Ah, butter. It's the answer to so many pressing questions. "What made that pie crust so delicious?" (Butter.) "How did they get that pasta so creamy?" (Butter.) "Why is this cake extra light and tender?" (Butter, butter, butter!)
As many of us know all too well, butter adds richness, flavor, flakiness, and general mmmmm-ness to food. With so many butter brands lining grocery store shelves right now, are there any that stand out?
The Simply Recipes team has a few go-to favorites, and some of our picks may even surprise you!
Our Favorite Butter Overall: Kerrygold
$4.29 from Target for 8-ounces
The secret behind the golden color and rich, creamy taste of Kerrygold's Irish butter? Grass-fed cows. (And it's not really a secret, because it's written right there on the label!) Milk from pasture-raised cows has higher levels of beta carotene, which is what lends Kerrygold's butter its signature yellow hue, silky texture, and slightly grassy flavor.
While most American-made butter tops out at 80% butterfat (which is the USDA requirement), Kerrygold has a butterfat content of 82%. More butterfat means less water or moisture, and less moisture can mean a lighter, flakier, crispier baked good.
We love Kerrygold's salted butter anytime we're eating butter spread over something, and we find their cultured unsalted butter especially well-suited for butter-forward, savory crusts in dishes like chicken pot pie or cheese and chive scones.
Given its popularity, Kerrygold is widely available at most grocery stores, and can even be bought in bulk at Costco!
"Kerrygold enhances everything it touches, from a piece of toast to crispy roast chicken. I think of it less like a butter and more like a flavorful all-purpose spread!" says Emma.
"Honestly, I buy bread only as an excuse to break out the Kerrygold. Toast + salted Kerrygold is a real desert island situation for me," says Megan.
Our Favorite Cheap Salted Butter: Trader Joe's Cultured Salted Butter
$2.99 from Trader Joe's for 8.8-ounces
If you shop at Trader Joe's, then their cultured salted butter is a must-try!
Most French butter is cultured. Cultured butter—made by adding live bacterial cultures to cream and letting it thicken and ferment before churning—has a slightly tangy taste and is also very creamy, thanks to the slow churn.
Trader Joe's version is an incredible butter for the price, as good as cultured butters twice or even three times as much in cost. It's best spread over every manner of bread and baked good.
I picked this up on a whim one time, and it has been a staple for me ever since. I love the flavor—sweet, creamy, a little sour, and the right touch of salt.
Our Favorite Unsalted Butter: Plugra Extra Creamy
$3.99 from Instacart for 8-ounces
If you want an American-made unsalted butter for extra buttery bakes, look no further than Plugra!
Although churned in a European-style, Plugra is owned by the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative. It has a higher butterfat content of 82% and a rich, pleasant yet mild flavor.
"[For unsalted butter] I usually just buy the store brand or what's on sale. If I do dive into more expensive butters because butter is a key ingredient in the recipe, I will buy Plugra butter. It's high in fat and low in moisture. If I'm making compound butters for a dinner party, I'll opt for the Plugra, because it's richer and creamier. Or if I'm making an all butter pie crust, Plugra's high fat content yields a flakier crust," says Summer.
Our Favorite Cheap Unsalted Butter: Store Brand Butter!
Most recipes that call for unsalted butter, like cookies, quick breads, or brownies, don't rely solely on butter to provide all the flavor. (You have sugar, chocolate, and spices for that!) In those cases, inexpensive store brand unsalted butter works just fine.
In fact, most American recipes that call for butter were likely tested with regular ol' store butter, which has an 80% butterfat content. Swapping in a premium European-style butter with a higher fat content in the 82% or more range could give you an overtly oily or deflated dessert. So, yes, you can have too much of a good thing.
All this is great news for avid bakers! If you buy a ton of butter for baking, you can be confident that, unless the recipes calls for otherwise, regular, non-premium unsalted butter is what you should use. Go for whatever brand you prefer!
"I've made perfectly acceptable pie crusts and compound butters with the inexpensive store brand butter," says Summer.
"I'm not super picky, to be honest, when it comes to unsalted butter for baking. I typically buy what's on sale. But in general, Tillamook or Darigold are reliable and reasonably priced," says Megan.
"Clover is a local brand to me here in California, and I like supporting them! I also think their butter has a well-rounded, rich, buttery taste in my baked goods," says Emma.
"I buy the Kroger brand of unsalted butter. Same ingredients (cream and natural flavoring) as the more expensive Tillamook," says Rachel.
And I love Trader Joe's house brand unsalted butter. Not fancy and works great for most of my baking needs!