Your Fear of Butter is Outdated

It’s time to kill the stigma

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A partial list of things made better by butter:

Grilled cheese
– Scrambled eggs
– Cacio e pepe
– Books
– Pie
– Grandmothers

Butter elevates. It demands you take your food slightly more seriously, or at least that you give it the attention it deserves. Strange, yes, but butter requires a pause: that window of time after removing it from the fridge, letting it soften into itself, before it is ready for the slow spread.

We’re collectively coming back to butter after an unsettling intermission that began in the 1970s. Growing up, there were whole years in which no butter would cross my family’s threshold. It was the heyday of margarine. Every fridge had a tub, every kitchen table was graced with that greasy plastic container. It was a sad, weird time in North America. Nutritionists had declared saturated fats public enemy number one, and someone decided that warmed-up plant sap congealed into a tenuous whip was better for us than ye olde humble butter.

Turns out we were wrong. A study published just last month analyzed the results of research conducted in the ‘70s on the effects of butter versus corn oil in diets. Contrary to expectations, participants who were fed vegetable oils had a 22% higher risk of death than those on the butter menu. When it comes to fats, we’ve been perilously misled.

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That’s because margarine and its associates — veggie oils and spreads made of polyunsaturated and trans fats — contain linoleic acids, which have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. Vurrrry bad. So what should you be eating instead? Olive oil is darling, basically medicinal, great on a salad, but when you want to feel robust and homely, like your favorite aunt, creamy and warm? Nothing but buttah.

Now, nutritionists are not going so far as to say butter is actually good for you (I will, I’ll say that), but most agree that saturated fats are fine in moderation. There is plenty of room in a balanced diet for full-fat dairy products, which can lower your risk of diabetes and help in weight management by keeping your blood sugar level. Butter is also a great source of vitamins A, E, K and D. Also — vegans, avert your eyes! — dairy products qualify as whole foods, with none of the processed flavoring and coloring that can be found in all the weird substitutes. All of this news is contributing to an uptick in global butter sales: a return, in the smallest of ways, to a more wholesome time.

Caveats: Seek out grass-fed, organic, hormone-free dairy whenever possible. Buy from local producers at farmers’ markets. Spend more (if you can) to make sure you’re getting quality products from dairy maids who treat their cows with dignity and respect. You want the kind of butter you could slather on your tits and feel really good about. HIGH-QUALITY BUTTER.

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Most supermarkets serve up two kinds of butter: salted or unsalted. Salted keeps longer and can be shiny-happy on toast, but I prefer unsalted, which is better for baking. Commercial American butter, like most things American, is pretty much a sad replica of superior European versions. You can find cultured European butters like President and Lurpak at specialty grocery stores — you’ll pay more, but these butters have a more concentrated taste due to their higher fat content and the culturing process (essentially, adding live cultures back to the pasteurized milk and churning in smaller batches). They’re worth it for your mindful breakfast biscuit, or for certain quality baked goods such as pie crusts or cakes like this queenly, rich chocolate-and-butter delight.

Still getting reacquainted with butter? Cozy up to it by mixing in chopped herbs like sage or rosemary and serve it in a pretty dish. In early summer, when snappy, peppery radishes are at their peak, my favorite evening snack is good, crusty bread spread with butter and topped with sliced radishes and sea salt. Step up your baked goods by making brown butter, a lightly-caramelized butter that gives cookies and blondies a nutty taste. You can even make your own butter (it’s literally just shaken cream), if you are one of those people who also weaves tapestries and has a capsule wardrobe that features many of your own plant-dyed linens.

My favorite use of butter appears in Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce, made with a can of peeled tomatoes, an onion and a generous thwack of butter. It stews up for 45 minutes and melts into a rich, gorgeous sauce, one that clings sensually to noodles and is best with no real adornment other than some parmesan cheese. It’s the kind of dish you want to eat alone, with a glass of red wine — something firm, with a kick, like a Carménère — while face masking and watching YouTube clips of Viola Davis doing stuff.

So give butter a chance, and save your guilt for something else. Butter doesn’t need your apologies.

Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.

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  • Natty

    this is pure poetry. i adore butter. thank you for creating a safe space for us butter-lovers to gather.

  • Abby

    I’m not afraid of butter, even the tiniest bit. Give me all the butter! I particularly like making my own cultured butter.

  • mollie blackwood

    My favorite way to consume butter is melted in pan with chopped fresh rosemary and poured over homemade popcorn. Don’t forget the sea salt!

    I always feel like these “studies” are trying to ruin our lives (like now Cheerios have trace amounts of pesticide) but I can get behind a pro-butter campaign! More Butta, More Betta!

    Cheerios article:

    • Natty

      omgggg making that popcorn tonight. beautiful.

