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Butter Glossary: A Glossary Of The Different Butter Types

Page 1: Butter Glossary A To B

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A bowl of butter. Photo by Kasey Albano | SXC.
Also known as achiote seed, annatto seed is used as a coloring agent in butter and margarine, as well as in cheese and other foods.

Butter blended with mashed anchovies. It is used as a savory spread on sandwiches and canapes and to add richness to other dishes (e.g., salmon and poultry).


Annatto seed. Photo courtesy Latin
A fruit butter, such as apple butter or prune butter, is fruit purée or pulp combined with sugar, lemon juice and spices, slowly cooked down to a smooth consistency. The “butter” refers to its spreadability; there is no actual butter or dairy product in it.

Bercy butter is a sauce made with a reduction of white wine, shallots, butter, marrow, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper. It is served with broiled or grilled meat or fish. The butter is named after an area of Paris, as is Bercy sauce, a reduction of white wine, fish stock and seasonings that is served with fish.


Pronounced burr, the French word for butter.

Bercy butter with fish fillets. Photo courtesy
A classic French sauce made of a wine, vinegar and shallot reduction into which chunks of cold butter are whisked until the sauce is thick and smooth. Beurre blanc, which means “white butter” in French, is served with poultry, seafood, vegetables and eggs.

See compound butter.


Cod in beurre blanc sauce. Photo courtesy
French for kneaded butter, this is a paste made of softened butter and flour, usually in equal parts, that is used to thicken sauces.


French for black butter, the butter is cooked over a low heat until it turns dark brown, not black. It is usually flavored with vinegar or lemon juice, capers and parsley and served as a sauce with eggs, fish and sometimes vegetables. One of the most famous classic dishes is calves brains in black butter (a dish, alas, that is not served much these days since the spread of Mad Cow Disease).


French for hazelnut butter, it is butter cooked in the manner of beurre noir, until it turns the golden brown color of hazelnuts. It is a popular way to sauté and sauce meat, poultry, fish and fruit; and also serves as a sauce for pasta and vegetables.


Ravioli with a beurre noir sauce and walnuts. Photo courtesy David Venable | QVC.
When heating a butter sauce, this is the point when fat solids separate from the rest of a sauce. A broken sauce is not desirable as it detracts from the creamy texture. A butter with lower moisture breaks less. European-style butter, while desirable for baking, is not optimal for sauces.

See beurre noisette, above.


A food product made exclusively from milk or cream or both, with or without common salt, containing not less than 80% by weight of milkfat (butterfat). Butter is made by churning the the milk or cream until it solidifies. The texture is a result of working/kneading during processing at appropriate temperatures, to establish a fat crystalline network that results in desired smoothness (compare butter with melted and recrystallized butter). Butter is used as a spread, a cooking fat or a baking ingredient. Unsalted butter is preferred over salted butter because it permits greater leeway in seasoning recipes to taste. Butter will keep, well wrapped, for one month in the refrigerator or for up to six months in the freezer. See more butter tips.


A glazed covered crock, more oblong in shape than a standard rectangular butter dish, that is used to keep butter at room temperature. Water is added to the base; the unit keeps butter fresh, soft and spreadable for 30 days without refrigeration.

One cup of butter contains 1628 calories, 1628 from fat. There are 0.1g sugars, 1.9g protein. One tablespoon of butter contains 102 calories, 102 from fat. There are 0g sugar, 0.1g protein. A one-inch-square pat of butter, 5g, has 36 calories.


A butter boat keeps butter at room temperature, soft and spreadable. Photo courtesy Trudeau.
Butter cheese is a semisoft cow’s milk cheese, aged one month. It has a buttery taste and a creamy texture, and is often served with beer and ale, as a table cheese and a melting cheese—try it on a baked potato instead of butter and sour cream. Originating in Germany, it is made in the U.S. as well.

A light, uncooked frosting made of butter, sugar and egg yolks, and sometimes milk or light cream, that is used to fill and frost cakes and pastries.

A utensil about six inches long with a serrated hook at one end; the hook is drawn down the length of a stick of butter to make butter curls.

The fatty particles in milk that are separated out during churning to make cream and subsequently butter. The higher the milk fat content, the creamier, richer and more caloric the milk, cream, ice cream, etc.

Smaller than a dinner knife with a rounded tip and a blunt edge used to easily spread butter on breadstuffs.

A butter curler pulls the butter into textured curls. Photo courtesy Westmark.
In earlier times, the tangy, butter-flecked liquid was left over after whole milk had been churned to make butter. Today’s buttermilk is a cultured form made by adding lactic-acid bacteria to low-fat or nonfat milk.

A decorative mold in ceramic, metal, wood or plastic used to form butter into fancy shapes (hearts, stars, circles) and press designs into the surface of the butter. Some create 3D molds (such as lambs and chickens), Molds are filled with softened butter; the butter is chilled and removed from the mold.


  Wood Butter Mold
An old-fashioned wood butter mold, available at
Also known as anhydrous butterfat, this is butter from which the water has been removed by gently heating to break the emulsion, followed by centrifugation to remove the milk serum from the fat fraction. The butterfat content of the remaining butter oil is more than 99%. It is similar to ghee, and is commonly used in very hot countries where there is no refrigeration, as well as an ingredient in commercial production.

A short, flat wooden paddle originally used in the churning process. Today, two paddles can be used to roll textured balls of butter for elegant dining.

Roll a cube of butter between the two paddles until it forms a ball. A plate of butter balls is an elegant touch to a formal dinner table. Photo courtesy SCI.
A butter sauce, equal proportions of butter and flour, stirred until the flour dissolves into the butter, is the basis for classic French white sauces. Melt an ounce of butter, add an ounce of flour, bring to a boil stirring constantly, and add eight ounces of water and 1/8 teaspoon salt. For white sauce, substitute milk or cream for the water; substitute veal or chicken stock for béchamel sauce; substitute eggs for hollandaise sauce; substitute eggs and mushrooms for velouté or allemande sauce; substitute white wine for poulette sauce.


A flavoring used in desserts, sauces and candies; a hard candy; and a dessert sauce. Whatever its form, the confection is made from two primary ingredients, brown sugar and butter.

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Some content courtesy of Cornell University School of Agriculture, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Butterscotch candies. Photo courtesy Brach’s.
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Last Updated  Apr 2018

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