Spoon Butter Recipe
A spoon butter that doesn't use mineral oil as an ingredient. It will keep your cutting boards, wooden spoons, and wood-handled knives in good shape.
I have a good number of wood cutting boards, wood-handled knives, and wooden spoons in my kitchen, as I'm sure most of you do. One of the things that bothers me most about caring for them is nearly all the products related to this task are mineral oil based. For example, spoon butter. It's typically a blend of beeswax and mineral oil. You rub it into cutting boards and spoons to moisturize them, prevent cracking, and repel water. The wood soaks it up beautifully. I've been thinking, for years, that there must be an alternative to the mineral oil based spoon butter. It's a by-product of petroleum production, and not something I want to ingest.
Thinking Through an Alternative
So, the way spoon butter works is quite simple. You rub it all over your wood-based spoons, handles, tools, and food preparation surfaces as a moisturizer and conditioner of sorts. Figuring out an alternative solution is a bit tricky. You need something to cut the beeswax, which is solid, snappy, and dense. Mineral oil brings a fluidity to the blend, and it allows you to slather. Swapping in another oil is the logical thing to do, but it's not that simple because a lot of those oils go rancid quickly. Lately, I've been making a spoon butter with a blend of organic beeswax and extra-virgin coconut oil, and I like it! The coconut oil is quite stable, and won't go bad quickly, and the wood laps it up. A coconut scent lingers, just a hint - actually quite nice.
You can typically buy beeswax in bars, or little pearls. The pearls are great because they melt quickly. The bars (above) are rough to cut. I typically cut partially through, and then snap a break on the cut line. That seems to be easiest.
Before & After Spoon Butter
Here's the before and after - parched spoons on top. And then below, just a few minutes later, after applying the spoon butter. Because, like beeswax, coconut oil is solid at room temperature, getting the ratio of oil to beeswax right is important. If you have too much beeswax, it's impossible to get the spoon butter out of the jar. Coconut oil melts at 76F degrees, so with a high ratio of it, you scoop a chunk onto the surface your working on, and it quickly becomes spreadable.
Alternative Ideas: Let me know if you have other ideas on this topic - I'm all ears. A friend, who makes beautiful all-natural body products recommended I try broccoli seed oil. And as I was poking around, I noticed watermelon seed oil as well. Also, a number of people in the comments have enthusiastic suggestions, including a number for walnut oil. In the meantime, I'm pretty happy with this version & hope some of you give it a try! xo -h
I've found, roughly speaking, that a ratio of one part beeswax to ~three parts extra virgin coconut oil makes a nice, spreadable spoon butter.
- 3.5 ounces / 100 grams extra virgin coconut oil
- ~1 ounce / 35 grams beeswax, cut into small chunks
To make the spoon butter: Place the coconut oil in a mason jar and top with the beeswax. Fill a thick-bottomed saucepan with an inch or so of water, and set over gentle (low-medium) heat. Set the beeswax jar in the water. The water should come up the sides a bit. Allow the water to come barely to a simmer, and allow the mixture to melt, stirring occasionally, until all the beeswax is fluid. Turn off the heat, and allow to set. The oil is hot, so I allow it to cool and set in the pan, instead of moving it at this point. When cool, cover and keep in a dark place until ready to use.
To treat cutting boards, wooden spoons, etc: Start by making sure your wood surface is scrubbed very clean and is completely dry. Use your hands (or a cloth) to slather a generous amount of the spoon butter across the wood, working across the entire surface. Let sit over night. You can then use a smooth cloth to buff off all residual oil at this point. You should have a nice, satiny surface, not at all greasy. Reapply any time you sense your wood utensils and boards seem at all dry.
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I agree that it might be better to avoid petroleum products, but using organic oils on wood can be problematic. They go rancid over time in the wood. That's often why old wooden cooking tools you find at tag sales and resale shops are sort of stinky...
I didn't even know this was something people did. I honestly never thought about my wooden utensils other than cleaning them. I guess I have some work to do.
Side note: in the photo of the parched vs oiled spoons, what is the 'spoon' on the left called? Since seeing one in a photo shoot I have been searching high and low for one of those, but cannot find one because I don't know what it's called!! Thanks!!
Ask your local beekeeper, maybe at the farmers' market. This is a good time of year to find beeswax.
I use flax seed oil (linseed oil in a food-grade version) which has been used for a long time to preserve wood. It works well. Thanks for the idea with the coconut oil I'll try that sometimes.
I just saw the lovely wood boards from the first picture at Marshals; I am going back today to buy one !!!!
Heidi, you are the best. Would you believe this topic was keeping me up last night? Then this morning I open my email and there you have it. Thank you!
This is almost exactly how I make hand salves for the winter. Throw in a few drops of essential oil and blend with a cup of luke warm water and you'll have yourself a lovely body butter.
I was wondering on your thoughts of sanitation with using wood. I was raised in a household where my mother threw everything wood out because it could become unsanitary quickly. Ways of managing this?
Any suggestions for where to order organic beeswax?
@Handful of Shadows...in my kitchen those are called spurtles, although mine have longer handles---the same length as a wooden spoon. My dad makes all my wooden kitchen utensils and I don't ask too many questions, just hope they keep coming. Good for stirring, scraping, and reaching things on the top shelf ;-)
my husband works with wood and regularly uses tung oil which is made from a nut. make sure you get 100% tung oil though - many stores sell it labelled as tung oil but it's mixed with mineral oil or other oils. i wonder how tung oil and beeswax would mix? likely with difficulty.
Wait, is a ratio of 100:35 or 100:28? There's a big difference between the oz and gram values you've given here. 1oz is 28g, not 35g.
HS: Hi Michael - I started with 100 g of the coconut oil - ~3.5 ounces. And used 35 g of beeswax. Roughly 1 ounce (technically you're right, slightly more than an ounce)...any amount in the ballpark of an ounce will get you a decent, (thick) spoon butter.
Forgive my ignorance, but what are the two flat objects in the first pic? I mean the ones that are round at one end and flat at the other. They look like stylized spatulas but are surely too short to be that? Also, those wooden cutting boards in the first picture look too lovely to cut on.
I like to keep the oils as unflavoured as possible so my go to is rice bran, Boring but available everywhere. I have also heard people using EV avocado oil. Thank for the tips in cookware care
thanks heidi! this is so useful. i bought an avocado wood cutting board once and the seller explained that walnut oil would be good for treating it. what is your experience with using walnut oil? i think its incredibly expensive and i would rather eat it than rub it over my cutting board.
Thank you thank you thank you... - my spoons to you!
Great! Could this be used to seal butcher block counters as well?
Thank you for the recipe! If you buy beeswax in bars, you can grate it for quicker melting.
I've been oiling my cutting boards but it never occurred to me to oil my spoons. I've never heard of spoon butter before but it makes perfect sense, thanks for the tip and instructions!