Cultured Butter, photo by Donna

Have had butter on my mind for the past two weeks (I often have butter on my mind, but it’s been acute recently), and when my thoughts turned to Indian food the combination resulted in the desire to make ghee.  Ghee, the Indian version of clarified butter, is traditionally made with cultured butter that’s cooked till it’s lightly browned.  In the mood to experiment I thought I’d try doing it myself.  I wanted to know what it really tasted like.  And I wanted to know what genuine buttermilk tasted like.

As we are a cowless family, I bought a pint of organic cream and used some of my yogurt culture.  The cream thickened and took on a gentle acidity in a day.  I then hammered it in the food processor, dumped it into a cloth-lined strainer (above), then kneaded it to squeeze out the remaining water, till I had a ball of delicious home-cultured butter (below).  A couple years ago I posted about making your own butter.  A couple other folks had written about it as well (Wednesday Chef and Travelers Lunch Box), around the same time a good New York Times article on the subject by Daniel Patterson appeared.  Butter from store bought cream is worth doing because, if you like to cook, it’s part of educating yourself about the way food works.  But it doesn’t have much flavor.

Cultured butter?  Whole other story.  The buttermilk was deliciously tangy, the butter sweet and flavorful.  If you have access to fresh cream from a local farmer and a good culture, making your own amazing butter is a breeze.  I ended up clarifying it for traditional ghee, but the real revelation was how delicious the culturing effect was.  The links above both give recipes, but it’s really as easy as I’ve just described.  It’s best to use organic cream that’s not been ultra-pasturized.  I processed the cream at room temperature which worked fine.  I’m lucky to have an Indian neighbor who’s mom made butter every morning from the family’s cow; Tripta gave me some of her yogurt which I’ve been using for a couple years now (thank you Tripta!).  Would love to know where others who make their own yogurt, get their dairy.  I gave Tripta some of the butter and buttermilk; she took one smell and said, “This is it!”

Making your own cultured butter is enormously satisfying.  Which is how I find myself longing for a cow on a Monday morning….

Cultured Butter, Kneaded, photo by Donna


63 Wonderful responses to “Cultured Butter at Home”

  • Dave Weinstein

    It is also worth noting that it is a lot easier to churn cultured butter (or even just warm cream) than cold.

    On the recommendation of the folks at, I use a Mesophilic culture for culturing.

      • Dave Weinstein

        New England Cheesemaking:

        One of the best resources on the net, and a great source of supplies.

        I also got my Chevre culture from them — and while you cannot sell or import raw milk Chevre in the United States you can make it.

  • Elliott Papineau

    You can use the reserved buttermilk for the buttermilk rolls from an earlier post. It’s a nice way to use all your ingredients without waste.

  • Jane Ridolfi

    Great article…I have Patterson’s article in my stack of “to dos” now your article is on top of the heap! Love Donna’s photo!

  • Carla

    Sounds like a rewarding experiment. I’ll try it with cream from my inlaws neighboring dairy farmer. I’m sure the cultured aspect of the technique makes a big difference in flavor.

  • Mike Kolcun

    I had tried making butter with the food processor, using some nice organic cream. Worked out well, except that my food processor was leaking like crazy!

    Tried with the same cream, and a tablespoon of organic yogurt. It thickened up a bit, but when I put it through the processor, it would just not thicken and break.

    Any ideas to improve my process? Not sure what I’m doing wrong with the cultured attempt.


  • disha

    I am a lurker, originally from India. and you post compelled me to comment. That is waht I miss the most about home, fresh cream every single day. Sure, you dont get to have your milk, the moment you buy it, but cream, then butter, ghee and more..mmm.

  • Beth

    I made (uncultured) butter for the first time a few weeks ago and you are absolutely right-it changed the way I think about what butter is and the different elements of fresh dairy. I look forward to making cultured butter soon. (I read elsewhere that traditionally the cream was left out at room temperature for about a week before turning it into butter. I wonder if that serves the same purpose as using the yogurt culture?)

    Also, I would love to know what kind of food processor you use. I want to buy one soon and have read a lot of negative reviews about the common Cuisinart and Kitchenaid models leaking, motors burning out, or being difficult to clean. Do you have a suggestion?

  • Katrina

    Now when I write my blog post about cultured butter (which I have been working on since FRIDAY, as I had to culture my cream) everybody’s going to think I’m copying YOU! 🙂 Really I’m just honored by being in synchronicity with such a fantastic chef. Hope you’re enjoying your butter as much as we are!

  • LoveFeast Table

    Thanks for sharing the process with us! I’ve been craving some homemade Indian, using the spices our friend brought from Pune! I’m thinking I will do it authentic all the way!

  • kakaty

    I love Snowville Creamery milk and cream but all their products only come in 1/2 gallon containers. Everytime I need to get cream I’m stuck with a ton of leftover. About a year ago it struck me – make butter! I love the idea of making my own butter (and only takes about 10-15 minutes with my Kitchen Aid mixter and the paddle attachment) and the buttermilk makes the most awesome Sunday morning pancakes you could want. But ithe butter does lack a bit in the flavor department. Next time I will try this process for cultured butter – sounds like it will add the perfect amount of tang I’m looking for.

