Don't be afraid of the impending butter shortage; just make your own

The best butter is homemade and takes just 15 minutes

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published October 10, 2022 8:00AM (EDT)

Bowl of homemade butter (Getty Images/milanfoto)
Bowl of homemade butter (Getty Images/milanfoto)

I, too, read the news about the butter shortage with concern. As the Wall Street Journal  reported earlier this month, the amount of butter in cold storage has plummeted, sending the cost of the precious gold soaring nearly 25% in the last year. As someone who lists "butter" as the number one reason she could never hack it as a full time vegan, a person who thinks browned butter is the solution to everything, I have of late been strategizing exactly how all of this will affect both my most ambitious baking plans and my day to day toast topping.

But I do not share the opinion of one nervous recent headline, fretting that the shortage "could ruin" the holiday baking season. First, the only thing that can "ruin" a baking season is my own culinary ineptitude. Second, there are plenty of fantastic things to bake without butter. And most importantly, because it's absurdly easy to just make your own.

The logic is pretty simple — butter is made from cream. If you have cream, you can have butter. And if your idea of making the stuff involves a wooden churn and perhaps a bonnet, I can happily disabuse you of that notion right now. All you really need is the cream, a mixer, a big bowl and about ten minutes of your life. You've got those things, right? You just go on as if you're making whipped cream and … keep going until it's separated into fresh butter and — bonus — some buttermilk you can use to brine or bake with.

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I've been making homemade butter regularly for years, because it's fun to customize and very, very good. When I use the heavenly cream for the farmer's market, I truly put it among my favorite Irish and Breton butters any day.

More ambitious butter makers add yogurt to the cream and let it sit overnight before proceeding, but I'm impatient and don't. I like to add a generous pinch of Maldon smoked salt, a delicacy I could gladly eat straight out of the box, for flavor. Experiment with your own flavorings and twists.

I can't help you with the fact that, as you might have already guessed, the price of cream is also going up. Making your own butter likely won't save you much if any money. What it will do, however, is give you superlative butter without resorting to panic-buying all the Land O'Lakes in town. And your toast will thank you for dressing it up so beautifully.

* * *

Inspired by French Cooking Academy

Homemade butter with smoked salt
 8 servings
Prep Time
 5 minutes
Active Time
 15  minutes


1 pint of your favorite heavy (whipping) cream 

Optional: Generous pinch of flaky smoked salt



  1. Pour the cream into the bowl of your stand mixer or into a deep bowl. This is going to get splashy.
  2. If using, add the salt — I like to put it in first because it incorporates better and draws out more moisture. You can always add a little more for texture at the end.
  3. Beat the cream on medium speed, scraping down the bowl every so often as needed. It will become whipped cream, and then begin to form curds. You're almost there.
  4. When the butter has completely separated, use a fine mesh strainer to drain the buttermilk. Reserve the buttermilk for another use, or freeze it. Make sure to scrape out any remaining butter from the beaters and the bowl.
  5. With wooden paddles or your hands, squeeze all your butter together into a solid ball to get out the last of the buttermilk. Rinse under very cold water. 
  6. With a clean tea towel or paper towel, pat the butter to absorb any remaining water. Add in any additional flavorings you like here, such as garlic, herbs, or spices.
  7. Shape into a square or log, and store and enjoy as you normally would your butter. 

Cook's Notes

Some clever cooks make their butter in a blender or food processor. I have never had success in doing anything but jamming the motor, but perhaps you will have butter luck.

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By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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