Dried herbs can’t compete with fresh herbs when it comes to cooking with flavor. If you have a garden, a nearby farmers market, or a good grocery store, preserving fresh herbs as herbal compound butters is my favorite way to ensure fresh flavor year-round. It’s very easy, you can create wonderful blends, and they’ll last at least 4 months in the freezer.
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Pro Tips for the Best Herbal Butters
Chopping up some fresh herbs, mixing them with room temperature butter and freezing until needed is one of the easiest ways to preserve fresh herbs.
This method is an especially good preservation technique for those herbs like rosemary that lose some of their texture or flavor when dried. Parsley, cilantro (coriander), chives, tarragon, and sage are also good candidates for herb butters.
For me, I like to think of what I enjoy cooking and make blends that match my cooking preferences.
Here are a few tips for getting the most out of this preservation method:
- Don’t stress about perfect ratios. I use a couple of tablespoons minced herbs per every stick (1/2 cup) of butter. The ratio is flexible and can be modified to your tastes or what you have on hand.
- You can add a lot of other things besides herbs to a butter. You can add chopped shallots or scallions or dried red pepper flakes or you can add citrus peel to any combination. It’s difficult to fail, but I’ve listed some tried and true blends in the recipe card or video.
- Use real butter, not margarine. Use fresh herbs, not dried.
- Adding lemon juice or lemon zest enhances the flavors. You could alternatively add minced lemon verbena or lemon balm.
- Garlic is often used in herb butter blends. When mincing the garlic mince it with a little sea salt or kosher salt to turn it into more of a “paste” which blends in better with the butter
- You can use either salted or unsalted butter to control the amount of salt. Just know that adding a bit of salt to the unsalted butter really does enhances the flavor.
- If you are using fresh herbs, rinse them thoroughly and allow them to air dry prior to chopping.
Sample Ingredients for Herbal Compound Butters
Ingredients Other than Herbs to Enhance Compound Butters:
- Lemon zest
- pepper flakes
- edible flowers
How to Store & Freeze
Herb Butters can be stored in the refrigerator for several days, preferably in a sealed container (the herbal log wrapped in wax paper may be sealed in a plastic zipper top bag).
You can roll the butters in plastic wrap, wax paper or parchment paper. If you don’t want the plastic wrap to come in contact with the butter, roll it in wax paper, but then add them to freezer bags or a sealed container when freezing.
You also want to be sure to label and date this butter! It’s almost impossible to tell one herbal butter from the next when you pull them out for cooking.
Use your butters within 4- 6 months for best flavor. After that, it can start to get some of the flavors of the freezer. Within four months is usually your best bet and you have the most potent flavors of the herbs.
Transfer the frozen herb butter to the refrigerator 24 hours before you intend to use it for easy slicing.
How to Use Herbal Compound Butters
There are so many great ways to use herbal butters! Pull the log of butter out of the freezer and chop off a medallion size (a coin) of the butter. Toss it into a sauce, use it on garlic bread or herbal bread, add it to vegetables, etc.
Or you could make a lemon-thyme herb butter, which is fantastic on vegetables. That would just be one stick of butter with two tablespoons of freshly chopped thyme and two teaspoons of grated lemon zest.
You would blend that all together and put it into the freezer and you would have something fantastic at your fingertips for fish, chicken, vegetables, all sorts of things.
Easy Recipe Ideas
Here are a few of my favorite ways to use herbal butters:
- Dollop a “coin” or a tablespoon on your pork chop before serving and let it melt into the chop. Beautiful and tasty at the same time (See photo above);
- Simply spread on your bread or biscuits;
- Toss them into your pasta sauce;
- Top off your vegetables with a coin of herbal butter before serving (lemon zest butter blends are great for this)
- Use cilantro blends of herb butter for Mexican dishes – grilled corn or elote is a good one;
- Drizzle melted herb butter over popcorn;
- Use thin coins of herb butter to fancy up dinner parties. Garnish each coin with a fresh sprig of an herb that is in the blend.
How to Make Herbal Compound Butters
It’s very easy to make fresh herb butter or compound butter at home. Basically, all you do is you let the butter soften so it’s at room temperature, chop the fresh herbs and blend into the butter, roll into a log, wrap in wax paper or parchment paper and freeze.
You can mix the butter and herbs in a bowl with a fork, you can mix them together in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or you can use the food processor to chop the herbs and then stir in the butter.
I prefer chopping the herbs with a knife and mixing them together with the butter in a bowl, as there isn’t as much to clean up afterwards.
The recipe card below details the directions and includes 4 of my favorite blends.
How to Grow Herbs in Containers for Cooking Blends
Herbs are one of the easiest plants to grow in containers or in the garden if you have at least partial sun. If you live in an apartment or want to grow herbs indoors, try one of the indoor growing systems.
Herbs will be the easiest things to grow in these indoors. Here are some of the pros and cons of indoor growing systems.
Here are some great posts that will help you become successful at growing herbs outdoors in containers
Herbal Compound Butters
- ½ cup real butter room temperature; I use Kerrygold
- 2-4 Tbsp Fresh herbs rinsed, air-dried, and minced
- 1 garlic clove optional
- ½ tsp fresh lemon zest finely grated with microplane
- Kosher salt amount is to taste, depending if you use salted or unsalted butter
Fines Herbs Blend
- 1 Tbsp Fresh parsley minced
- 1 Tbsp Fresh tarragon Minced
- 1 Tbsp Chives Minced
- 1 Tbsp Fresh chervil If not available, leave it out or substitute with dill
- 1 Tbsp Fresh thyme Minced
- 1 Tbsp Fresh oregano Minced
- 1 Tbsp Fresh rosemary Minced
- 1 Tbsp Fresh sage Minced
- 1 Tbsp Dill Ground seeds or fronds
- 1 Tbsp Parsley Minced
- 1 Tbsp Lemon verbena or lemon balm Can use 2 tsp lemon zest
- 1 Tbsp Fresh tarragon Can substitute with basil
- 1 Tbsp Fresh cilantro Minced
- 1 Tbsp Mexican oregano Regular oregano is fine
- 2-3 tsp lime zest zested with microplane
- Let 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter soften to room temperature for several hours or soften in the microwave on 10% power. The butter should be easy to stir but not melted. Rinse the herbs and allow them to air dry before chopping.1/2 cup real butter
- Finely chop or mince the herbs and add to a bowl with the softened butter (you can also chop herbs in the food processor if you don’t want to use the knife). Zest the lemon or lime peel and add to the bowl. If using unsalted butter, add the amount of salt you want at this point (about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp). Stir all of it together thoroughly. The butter and chopped herbs can be blended in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment if you don’t want to blend by hand.2-4 Tbsp Fresh herbs, 1 garlic clove, 1/2 tsp fresh lemon zest, Kosher salt
- Place a piece of wax paper (about 8 x 11) on the counter and mound the butter/herb mixture on top of the wax paper (or plastic wrap or parchment paper). Using your hands, pat and roll the butter into a log (see video for my method). Roll the butter log inside of the wax paper and twist the ends to close (or secure with rubber bands. Label and place in freezer until ready to use. If making multiple butters, place all logs in a gallon freezer bag for longer and easier storage.
- Will last 4-6 months in freezer. Cut off medallions (or coins) of butter when needed and use in sauces, on breads, or atop vegetables or meats.
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