How a Clever Cook Turns Regular Butter into a Thanksgiving-Worthy Spread

Serve a butter worthy of your Thanksgiving table! Forget that hard stick of unsalted butter and make a quick and easy specialty whipped butter seasoned with your choice of herbs and spices.

Whipped compound butters in bowls

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

When you’ve just spent a lot of hours, energy, and ingredients preparing a big Thanksgiving meal, it’s a bit anticlimactic to just unwrap a hard stick of unsalted butter, put it on the table, and call that the meal’s bread spread. Your Thanksgiving butter deserves better – and so do your guests!

Instead, turn that regular butter into something special by whipping it and adding in your choice of herbs, spices, alliums, greens, or sweeteners. It’s like a festive twist on a standard compound butter. It’s fast, easy to do, and  super customizable; you can use whatever ingredients you have on hand!

Bowls of herbed whipped butter

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Butter Seasonings, Flavor Combinations, and Tips for Success

A specialty whipped compound butter can be subtle, it can be assertive, it can be spicy, it can be sweet. If you're serving a specialty bread, be sure to mindfully pair the bread and the spread together.

For example, a rosemary bun or roll would pair beautifully with a roasted garlic whipped butter. It's up to you and the tastes of your guests – if they're traditionalists like my family, maybe you should save the sorghum-sumac compound butter for another day!

Some ideas for what to mix into your butter:

  • Herbs, such as parsley, sage, thyme, chervil, marjoram, basil, rosemary.
  • Spices, like coriander, cardamom, cumin, chili, red pepper flakes, paprika, nutmeg, or cayenne.
  • Alliums, such as shallot, scallion, chives, or roasted garlic.
  • Greens, including spinach, kale, chard, dandelion greens, mustard greens, collards, or fennel fronds.
  • Miscellaneous, such as sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers, mushroom powder, toasted nuts, grated cheese, fresh or dried fruit, pesto, anchovy, or citrus zest.
Caramelized onion specialty whipped butter

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Before beginning, make sure the butter is slightly softened, but not melted. To properly whip the butter either by hand, with a hand mixer, or in a stand mixer, the butter should be softened, but not melted. It's actually best to veer towards too cold than it is to let the butter get too soft. Room temperature is perfect.

If you're short on time, you can (carefully!) microwave the butter in short spurts until it’s soft enough to handle, or put the stick of butter next to the stove or the oven. The residual heat should soften it nicely, creating a whip-and-spreadable butter ready for sprucing up.

Close up shot of mixed compound butter in bowls

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

How to Make Specialty Whipped Compound Butter

This specialty butter doesn’t have to just be for bread! Top mashed potatoes or serve it alongside radishes as an appetizer.

1. Bring unsalted butter to room temperature: Take a few sticks of unsalted butter out of the fridge a few hours before serving the big dinner. Let the butter come to room temperature.

Unsalted butter at room temperature

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

2. Whip the butter: Place the butter in a bowl, and then whip the butter by hand with a whisk for 1 minute. The goal is to aerate the butter and add some lift and heft.

You can also use a hand mixer or stand mixer, but you don’t really need any machinery. Softened butter can be whipped with just a fork. Don’t attempt to whip or aerate cold, hard butter straight from the fridge, or else your machinery might malfunction.

Whipping softened butter in a white bowl with a whisk

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

3. Add your choice of seasonings: Fold in your choice of herbs, spices, or other seasonings. See the above section for ideas!

4. Finish with flaky salt and serve: Finish by sprinkling some flaky kosher or sea salt on top. Place in a pretty bowl and serve!

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