A Quartet of Compound Butters

A Quartet of Compound Butters Recipe

I saw an old painter's palette at a flea market the other day smeared with vibrant shades of sunset oranges and cornflower blues. Later that day Wayne and I were sharing a gelato in North Beach and he was telling me about a gelataria that serves a sampler on a painter's palette, six tiny scoops for seven dollars - your choice of flavors. It all got me thinking about color. I got home and had a few sticks of butter in the refrigerator and decided to make a spectrum of compound butters. Compound butter can bring an explosive burst of flavor to a recipe and I don't use them nearly enough. My goal was to create butters that vibrant, colorful, and unique - I didn't want to make any I had tried in the past. I ended up making the following flavors: Dry Desert Lime Butter, Raw Serrano Butter, Dehydrated Strawberry Butter, and Smoked Paprika Butter.

Dry Desert Lime Compound Butter: I've been playing around quite a bit lately using tea as a seasoning. Many times I'll grind up tea leaves in a mortar and pestle and use it the way you might use a pepper. The fragrance that comes off the ground leaves is wonderful and brings an unexpected element to many preparations. Depending on the tea I am using this can range from smoky to floral to fresh and bright. In this case I choose a dried lime tisane (or herbal tea) instead. There is something haunting, vibrant and ancient in the taste of dried lime and I thought it might lend itself nicely to a compound butter for use on a range of foods like: sweet potatoes (mashed/roasted), grilled corn, as a spread on sandwiches, etc.

Dehydrated Strawberry Compound Butter: These little guys come in tubs that are sold at many natural food stores. You can also get raspberries, blueberries, blueberries, and one of my tiniest friends, Julian, loves to snack on the peas. Chop up the strawberries, whip them into the butter and you get a textured, color-flecked spread perfect for pancakes, toast, muffins and the like. The strawberries on on the very tart side of sweet so I sweetened this one up with a bit of sugar - I used Florida Crystals because I didn't want a browner sugar to impact its bright color.

Raw Serrano Compound Butter: This one is for the cornbreads of the world. It has a little heat and a lot of flavor. I used 2 medium serrano chiles, but you can scale up of down on the chile scale depending on your tastes. A pretty pale green butter flecked with dark green freckles I'm going to use it on crepes, and corn, and to toss fresh summer shell beans, and for pasta....really versatile. I think a great variation on this one would be to add roasted garlic and pan-toast the chiles before blending them in.

Smoked Paprika Compound Butter: Fragrant, delicious, and a stunning rusty-orange color a little of this butter goes the distance. It will lend itself nicely to brown rice, certain kabobs, sandwiches, corn soup (I'm setting myself up for a corn bender), toasted artisan breads, and zucchini muffins.

A couple other ideas I had in mind but didn't get around to:
- toasted, shredded nori with sesame seeds
- dried fig and Balinese long pepper
- harissa

Compound Butter: (clockwise) Serrano, Smoked Paprika, Strawberry, Desert Lime

A Quartet of Compound Butters

These recipes make batches of roughly 1/4 cup each. Feel free to double or triple batches depending on the quantity you are after.

Dry Desert Lime Compound Butter Recipe

4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature
1 or 2 Numi Desert Lime tea bags (depending on how strong you want it), cut open and the contents ground in a mortar and pestle
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Combine in a small bowl and refrigerate.

Dehydrated Strawberry Compound Butter Recipe

4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon organic cane sugar (I used Florida Crystals)
1/3 cup dehydrated organic strawberries, minced

Combine in a small bowl and refrigerate.

Raw Serrano Compound Butter Recipe

4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature
2 serrano chiles, deveined and seeded, loosely chopped
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Combine in a small bowl and puree with a handblender until the chiles are fully incorporated. Refrigerate.

Smoked Paprika Compound Butter Recipe

4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature
1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Combine in a small bowl and refrigerate.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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I am the first to respond!

first to respond

You are so clever! Love the colors and the myriad of applications. Thanks for another great idea!


very nice - and what was your favourite?


