Published April 11, 2013 - Last Updated January 22, 2021
Growing up, we didn’t keep butter in the refrigerator… we liked the spreadable texture of room temperature butter. A stick of salted butter was stored in a covered butter dish on the counter, available to anybody who wanted a smear on toast. It’s the old fashioned way, the way my grandma did it and her grandma before her. I’d spread it on my whole grain toast each morning (the way I usually start my day), watching that gorgeous yellow butter melt into the nooks and crannies of my golden slice of toast. Heaven.
When I got to college, I noticed that my friends all kept their butter in the refrigerator. I was perplexed. Why would you want to do that? Butter won’t spread straight from the fridge. It’s hard and cold, not soft and melty. They cited food safety as a concern– the refrigerator, they claimed, was safer for storing butter. I tried to jump on the chilled butter bandwagon, but it didn’t work for me. It was too hard, wouldn’t melt fast enough, and more often than not left a big chunk of semi-soft butter in the middle of my toast. Blech.
While searching for an alternative I transitioned to margarine, which was spreadable and salty and fine, but not as yummy as butter. I was willing to compromise– the “spreadable” factor was most important for me. Then I learned about the many health concerns attached to most margarines on the market. They’re heavily processed and many contain trans fat, which increases blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. Yuck. While butter substitutes are good for certain things, like cooking dairy-free or serving with a kosher meat meal, I vastly prefer the flavor of natural butter. Over time I found some healthier butter substitutes, like Organic Earth Balance Buttery Spread. Trouble is most of them contain soy, which negatively effects my hormones.
I yearned to take my good old fashioned butter back to room temperature for that easy spreading texture… and really, there’s no reason not to have it that way. Butter will last for about 3 weeks in a covered butter dish at room temperature before it turns rancid. Even after it turns rancid, the taste is bad, but it won’t make you sick (though honestly, who wants to eat anything with the adjective “rancid” attached to it?). I bought a covered butter dish from a local vintage market and returned to my roots, keeping my butter at room temperature again. Unfortunately I’m the only butter fan in my house, and sometimes the stick would go rancid before I had a chance to finish it.
My little jade-colored chicken butter dish.
The solution came in the comments section of another website (for the life of me I can’t remember which one), where people were discussing this subject of room temperature butter. A woman claimed that she made her own spreadable chilled butter by combining room temperature butter, olive oil, and salt. The resulting butter was spreadable straight from the fridge. I loved the idea, so I gave it a try. The first batch wasn’t very successful– it tasted way too much like olive oil. I tried again with a smaller quantity of light olive oil (which is less olive-y tasting). The light olive oil was better in terms of flavor, but it’s really just processed olive oil, sometimes mixed with other vegetable oils. I decided to try it with grapeseed oil instead, which I often use for frying because it’s light, tasteless, and has no cholesterol.
Jackpot! I’d hit the spreadable butter motherload. Not only is this mixture perfectly textured straight from the fridge, it’s healthier for you than plain butter. Nutritionally speaking, this Homemade Spreadable Butter is lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than pure butter. You can adjust the saltiness (and thereby the sodium) to taste. It contains Vitamin E, a natural antioxidant. I prefer grapessed oil– it is a polyunsaturated oil, which is a rich source of Omega-6, unlike olive and canola oils. Adding it to your butter boosts the health benefits and reduces the negative ones. Light olive oil and canola oil will worktoo (regular olive oil will have too strong an “olive” taste to it– you’ve been warned!).
Now my butter dish sits on my kitchen shelf, a reminder of the good old days. Homemade Spreadable Butter for the win! How do you keep your butter– in the fridge, on the countertop, or not at all?
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Thanks for stopping by! I am fascinated by the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the foods of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s food can inspire us in the kitchen today. Read more...