do this since it offers more control over the ingredients.

Sprigs of rosemary and sage.
Sprigs of rosemary and sage.

A typical herb butter includes a small amount of lemon and salt, in addition to the herbs and butter. The addition of lemon juice makes the butter slightly more acidic, thus staving off bacterial contamination. Lemon juice is by no means foolproof, and herbed butter should always be handled carefully. Salt and pepper may be added to the herb butter so that they do not have to be added to the food, although they are certainly not required.

Butter before being mixed with herbs.
Butter before being mixed with herbs.

Any number of herbs and combinations can be used in herb butter. Thyme, marjoram, dill, sage, parsley, basil, chives, oregano, rosemary, and garlic are some common choices. Fresh herbs are ideal, since they will be more intensely flavorful, although dried herbs can be used as well. If you use dried herbs, crush them lightly to release their flavorful oils, and smell them first to make sure that they are still strong. If the herbs have minimal odor or they smell dusty, discard them.

Basil is commonly added to herb butter.
Basil is commonly added to herb butter.

To make herb butter, start by briefly blanching herbs to remove dirt and bacteria which could contaminate the butter. You will want around one quarter cup herbs for every stick of butter. Pat the herbs lightly with dry paper towels to soak up the water, and then finely chop them before adding them to a bowl of creamed butter along with one teaspoon of lemon juice to every stick of butter, and a pinch of salt, if desired. Blend the ingredients thoroughly, and then form the herb butter into a log or stick on a piece of plastic wrap for easy storage.

Garlic is a popular ingredient in herb butter.
Garlic is a popular ingredient in herb butter.

The finished herb butter will keep for around a week under refrigeration, or a month in the freezer. To use the herb butter, slice off a pat and add it to a cooked dish. You can also allow it to soften and pipe the herb butter into various decorative shapes which can be used to dress the table at a formal dinner. Should you choose to do this, keep the herb butter in iced dishes so that it will not melt or warm excessively.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

myharley

I love to make my own honey butter. All I do is add the desired amount of honey to softened butter and mix until it is well blended. Sometimes I will even add a touch of cinnamon.

This can't be beat when served on a warm piece of bread fresh from the oven or on your toast in the morning.

Mykol

I always make my own garlic herb butter. This is great spread on french bread and baked in the oven. You can add as little or as much garlic as you want. I like to add parsley, chives and shredded cheese. Just make sure your butter is at room temperature and you won't have any trouble mixing it in.

I have also used dry Italian seasoning mixed in with butter as a spread on french bread. It is fun to try different flavors, but when serving pasta, some kind of garlic and cheese is always a must.

julies

It really doesn't take long to mix up your own herb butter. When I mix up a batch, I like to keep the extra in the freezer. This makes it handy to always have some on hand. Once everything is mixed up I will roll it in some plastic wrap. Then wrap that up in foil and place in the freezer.

When you are ready to use, you can just slice off what you need for your cooking. Using herb butter can bring out a lot of flavor in your steaks and vegetables.

Experiment with the flavors that you enjoy the most. Tarragon has become one of my new favorites. You will find many herb butter recipes online. The nice thing is you can add the herbs that you like for your own custom flavor.

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    • Dried marjoram, which is often included in herb butter.
      Dried marjoram, which is often included in herb butter.
    • Sprigs of rosemary and sage.
      By: marilyn barbone
      Sprigs of rosemary and sage.
    • Butter before being mixed with herbs.
      By: Elena Schweitzer
      Butter before being mixed with herbs.
    • Basil is commonly added to herb butter.
      By: Barbara Pheby
      Basil is commonly added to herb butter.
    • Garlic is a popular ingredient in herb butter.
      By: Schlierner
      Garlic is a popular ingredient in herb butter.
    • Sage can be used in an herb butter to flavor many foods.
      By: Irina Belousa
      Sage can be used in an herb butter to flavor many foods.
    • Herb butter can be seasoned with parsley.
      By: Barbara Pheby
      Herb butter can be seasoned with parsley.
    • Herb butter makes a excellent spread for fresh breads.
      By: Maurice Metzger
      Herb butter makes a excellent spread for fresh breads.
    • Herb butter commonly includes oregano.
      By: Taiga
      Herb butter commonly includes oregano.