How to Make Butter

How to make butter

As a child, I didn’t have much of an awareness of where my food came from beyond the grocery store. I was an adult the first time I made butter and I was so amazed that you could do it yourself. There is a certain satisfaction that comes with making something yourself that you previously purchased from the store with little thought as to where it came from.

How Butter Is Made

Butter is made from the cream that rises to the top of whole milk when it is cooled. This cream has a milk fat content of at least 30%. By agitating the cream, the membranes surrounding the fat molecules are broken, allowing the molecules to stick together. If you agitate the cream for a short amount of time you will make whipped cream. If you persist, the whipped cream is eventually broken down and you will achieve butter.

I personally find it quite fascinating that you can take a liquid and turn it into a solid by simply agitating it. If you are a science geek like me, you can read more in depth about what happens to milk when making butter here.

Choosing Your Cream

In order to take full advantage of all of the health benefits of butter, it is best to use raw cream from grass-fed cows. If you do not have access to grass-fed raw milk, you can also make butter from organic whipping cream that you can buy at the store.

If using raw milk, refrigerate overnight or until the cream has collected at the top of the jar. Skim the cream by gently dipping a small ladle down into the cream until if fills the ladle by flowing up over the sides. It is best not to scoop as this can cause the cream to mix back into the milk. Continue to do this until all the cream is collected. If you begin to see the thinner milk sneaking into your ladle then you probably have as much cream as you will be able to get.

Getting Ready:

  • I use a stand mixer with a whisk attachment for making butter.
  • Measure your cream (optional). 2 cups of cream yields approximately 1/2 cup butter.
  • You will need a fine strainer, a bowl, a wide spoon, and clean, cold water.
How to make butter

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How to Make Butter

Butter is simple to make at home and a great project to try with your kids!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream (preferably from raw milk or store bought organic)

Instructions

  1. Put desired amount of cream into your mixing bowl. It is important to only fill the bowl halfway so it does not overflow as air is whipped into the cream. (Take my word for it!)
  2. Turn mixer on low to medium-low at first to prevent splashing. Once the cream begins to thicken you can turn it up to medium.
  3. You will probably need to mix for about 15 minutes. This time can vary depending on how much cream you are using and what type if mixer you have.
  4. As it thickens it will first change to whipped cream. After the whipped cream stage it will begin to deflate and break down. When this begins to happen, stay close. When it makes the change to butter it can happen very quickly. It will also start to splash again so you can hang a towel over the mixer if you'd like.
  5. When you see the butter begin to clump and stick to your whisk, it is done mixing.
  6. Put your strainer over a bowl and pour the contents of your mixing bowl into the strainer. The solids that collect in the strainer are the butter and the liquid that collects in the bowl is buttermilk. (The buttermilk can be used in recipes in place of water. Try it in almond flour pancakes.)
  7. Now you need to "rinse" the butter. It is important to remove as much buttermilk as possible to keep the butter from going rancid. Put the butter back in your mixing bowl and cover with clean, cold water.
  8. With the back of your wide spoon, begin pressing the butter into the side of the bowl. The water will get cloudy as the buttermilk is "cleaned" out of the butter. Pour the water off and add more cold water.
  9. Repeat this process 4-5 times or until the water stays clear. Done! Store in refrigerator or at room temperature if you will use it within a week or two.

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Butter Variations

For salted butter, simply add a healthy pinch of salt per 1/2 cup of butter. Work it in with the back of your wide spoon.

For spreadable butter, whip 1/2 cup butter in your mixer with 1 teaspoon high quality olive oil.

For honey butter, whip 1/2 cup butter with 1/4 cup raw honey until smooth.

Learn how to make herb infused compound butter here.

Learn how to make ghee here.

Make ice cream!

Fun For Children

The whole butter making process can be a great science lesson for kids. You can get them more involved by showing them how to make butter in a mason jar. Fill a pint mason jar halfway with cream, seal it tightly with a lid, and let them shake it. They will have to shake for quite a while, but my kids think it is so cool they don’t mind at all. Eventually, you will see the same transformation you saw in your mixer take place in the jar. When the clump of butter comes together, simply follow the same steps for rinsing it and voila, you have butter!

Have you ever made butter? Will you try any of the variations?

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Reader Comments

  1. Ah, having grown up on a farm we had our own dairy cows so we got fresh milk, cream and made butter. Ice Cream too. Nothing better, but not much fun when you HAVE to make it.

  2. Hi Wellness Mama
    I am in the lucky position that I can get heavy cream made from raw milk.And this heavy cream is really HEAVY cream.When I make my butter same way as you do I have NO buttermilk at all.Love my own butter.Once in a while I make Ghee out of this butter.It is out of this world.
    Thank you so much for your butter recipe.

  3. Hi Katie,
    I grew up with farm fresh milk and dairy. I am not sure how to make heavy cream at home but here is what i am used to. Always wanted to share this info, so here it is.
    The process of making butter starts with making yogurt from fresh milk that is pasteurized at home. The process of making yogurt will leave a thick cream on the top. This cream is collected for a couple of day or more. After a good amount is collected, the cream is then churned by adding water. This will make the butter to float on the top. The butter is then filtered out of the liquid. The remaining liquid is buttermilk to enjoy with fresh ginger, curry leaves, salt and if you are up to it with some thai green chilies. So next is the fun part of making ghee, that makes the whole house smell good. The solid remains of the ghee can be added with coconut palm sugar and moong dhal flour and roll it into small ball for kids treats.
    I noticed that in you how to make ghee post, you had mentioned that ghee will have be refrigerated after a month. Ghee can be stored at room temperate for year and year with no change in texture or taste.

