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Making Cultured Butter

Making Cultured Butter -

I was thumbing through a cookbook looking for a recipe when something caught my eye and I had to backup to look again…

Cultured Butter.

Now, I have made regular butter a few times in my life. But cultured butter? No.

How did I not know about this?

I make yogurt and I make cheese. But it never occurred to me to make cultured butter.

I set out to research different ways to do this and tried it myself (several times). Let me tell you my preserving friends…cultured butter rocks.

Making Cultured Butter -

Why Make Cultured Butter?

  • Easy: It is not complicated at all and you can do it in stages.
  • Fresh Flavor: There is nothing like the flavor of fresh butter – cultured or otherwise. The fact that it is cultured just improves that flavor.
  • Pure: Because you made it yourself, you know exactly what is in it.
  • Probiotics: Just like yogurt, it has beneficial bacteria. However if you heat the butter, you lose those good bacteria. (They can’t survive high heat.)
  • Crème Fraîche: Half way through the steps, you have made crème fraîche. So if you get lazy and don’t finish, you still have something delicious to use.
  • Real Buttermilk is the Byproduct: You also get rich (real) buttermilk in the butter-making process and that is incredible in baked goods, ranch dressing, etc.

How Is It Made?

It is pretty simple. Remember my post on making yogurt at room temperature? Well to make cultured butter, it starts with the same basic process except you use cream instead of milk.

Here is the overview…

  • A scoop of yogurt or buttermilk is added to whole cream and it sets (cultures) at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
  • At that point…Ta-Da! You now have crème fraîche.
  • But you don’t stop there.
  • Using beaters or a standing mixer, you whip the cultured cream for 3-5 minutes. (Yes – it is THAT fast)
  • You separate out the buttermilk and wash the butter. (I tell you how below)
  • Salt is added and you are done!

What Cream Should You Use?

You get the best results when you use good quality ingredients, so buy a good cream. Look for the words heavy cream or whipping cream. It can be pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized. I recommend organic, of course.

Getting The Culture Started:

To start your culture, you need a few spoonfuls of active plain yogurt or buttermilk.

You have 3 main options:

  1. Homemade yogurt: I used homemade heirloom yogurt to start my first butter culture. It is a mesophilic yogurt that cultures at room temperature, so I figured I would get great results. (I did.) But any homemade yogurt will work. You can buy cultures for homemade yogurt here.
  2. Store Bought yogurt: You can also use regular store-bought yogurt. Make sure it has no preservatives, no gums and the least amount of additives. Go organic if you can and stick to plain yogurt with no flavoring.
  3. Cultured Buttermilk: You can also use real cultured buttermilk (usually found at whole food type stores or use homemade) to start a butter culture. Buy organic if possible. It can be pasteurized but not ultra-pasteurized (or it won’t work).

Making Cultured Butter -

Cultured Butter Recipe

This recipe makes 12 oz of butter. You may adjust the amount you make by keeping the ratios of yogurt or buttermilk to whole cream the same. The basic ratio is: 1 Tbsp yogurt/buttermilk for every cup of cream. (4 Tbsp. equals 1/4 cup)


  • 4 cups heavy cream (pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized)
  • ONE of the following: 1/4 cup homemade yogurt, OR cultured buttermilk OR plain store-bought yogurt
  • Ice water
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt (optional)

Directions – Part One:

  1. Place your cream in a clean, 2-quart jar (or smaller jar if you are cutting down the recipe). Add the yogurt or buttermilk and stir well.
  2. Cover the jar with a coffee filter or tight-weave cheesecloth and hold the cover in place with a rubber band. Set the mixture in a warm spot in the kitchen. (Preferably around 75 degrees F). If your kitchen is cold, set the jar on a VCR or cable box or other electronic device that is slightly warm.
  3. Check the mixture at 12 hours to see if it has set. The warmer the room, the faster it will culture. When done, the culture will pull away from the sides of the jar. If it is not done, keep checking back every 4 hours or so. It can take up to 24 hours for the mixture to fully set. When the cream is cultured (and pulling away from the sides), place it in the refrigerator for a few hours to cool it down and stop the culturing process.
  4. At this point, you now have crème fraîche. You could stop here and use it as you would an extra rich sour cream. But instead, we are going to whip it up to remove the buttermilk.

How to Make Cultured Butter -

Note: If you get busy, you can stop at this point for up to 3 days before whipping up your butter.

Directions – Part Two:

When you are ready, remove your jar from refrigeration for 1-2 hours to warm up a bit before moving on below.

  1. Scrape the cultured mixture into large mixing bowl and use either a hand-held or standing mixture to whip it. I suggest you use a standing mixture if possible because the buttermilk tends to splatter out while mixing. You can cover the standing mixture with plastic wrap and keep your mess at a minimum. It only takes 3-5 minutes and the mixture goes from a whipped cream consistency to yellow curds (butter) mixed with milky buttermilk. Making Cultured Butter -
  2. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and strain the mixture, reserving the drained liquid. This liquid is your buttermilk. Pour the buttermilk into a clean jar, cover and refrigerate. You can use it in bread, pancakes, waffles, ranch salad dressing and many other yummy thingsMaking Cultured Butter -
  3. Now, you need to wash the remaining buttermilk out of the butter. (It is important to get all the buttermilk out or the butter will go bad fairly quickly.) To do this, place the drained butter into a large bowl and pour about a half-cup of ice water over it. Use a wooden spoon, spatula or even a sauerkraut masher to squish the butter. As you press, the buttermilk comes out.
  4. Drain off and discard the water/buttermilk used to wash (it’s not worth saving) and repeat the washing process about 4 times or until the water stays clear. It takes about 4-5 minutes to do this. Making Cultured Butter -
  5. If you want to, you can now add your salt and mix it in.
  6. Place the finished butter in a ramekin, cover with plastic wrap or a lid and store in the refrigerator. It should last at least a month this way. Or you can freeze it for about 4-6 months.

Making Cultured Butter -

Fun, right? Are you going to try making cultured butter?

Tell me in the comments.

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy®. For 9 years, Theresa was the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.