These look absolutely delicious. After cooking lunch at church last weekend, I had some leftover basil, oregano, and thyme, so I now have about two pounds of herb butters in my freezer. I suddenly feel inspired to make more. I think I have some adobo in the fridge...


How visually stunning! I'm surprised at the color of the strawberry compound though.

LOL, my best compound was a simple shredded radish butter compound. Totally nummers!


Have you tried butter with nasturtium or other edible flowers? I'm thinking cool but savory...


Your photos knock my socks off!


It's amazing that you could be inspired by a painter's palette, and create all this in one afternoon, with items on hand...we are so lucky...v


I love this post! Beautiful.....shay


You are so full of good ideas!


Beautiful.. just beautiful... hey - tell Julian "your tiniest friend" to try to eat his peas frozen next time.

My kids love them like this!
gg -From Kids Culinary Adventures


Heidi, these look absolutely delicious.

I have made compound butters before but mainly with herbs. I am going to make one with the Chimayo peppers in my backyard instead of serrano (which I didn't grow this year). I am also going to make one with dried blueberries instead of strawberries. I have some left in a package. I usually sprinkle them on my cereal.

Thanks for the interesting ideas. I have also made seasonings with green tea. This butter idea really looks good.

Can't wait to experiment.



Heidi, how beautiful and inspiring! They all sound wonderful, and so different. I can imagine some of the savory versions would be a wonderful starting point for a great grilled cheese.

I'm curious about the dried lime tisane though. Is that just type of tea?



Heidi what a good idea. I got me thinking of Indian variations on this theme.....


This is a great example of how butterfat is a great conductor of flavour. And how emulsification with sharp blades and correct temperatures can lead to better tasting end products.

I will often make sugars this way so that cookies, cakes, ice creams etc. will emit more scent, rounding out a flavour sensation.

Hence: http://eggbeater.typepad.com/shuna/2006/06/candied_herbs.html

shuna fish lydon

... you make butter?

Oh wow, you are so cool!


Garrett's post reminds me how delicious radish sandwiches are: grate and salt a bunch of radishes, and allow the liquid to drip away in a sieve (say 30 mins). Squeeze out the rest of the liquid in your hands. Add mayo and seasoning to make a spreadable radish "paste": it will be deliciously pink, and you will probably want to use white bread for effect.

Curzon Tussaud

looking at the pictures it reminds me of the film made of the painter johannes vermeer, " "The girl with the pearl earring" the whole looks like a still of that film, they also made their colors from raw ingredients. It's beautiful en it must taste amazing to, you are an inspiration to me.


The paprika compound butter looks easy enough to make and would go great with my Eric Kayser 7 cereals bread - can't wait to try this and have it with dinner tonight!


My friend and I were just talking about someday possibly having an entire shelf of the freezer devoted to diferent flavors of compound butters, ready at a moment's notice...well, I guess I only have two huge shelves in my freezer, so maybe just the shelf in the door. And we would label them oh so prettily! Those pictures are absolutely beautiful. I will definitely be making butter with dried tea leaves, wow.


what a lovely idea ! I am a big smoked paprika fan, thank you for another reason to use it ^_^ Lovely pictures and a simple, yet flavorful idea - Thank you !


I love the simplicity of this idea. Not much prep time, with incredibly yummy looking results! Wouldn't it work wonderfully to saute some onions and other veggies? I can't wait to try it.


What a gorgeous quartet, Heidi - they all look/sound absolutely lovely!


Butter never looked or tasted this good !!!!!


Hi Heidi,

Thanks for the neat post on compound butters. I'm really glad you mentioned the dehydrated strawberries. I've had a tub in my kitchen for ages and I had no idea what to do with it except spoon some on cereal. This is such a clever idea!

Can't wait to see what you invent next!



The butter almost looks like gelato!