  • Stephanie

    I’ve made homemade butter in the Kitchen Aid mixer, but the texture was sort of grainy. I don’t know if I went too far, not far enough, or something else entirely.
    When I make yogurt, I use whole milk from the grocery store. I just make sure to use interesting yogurt as a starter. Sheep yogurt adds the tangy quality that I’m use to from yogurt purchased from my local Indian market (Richardson, TX). I always wondered why theirs tasted different from the big box store varieties, possibly the milk is the key.

  • michaela

    michael-isn’t dropping your yogurt culture into the cream the way to make creme fraiche or do you not let the mixture sit overnight? i’ve used yogurt and buttermilk to innoculate my cream. thanks and am wondering if its a few steps away from cultured butter. thank you!

  • michaela

    michael-isn’t dropping your yogurt culture into the cream the way to make creme fraiche or do you not let the mixture sit overnight? i’ve used yogurt and buttermilk to innoculate my cream. thanks and am wondering if its a few steps away from cultured butter. thank you!

  • Nate

    Whoa, I think I use that exact same handkerchief for my straining! With the subtle weaved-in design near the edges. Used it last night in fact, when I was making lobster stock!

  • Dave_C

    I don’t have access to any local dairy. Looking at the supermarket creams, the organic creams contain carrageenan. Will carrageenan cause a problem? The irony is the supermarket’s house brand only pasteurized (not ultra) and contains only cream on the ingredients label. I would have thought it was the opposite between “organic” and “mass produced”

    • Beth

      Dave_C, I’ve encountered the same thing at my supermarket. It doesn’t make any sense at all. I’ve read both that it is perfectly fine (a derivative of red seaweed) and also that it is a harmful additive. It should still whip up- I’ve made whipped cream with cream containing carageenan before, but I’d go with the cream-only option if given a choice.

  • Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen)

    We are fortunate enough to be part of a herd share so though I live in the city I suppose I do own a bit of a cow. Whenever we have extra cream from our raw milk we make butter. Sometimes we take time to culture it and we always reserve the buttermilk for baking. It is immensely satisfying to make our own dairy products.

  • Malini

    As an Indian who till recently lived in the country I can vouch that a very tiny number of people still churn their own butter and melt it to make ghee. Buying branded bottled ghee from nationalised diary cooperatives or international food conglomerates has become the norm. Simply because kilos have to be melted over the stove for a long time on a low flame to yield enough to last a month.

    The effort just out weighs the results….

  • ruhlman

    Malini, interesting you should bring up the low flame. When I melted this butter, I cooked it really hard, there were no solids that would have burned. I boiled it and the white froth on top eventually cooked but it behaved completely unlike commercial butter, which would have burned had I done this.

  • Hema

    There’s no need to even bother with the mess and cleanup of a food processor. Place your cream+souring agent in a large container with a tight fitting lid (I like to use one of those “disposable” tupperware jars with screw top lids). When you’re ready to churn, just shake the jar heavily for a couple of minutes. Very quickly the butter will separate from the buttermilk, at which point you can salt and strain!

  • Hema

    PS – making cultured butter is something I love to prepare on Friday evening, in time for fresh bread & radishes from the farmers’ market on Saturday morning!

  • Paul

    That looks beautiful. I actually visited a hand milked raw milk dairy on the weekend and tasted their butter and cheese there. The butter was so rich and delicious I could eat it straight. I took home a gallon of raw milk and have been industriously turning it into various tasty dairy offshoots like Panna Cotta and Mozzerella. I wish I had gotten some cream and butter from them as well, but hand milking cows certainly adds some overhead to costs.

  • NadaKiffa

    We do it in Morocco almost the same way, some add Thyme or oreganon and spread it over a warm wholebran bread toast..belly warming..especially when you love anything with butter. That with a poached egg on the top..a killer

  • Melinda

    I’m in Cleve Hts and am part of a local (past Wooster) herdshare. We weekly get dairy, eggs and other meats. It’s lovely to both know the farmer where your food is coming from and to know the work/expense that transportation adds to foods.

  • Arghya Mukherjee

    One of the best parts of making ghee ( for us kids) was the fried milk solids that was a by-product – mixed with sugar it was quite addictive! Oh, and the best butter was made from water-buffalo milk, at least in the parts I grew up.

  • Carlos

    Can you use an existing yogurt, like Fage to get the culture? Do you have to use a food processor or will a blender do? I remember once my mother made butter ONCE in a blender; it was excellent but never again.

    • ruhlman

      a tablespoon or so for a quart. if the culture is good, it doesn’t matter, the bacteria will grow if you give them enough time.

  • Tom

    Michael – I am curious why you chose to use a food processor vs. a stand mixer? Does the mixer yield a different result?

    • Brian S

      A food processor may be faster, but stand mixer with wisk attachment works well for me. No difference that I can detect.

  • Paul Kobulnicky

    Michael … psst … just drive over the border (in an unmarked car) to Penna. where one can legally purchase raw milk. I know somebody who knows somebody.

