How Many Calories Are In a Pat of Butter, Anyway?

We've all unwrapped those foil packets of butter—also known as pats—in restaurants and lavishly spread them over a biscuit or roll. But is a pat of butter a good serving size? How many calories are in a pat of butter? We investigate.

Growing up, I thought the height of luxury was a restaurant’s basket of freshly sliced bread, and the accompanying foil packets of butter softening over a candle. I’d go through one or two (or three) of the packets, and who knows how many pieces of bread, while waiting for my entree. Sometimes, I’d wonder…how many calories in a pat of butter? I had no idea. Intrigued, I investigated and fell down a bit of an Internet rabbit hole. Here’s what I found.

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What Is a Pat of Butter?

Generally, a pat of butter is a single portion of butter, typically served up in a foil packet, tiny plastic tub, or artfully molded and shaped into a ball or square.

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How Much Butter is in a Pat?

There’s no uniform size or quantity of butter provided in a pat. Most pats, however, contain between 1/3 and 1/2 tablespoons of butter. (That’s about 1 to 1.5 teaspoons.) If you wanted to make your own pats—to serve at a dinner party, say—a good size is 1″x1″ square, and about 1/3″ thick. If your recipe calls for a “pat,” that generally means it’s a flexible measurement, and you can add to taste.

So, How Many Calories Are in a Pat of Butter?

  • 1 teaspoon of butter is about 34 calories
  • 1.5 teaspoons is 51 calories

Generally, pats will be on the small side of that spectrum.

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Why Is It Called a “Pat”?

Restaurants used to press butter into wooden molds to press it into unique shapes, like flowers, before serving on a plate with bread. The cook would “pat” the butter into the mold, and the name stuck. (Fun fact: grocery stores used to sell butter from a large bulk block, which was commonly pressed with a decorative design. Molded butter was also a popular tabletop decoration for many holidays.)

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Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes articles and novels from her home in Milwaukee. She's an avid cook, reader, flâneur, and noir fanatic. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, will be published in June 2019 by William Morrow.