I'm going to use your ideas next time I'm entertaining and want to impress with something fancy. Nice work!


What a great idea, will have to try it.


Wow! What a great idea. The butters look great and would be a great idea for a summer lunch / brunch with friends. Love the tea tip. Will have to use it more often as a flavouring.


I can just imagine the savoury ones over steaks, roast chickens and lamb chops. yummy. thanks

shaz @ nookbistro

Oh yes I will use the chile butter on my cornbread!

Thanks! Yes organic butter is one of the next projects I envision. I hope it will someday be reality but for now it's a dream for me.


Your photos alone are so inspirational. The butter recipes are innovative, luscious and do-able. I look forward to trying them.


If you're recipe ideas weren't so great I'd advise you to become a photographer.

I don't know why I hadn't considered an approach like this before. Everyone knows fat carries flavor so this is completely logical.

My father-in-laws' "Mexican cornbread" has a treat in store for it...now where did I put those serranos?

Brilliant! Thank you!


I love the idea of using smoked paprika in a compound butter! I buy smoked paprika online from The Spice House and I LOVE it for making barbeque rubs. It's also a nice surprise when sprinkled on top of deviled eggs! I've been trying to decide what else I could use it for and now I know! Thanks for the wonderful idea :-) Another compound butter I like combines sage with chopped dried cranberries. The recipe comes from Elizabeth Karmel's "Taming the Flame." One of my favorite books on grilling. Thanks again!


Heidi- They are beautiful, I have been slightly obsessed with smoked paprika (memories of Spain) these days. Mostly mixing it with Mayo but now I can try the butter on our grilled rolls tomorrow night! Thanks for the inspiration.

Jen C.

Wow. I really had no idea the butters would be such a hit! Thanks for the feedback, maybe I'll do another quartet of different flavors in the future. Love the edible flowers idea Lulu. Alison, I'm not sure I had an all out favorite - they were all so different and suited for different uses.


Heidi - wow what a beautiful shot! Would love to try this new recipe someday. Thanks for sharing!


Omg, these are BUTTERS? Omg, I think my next big obssession after sex is going to be butters. lol. The edible flowers should have been such a fabulous thing. But, still worry about if there is going to be any odour. And if used for baking cakes and stuff, would it exhibit its own flavour and I guess cookies would be the best thing to make.

Alexa Kilsmann

Is it wrong that you've made me want to eat butters smeared out onto a painter's palette?

Heather from Rookie Moms

Any hints on storage? How long do they keep in the refrigerator? How about the freezer? I've been wanting to try compound butters for a long time; this seems to be the kick in the pants I've needed.


Mmm...I usually don't care for Rachael Ray or her recipes, but there was a compound butter she made with some corn on the cob that I tried and it is fabulous. It is basically paprika, lime, serrano, garlic, salt and pepper, if I remember correctly. I keep a stick in the freezer, so yummy!


I was so inspired by your post that I immediately incorporated it into a recipe for baby red potatoes where I sauteed onion and rosemary in EVOO, then pulled a portion of the sauteed onion-rosemary mixture and mixed that in with butter. When I served the chunks of baby red potatoes (slight browned in a pan after being partially cooked) I put a lovely little bowl of my blended butter next to it. What a hit! Including the taste of the potatoes flavoring into the butter seemed to enhance it, and made a great shmear for bread as well. THANKS for sharing your creativity!


I chanced upon this post by accident and boy am I glad! Heidi, u r a true genius ... very few people can get the concept, the execution and the presentation right :). I love the compound butter pictures, they are a visual treat. But what I love the most is your table [i m assuming its a table] ... i think it enhances each and every one of your pictures with its character!!


I always have simple herb butter in the freezer - made when the herbs in the garden are at their best. Another staple is unsalted butter with finely chopped sage and Dijon mustard - a slice is super on top of grilled meats, expecially veal. I look forward to adding these to my repertoire - very colourful!


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