Recipe: Homemade Finishing Butter

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final shot of softened butter in bowl(Note: This was posted prior to the unfortunate collapse of Paula Deen’s culinary empire – KF)

Eater National reports that “midst of a weak attempt at rebranding herself as healthy,” Food Network star Paula Deen launched a line of “finishing butters” for WalMart. So the woman who made famous doughnut, egg and bacon sandwiches and then came out of the medical closet to announce she had Type 2 Diabetes now has a line of self-named butter. tub of Paula butterWhat is her brand management team thinking?

WalMart plans to retail them for $3.99 for a 6.5 ounce tub — roughly the same price as a pound of decent butter.

Save money and do it yourself. If you can let butter sit on a counter, spend two minutes chopping and stir, you can make your own and just keep a few in the freezer to dress up weeknight dinners. I often make compound butter from leftovers — herbs on the verge of going bad, leftover chopped garlic, that last bit of ginger. Just a dab transforms any dish, from meats, fish or chicken, to steamed vegetables and simple pastas.

Lest you wonder, Deen didn’t come up with this concept. Known in French as beurre composé, finishing butter has been around since at least the 1700s. They’re simply unsalted butter that has been blended with herbs and seasonings with  endless variations. Auguste Escoffier published three dozen combinations in 1903, among them his famed anchovy butter and beurre à la maître d’hotel (lemon parsley butter).

 But as Matt Lauer acknowleged in Deen’s  Today spot promoting her finishing butters usage, the calories still count. Below I’ve included photos from a batch I made and a video from to show you the method. Note: I often make small doses of butter and just stir it by hand. Compound butters are also a great way to flavor a roasted chicken, to offer up something special to slather on warm bread and to perk up a piece of fish cooked in parchment.

Recipe: Compound Lemon Herb Butter Master Recipe

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons of your favorite herbs
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Few grinds black pepper

Let the butter sit at room temperatures until softened. Chop the herbs. Add to the butter and stir or “chop into” the butter until well-incorporated. You can use a stand mixer for this, but it’s not necessary. Place the butter on foil, plastic wrap or wax paper and roll into a long oblong shape. Think of a sushi roll. Place in the freezer for about an hour or until firm. Then slice into pieces and serve with desired dish. 

butter ingredientsmixing the herbs inrolled up butter



“Hot Butter” with Red Pepper & Garlic

This works especially well to spark up roasted and steamed vegetables. 

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1-3 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Red chili flakes or dry-roasted chili peppers crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
Few grinds black pepper

Lemon and Dill Butter

A terrific topper to grilled or pan-fried fish.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried (adjust to taste)

Caramelized Shallot Butter

This one is especially nice on roasted vegetables. Steak with Herbed Butter

1 stick unsalted butter
2 large shallots, finely diced (1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small saucepan or skillet over medium-low heat until melted. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until deeply browned about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the thyme. Cool completely. In a small bowl, combine the shallot mixture with the remaining 2-1/2 tablespoons of butter and the lemon zest. Stir to blend well. Lightly season to taste with salt and pepper. Shape into a log as above.

Cognac-Sage Butter

This one is best made with a mixer to emulsify the liquid with the butter

1 stick unsalted butter
3 tablespoons cognac
1 teaspoon chopped sage
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Grinds of black pepper

Bleu Cheese and Garlic Butter

This one is the bomb on grilled steaks. 

1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup blue cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Grinds of black pepper

Orange Dijon Butter

This version is terrific on grilled or baked chicken

1 stick unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Grinds of black pepper

More on CookFearless

More from Fearless Cooks

pasta with butter

  • The Fromagette: A super selection of various compound butters
  • Brown-eyed Baker: Sweet versions with honey and cinnamon
  • Cooking Canuck: Great variations including kalamata-mint and curry butter
  • Food 52: Tea with Honey and Lemon, plus a great slide show of how to make it


About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry,” “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” and “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good.” All are published by Viking/Penguin.


  1. Love it. This is a great idea. I’m going to try it this weekend! Thanks Kathleen!

  2. Natalie Hagen says:

    Cognac-Sage Butter looks wonderful. Recipe reads 1/4 cup tablespoons cognac. What is the correct measurement so that I can enjoy it as intended? Thanks!

  3. I think a mention of flavored butters would have been sufficient. It doesn’t do you justice to criticize another chef.

    • Fair enough although the launch of her butter line promoted me to write it. I’ve been thinking of rewriting this post. I wrote it prior to the whole fall of the Paula empire. I feel bad for her.

  4. Very useful post! I saw another brand in a supermarket and looked online for a recipe instead.

  5. I just ran across this story but I remember seeing a story about her promoting a line of butter and thinking the same thing, especially since she had just come out with diabetes. On the Today Show, she was piling all this butter onto everything and It was weird.


  1. The Friday Five: Jeff’s Picks of the Week (June 3rd – June 7th, 2013) | Jeff Parker Cooks says:

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