What Is Cultured Butter and When Should You Use It?

Updated: Nov. 01, 2023

Have you seen cultured butter in the dairy case? Find out exactly what it is and why you just might love it.

Serious bakers know the importance of good butter. Butter is what makes pie crusts so flaky, what makes homemade biscuits sing and shortbread cookies melt in your mouth. If you’re a baker that wants to level up these buttery recipes, you might want to skip your go-to brand and opt for another option: cultured butter.

Unfamiliar with cultured butter? No worries. We’ll answer all your questions, like what is cultured butter? and why is it so darn good?

How Is Cultured Butter Different from Traditional Butter?

The everyday butter you reach for at the supermarket is made from a pretty simple recipe; it’s just fresh cream that’s been churned and churned until it forms solid butter. That’s it (unless you prefer salted butter, then it’s cream and a touch of salt).

Cultured butter, however, follows a slightly different process. To make cultured butter, bacterial cultures are added to pasteurized cream. This cream is left to ferment. During that time it thickens and, according to Adeline Druart, President of Vermont Creamery, “develops wonderfully tangy flavor notes.”

Fermentation times vary, but Adeline has this to say: “Making cultured butter is much like making wine: you want to ferment your cream like grapes, slowly, to produce the best aromas. The longer you culture, the better.” At Vermont Creamery, the cream rests for 20 hours before being churned.

What Does Cultured Butter Taste Like?

Culturing the cream definitely affects how this type of butter tastes. In the words of Taste of Home’s Prep Kitchen Manager and pro baker Catherine Ward, “cultured butter is so extra!”

Essentially, cultured butter has a more pronounced butter flavor. It’s creamier than traditional butter with just a slight tang from the cultures—the same way you can detect a bit of tanginess in buttermilk or yogurt. If you opt for salted cultured butter, that flavor will be even more noticeable.

To put it simply, if you enjoy using butter in your bakes, you’ll enjoy the flavor of cultured butter.

When Should You Use Cultured Butter?

You can use cultured butter in any dish that calls for butter—no need for any conversions or alterations to your recipe.

While you can use cultured butter in any recipe, it really shines in baking. According to Deputy Editor James Schend, “it will only make things better.” Not only will the flavor come through in your bakes, but James also explains that this butter’s slight acidity can produce more tender bakes.

This being said, cultured butter is more expensive than your regular box of butter. You’ll likely want to use it in recipes where the butter really stands out. James recommends using cultured butter to make biscuits, pancakes, shortbread or pound cake. In these recipes, you’ll really notice the extra flavor that cultured butter provides.

Where Can You Buy Cultured Butter?

You can find cultured butter in most grocers’ dairy cases alongside other butter options. Most supermarkets are carrying this unique type of butter these days. If you can’t find it at your go-to store, check out Vermont Creamery’s butter finder. You’ll find a location near you selling their cultured butter so you can try it yourself.

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