  • Hal in Seattle

    Here in Seattle we can get raw unpasteurized cream from Seabreeze Farms, which I have been buying to make crème fraiche without the necessity of adding buttermilk. I’ll have to try making butter from it.

    • ruhlman

      i noticed that, butter from non-organic cream was very yellow. think it has to do with cows diet. not “real” butter.

      • ET

        Read the link I sent you – organic or not isn’t (always) the answer.

      • Steve

        Dark yellow butter comes from a pastured based diet, which is best for the cows, pale yellow to white butter comes from a grain based diet, unhealthy for cows and the people who consume their milk or dairy products.

        Organic isn’t as important as the grazing. It’s all butter, technically… .

  • Laura

    Made it tonight and it was FABULOUS! I always have several brands of cultured butter in the house and when I served your butter to my eldest daughter (whose idea of heaven is to eat cultured butter with a spoon for dinner), her reply was “Mom, are you sure that isn’t Echire? ”

    Thank you Michael, for bringing this to my attention. I have made regular butter on and off for years, but it never occured to me I could make cultured butter at home.

  • tasteofbeirut

    In our Lebanese traditional kitchen we use ghee as well; I will admit that the ghee that is found in middle-eastern grocers has an off-putting smell and I dislike it intensely; so I have resorted to using oil or olive oil, even though it is “not the same”. I am glad for your post. I hope now that I will make my own, since I don’t have an excuse anymore!

  • Patrick

    My friend from Wisconsin and I were just discussing this. She mentioned one of her favorite things to do as a kid was make butter. They would boil some carrots in the cream/milk to get the yellow color . . . .then just shake in a mayo jar with marbles until it turned to golden butter. Sounds like a good one for kids!

  • heidi robb

    I’ll trade you some of Tipta’s yogurt for a pint of heavenly raw cream.

    Cultured butter: maybe the only a way to improve upon perfection

  • Laura

    Okay, just usrd the buttermilk for this morning’s pancakes and they were the best I have ever made (and the kids thought so too)!

  • Divina

    I want to try both. I’ve been itching to make some butter. Still looking for some local cream in the Philippines but I haven’t found a local cream that is really good.

  • ohiofarmgirl

    We made butter the ‘old fashioned way’ – just put it in a mason jar and shake until it separates, wash under cold water….and there you go. Nothing is better than fresh buttermilk biscuits with butter – especially when you’re the one who made the buttermilk and butter! Add some sausage gravy from your own pigs… and you’ll be in hog heaven.

  • blair

    I make cultured butter using raw milk. left at room temperature (around 70 degrees) the bacteria present in the milk culture the cream themselves. no need to inoculate. I’m planning on teaching a class on making cultured butter and I won’t be able to use raw milk, therefore I’ll need to inoculate my cream. I’m wondering if you need to heat and incubate the cream when you add the yogurt culture? Have you used cultured buttermilk (which cultures at room temperature) interchangeably with yogurt? Thanks for any info you can offer!

  • Stephanie Manley

    Fabulous post. I read about a similar technique in a 2008 Saveur magazine, that magazine featured butter recipes. They recommended culturing the butter for flavor. I didn’t realize that it would make better ghee. I have kept that magazine for a couple of years waiting to try that recipe. Needless to say, I will be doing the cultured butter very soon.

  • Jim

    I assume the cream is left on the counter (i.e., out of the fridge) while the yogurt does its work. Correct?

    • ruhlman

      yes, ideal temp is 100 to 110 degrees F for culture. cooler it is, the slower the culture develops.

  • Radha

    Loved this posting – certainly brought back nostalgic memories of my mom making home made butter. I just made ghee the other day – from unsalted store bought (Costco) butter – certainly doesnt have the same taste as ghee made from home made butter. Nonetheless, my father in law makes his own yogurt – hes been making it for years before I became part of their family 7 years ago – it all stems from one single spoon of borrowed yogurt culture from a friend of a friend many many years ago. Delicious stuff – especially the top layer of the yogurt – there is a special name for that in Indian languages – have no clue what it is in English

  • GG Mora

    I’ve been making my own cultured butter regularly since that first flurry of buttermaking made the rounds in summer of ’07. At one point, it occurred to me that I might try using the powdered ‘pro-biotics’ I had in the fridge for restoring my flora after a course of antibiotics. It’s all lactic bacteria – not quite the same combo as in yogurt or buttermilk, but close enough and very pure and active. Result: it makes for a very bright fresh-tasting culture. I generally culture about 5 pints at a time, and use about a teaspoon of the powdered bacterium.

  • White On Rice Couple

    I remember the first time we made our own butter here at home. Complete magic. However, cultured butter is a whole new phenom for us. I feel deprived not having any knowledge or taste of it. Growing up we actually did have our own cow (thousands actually, but only one or two for milking) and the milk was incredible, but we never utilized the milk or cream for anything other than straight use. Such a shame. I’ve started seeing raw cream from Jersey cows (the milk rekindles home on the palate) at one of our local stores and have had butter on the brain as well. Looks like I know what I’m going to have to do. Thanks Michael.


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