  4. This sounds so actually doable, and I wish I lived near a source of raw milk from grass-fed cows! (Soon, I hope to move out to “the country” and then perhaps a neighbor…). Anyway, I don’t have a stand mixer, as I don’t bake a whole lot. Have you ever tried making butter in a Cuisinart? Would that work?

    • We have a couple grass-fed milk cows and I’ve made lots of butter in my Cuisinart. I follow the same basic process she gives here, but I pour the chunks of butter and buttermilk into a strainer, work it with a wooden spoon and rinse it under a fine stream of cold water. If the cream is thick and about 55 degrees it only takes a couple minutes to make butter in a food processor.

  5. Love this! I grew up in a non-healthy conscious environment but somehow my mom taught us to make butter for fun! And I completely forgot about it until this post. I want to share this with you Katie so you can have your kids do it, too, if you want. I love how much you include your kids in the food preparation/cooking process. So anyway, it’s very simple. You put the cream into a glass jar and secure a lid on top. Then have your kids shake shake shake the heck out of that thing! It will go through the same stages, whipped cream first, but keep shaking until it turns to butter! I fondly remember my siblings and I would also sit on the (carpeted) ground and roll the jar back and forth to each other until it turned into butter. We thought we were doing magic! 🙂 anyway, thanks for reminding me about this! I’m going to get raw milk and do this with my preschooler now.

  6. Nothing is better than homemade butter or ghee. Nice post!!

  7. When I used to get raw milk from a farmer, they sold pints of cream for $1.75. I LOVED making my own butter! At first I tried to just shake the jar, and after almost an hour with very little change (and very sore arms) I dumped it all in my food processor with the plastic blade and had finished the entire process and had fresh butter in the fridge in less than 5 minutes.

    I miss the homemade butter – I think I’ll have to convince my hubby it’s time to go buy organic whipping cream!

  8. I LOVE the butter that I make from my raw milk. My problem is that I don’t know what to do with the buttermilk that is left over. I don’t culture it beforehand – so it wouldn’t be suitable for recipes requiring buttermilk. I tried using it to make yogurt – and that didn’t turn out quite right. Any ideas?

    • What about the milk left after you separate the cream? I haven’t tried making butter with my raw milk but the milk is pricey and I don’t want to waste anything. Thoughts?

  9. This is so fascinating!! I really want to try this! I had no idea it was so simple. 🙂

  10. What a fantastic idea, I’ve never thought of making my own butter but I’m sure my three would love to help out.

  11. I add another dimension to my butter making by culturing the cream. I add a tablespoon or two of milk kefir to the cream, then leave it covered on the counter for 2-3 days, then a day in the fridge before making it into butter. Quite delicious!

  12. I love it when I get a chance to make my own butter. I am able to get raw milk from truly organically grown cows is a blessing. I also occasionally make cheese.
    Nothing beats the taste of fresh butter. And I only use the jar method, so the kids get to hav a nice energy releasing activity!!!

  13. A few tips: let the cream come to room temperature, and it will take less beating time. I use my blender. Make a small batch first, then you can make bigger batches by adding some of the fresh buttermilk so it’s not so thick. It’s a super food!

  14. Haha, I Was thinking about how to make my own butter a few days ago and little did I know before reading this post that it is super easy! I love butters like Kerrigold but when I run out our want something without salt, it’s nice to know I can make my own with 1 ingredient!

  15. When I was working in a kitchen, we made our own whip cream in a robo-coup. The chef would always yell back to me, “don’t over do it, we’re not making butter!” So at home one day, I went ahead and threw some heavy whipping cream in my kitchen aide mixer and let it rip. Instead of sugar I threw in a little salt, and once it was firm, I stopped. I have done this a couple of times in a pinch and assumed I’d made butter…lol…I didn’t realize there was more to it! Thank you for this post I’ll give it a try.

  16. Have you ever used a butter churn ie Daisy or another brand? I am looking at buying one like what my granny used. Expensive tho. The reviews are so mixed. Some say the gears are plastic and break easy. The antique churns aren’t supposed to be functional and they have the stainless steel gears. Just wondering. Thanks

    • I haven’t tried, but you might check ebay or an antique store to find one of the older ones that are better made.

    • Hi Leslie,

      I just stumbled across your comment – I love seeing people still interested in using traditional butter churns! My family just launched our startup, Churncraft, this past month. We are manufacturers of a modern, mechanical butter churn. The gears on our butter churn are precision engineered in Germany and made from hostaform, a highly durable, food grade plastic material.

      We love using our butter churn to make homemade butter. It is so efficient and the end result is so creamy and delicious!

      Please check us out at http://www.churncraft.com to learn more 🙂

      Thanks! Jojo

  17. If you have a thermomix, you can do this in less than 5 minutes….1 – 2minutes to get from cream to butter stage and then the next few minutes to strain off buttermilk, rinse with fresh water and then mix in salt and olive oil.

  18. I made butter! I used heavy whipping cream. Took longer to beat than expected but I started from Cold whipping cream. It came out beautiful thank you wellness mama

  19. I make it with pasteurized sour cream because where i live there’s no heavy cream, still, i just loved make my own butter and the result!

  20. Hi Katie,
    Question. I was trying to find a post where you compared ghee to grass fed butter and which you thought was more nutritional/beneficial (most specifically to a 1-year old). Could you please let me know your thoughts on this. Also, for those of us (slackers ?) who are looking for a pre-made option – is there a brand you would recommend (for both ghee and grass fed butter)?
    Thank you in advance! (Any thoughts on this from others is appreciated too!)

  21. I just used the Chef’n Buttercup Butter Maker to make some butter for the first time for Thanksgiving. Put the cream in and shake it like crazy for about 3 minutes. You can tell when it’s thickened up, open it and drain it through the built in strainer, add cold water and rinse . I couldn’t believe how simple it was. Amazing butter