Everything you need to know about the luxurious, creamy, bright yellow ingredient we can’t get enough of.

By Kelly Vaughan
December 03, 2018
Brian Henn

 

With dozens of varieties of butter offered at a range of prices, it can be difficult to know which one to choose, but let us be clear: European butter is the hidden gem in your dairy aisle. In fact, for decadent, flaky, flavorful baked goods, it's the only kind of butter that should be in your fridge. Keep reading for everything you need to know about this creamy, decadent baking staple, including the difference between European butter and American butter, a vegan option, and what brands are available in the United States.

What Is European Butter?

European butter is a cultured butter that has been churned to achieve at least an 82% butterfat content (the EU standard). The higher butterfat content in it creates a softer, super spreadable product (perfect for when you forget to pre-soften your butter before baking).

So, How Is European Butter Different Than American Butter?

American butter, which is sometimes referred to as table butter, is required to contain at least 80% butterfat (as regulated by USDA). The 2% difference in butterfat between European butter and American butter may not seem like much, but chefs and recipe developers agree that it makes a huge difference in taste and texture. (The remaining percentage contains mostly residual water, which diminishes the flavor and creaminess of the butter.) However, you can use these butters interchangeably (European-style butter is often recommended in pastry recipes, but rarely required)

All butter begins as cream, which naturally contains some water. As the cream is churned, it transforms to whipped cream (have you ever over-whipped homemade whipped cream and seen small yellow curds start to form? That’s butter)! As the cream continues to whip, milk curds will form and turn into butterfat, while separating from some of the cream. The butterfat is the good stuff (pure butter!). The longer the buttermilk is churned, the more butterfat develops.

There are many good brands of European-style butter sold in the United States, but if you want the really, really good stuff, keep an eye out for Beurre d'Echire, a French butter that has the approval of Dorie Greenspan, a James Beard award-winning cookbook author (try them in her Sweet Potato Bars). You can also follow the hundreds of thousands of consumers who made Ireland’s beloved Kerrygold the #2 bestselling butter in the U.S. in 2017.

Does it Cost More Than American Butter?

While you’re more likely to find a sale on regular butter at a commercial grocery store, European butter doesn’t typically have the high cost you might expect. Land O’Lakes Extra Creamy European-Style butter retails for $6, just $1 more than the average cost of their regular butter. Plugra also retails for $6 for four sticks of their European-style butter. Vegan creamery Miyoko’s sells a European-style cultured butter made from coconut oil for $6.

When Should You Use European Butter?

In a dish where butter is going to make a difference in both flavor and texture (like our basic pie crust pastry or basic sugar cookie dough), splurge a little for European-style butter. However, in a case where butter won’t make a huge difference, like the perfect grilled cheese or when you’re greasing a cake pan, save a few dollars and choose American.

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