      • mollie blackwood

        You will not be disappointed! Also another combination is butter, truffle oil, and plenty of black pepper (and always sea salt!)

    • Talia

      This sounds amazing. What a delicious way to amp up popcorn! Thanks for sharing!

      • mollie blackwood

        Yeah girl! I hope you try it 🙂

  • Lindsay D

    bf is required to keep butter in his fridge for me, not sure which i love more

  • I like butter on rice. There is no greater comfort food.

    • Elizabeth Tamkin

      Just made me incredibly hungry

    • belle

      butter on sushi rice with roe…..for some reason i really like the combo of vinegar / salt / butter and the little texture of the roe!

  • I never have and never will be afraid of butter, it is a heavenly substance that can add a little bit of magic to so many foods when you’re in need of some luxury

    – Natalie

  • Danielle.

    Secret confession: I’m a Manhattan girl and I totally weave tapestries (poorly) and sew my own linen clothing (mostly dresses and peplum swing shirts). The only reason I haven’t dyed anything yet is I need to buy a large pot. And a few weeks ago I wanted to start making my own butter. God, sometimes it actually feels good to be pegged.

    Also, I love that someone wrote an entire article about butter.

  • Holly Laine Mascaro

    “You want the kind of butter you could slather on your tits and feel really good about.” WOW, THAT HAPPENED. My Monday just hit its height.

  • Adrianna

    I was raised in a Polish household, where we used butter, not mayonnaise, as a spread on sandwiches. I never thought it was weird or different, until I moved and befriended American teenagers who were grossed out by the idea.

    There’s nothing better than good bread and good butter. (I recommend beurre d’isigny butter)

    • Meg S

      We do this with lefse too, butter and whatever you want to put inside. Smoked salmon, sandwich ingredients, sugar, jam, it all works with butter. Lefse would be too try without butter anyway. I need to find better butters. While I’m sure kerrygold is an adequate butter, I’d like some more options. I’m going to be on the lookout for the butter you pictured, I know stores here sell their cheese, so maybe I’ll be lucky and find their butter.

      • Adrianna

        You know how Kerrygold is better than Land o’Lakes? Beurre D’Isigny is SO much more flavorful than Kerrygold. I can eat it alone on a piece of bread and be perfectly content.

        • Meg S

          I knew I’d seen it somewhere. Google says I can buy it at Whole Paycheck. I wonder if I can make it out of the store without buying anything but butter.

          • Adrianna

            Not sure where you live, but I’ve seen it at my boyfriend’s very local supermarket in Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn for about $6. We discovered it in Fairway Market when a very French man offered a sample.

          • Meg S

            Unfortunately, too far from New York to pop in for butter (though it’s a good excuse – need to find a hotel with refrigerators in room, my usual doesn’t have them). Not too far to pop in for the weekend. It’s only about 3-4 hours on the train from Baltimore.

  • Peter

    The hypothetical *if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life* question is stressful, (nutrients? scurvy?) but if I were to choose one thing to eat every day without tiring of it, it would be warm toast with butter.

  • Cindy

    Unfortuately the reason im afraid of butter…latose intolerance. The smallest amount gets me horribly bloated. Not worth it in my book:/

  • Belle

    This makes sense!! I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea that something as fake as margarine could possibly be more healthy than good old fashioned butter.

    If the fat in your diet is predominantly from olive oil, and then you add a bit of butter here and there for taste… you’re on the right track!

    Plus everything tastes better with buuttah!!

  • Daisy Tinker

    I stand by the fact that the healthiest people I know are my nan (79) and grandad (85); people who eat whole-fat traditional foods, but (get this!) IN MODERATION. It’s boring, but I believe it true, that the healthiest diet is one that includes everything in small amounts. Especially butter, which happens to be one of the most delicious foods in the entire world.

  • BarbieBush

    You can make butter by putting heavy cream in a jar and shaking it for 10-15 mins. Add salt if you want salted. Also a mixer works, if you know, you have kitchen gadgets that are more than just mason jars.

    I shouldn’t have been so blown away by this discovery..but alas.
    At minute like 6-7 it is whipped cream :O want it sweet and just add powder sugar..

  • Jean F.

    Yeah this reminds me of a time about a decade ago my dad and I were at the grocery store while my then 92-year-old grandmother did her weekly shopping and overheard a young employee an aisle over trying to explain to her that she should get margarine instead of her usual butter “because it’s healthier” and my dad had to come over and be like “she’s made it to 92 eating butter I think she’ll be just fine tbh…”

  • Hellbetty666

    Why would anyone be afraid of butter? One simply can’t have too much butter!!

  • CarlotaLMorais

    This was soooo very funny and entertaining! Will forever consume butter on a daily basis, after all in Portugal 2 things are needed in a good home – great bread and great butter

  • Lyndsay

    Coffee blended with grassfed butter is 😍😍😍