Cowboy Butter

published Jul 19, 2023
Cowboy Butter Recipe

A mixture of butter, lemon, herbs, and spices melted together for an easy compound butter dipping sauce for steak, vegetables, or bread.


Makesabout 3/4 cup

Prep10 minutes

Cook5 minutes

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Spoon in small bowl of Cowboy Butter.
Credit: Kristina Vanni

There really isn’t much in this world that’s better than butter. That is, until you combine rich, decadent butter with a mélange of your favorite herbs and spices to create a buttery dip or spread. The result is a flavorful ingredient that is incredibly easy to prepare, yet will elevate basic dishes to new heights. 

Cowboy butter — an incredible dippable butter — can be served in a variety of ways and with a wide range of dishes. The best part: The recipe can be adjusted based on the ingredients you have on hand. 

What Is Cowboy Butter? 

If you love compound butter, then cowboy butter is right up your alley. Cowboy butter is the same concept as compound butter except the ingredients are all melted together to become a dip, rather than rolled into a log and cut into slices. It’s a little more rustic and maybe a little messier to eat, but that is just how a cowboy would want it. 

Ingredients in Cowboy Butter

  • Unsalted butter: The best cowboy butter should start with the best ingredients. Pick up your favorite brand of butter, just be sure to buy unsalted so you can control the salt level yourself to suit your taste. 
  • Lemon: Some sort of acid is needed here to cut through the richness of the butter and to make the dip more dynamic and flavorful. I like using both the zest and the juice of a lemon. 
  • Aromatics: Fresh garlic as well as both the white and green parts of a scallion add flavor and color to the dip. 
  • Fresh herbs: This is where you can get creative or use what you happen to have on hand. Fresh herbs add color and texture to the butter. I like using fresh parsley. 
  • Mustard and horseradish: These ingredients add incredible flavor and visual interest to the butter. You can use classic Dijon mustard or whole grain for added texture. 
  • Dried spices: Again, this is where you can really make the dish your own. Salt and pepper are a must, and after that, you can riff with your personal favorites. I use some smoked paprika as well as a pinch of cayenne for kick. 
Credit: Kristina Vanni

What to Serve with Cowboy Butter

Cowboy butter is endlessly versatile. The most obvious way to serve cowboy butter is with a nice, juicy steak, dipped right into the flavorful, buttery bath. It’s also delicious with chicken, fish, and vegetables, and makes for a great dip with bread. 

Cowboy Butter Recipe

A mixture of butter, lemon, herbs, and spices melted together for an easy compound butter dipping sauce for steak, vegetables, or bread.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 5 minutes

Makes about 3/4 cup

Serves 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 6 sprigs

    fresh parsley

  • 1

    medium scallion

  • 2 cloves


  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon

    regular or whole grain Dijon mustard

  • 1 tablespoon

    prepared horseradish

  • 1 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    cayenne pepper


  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same small bowl as you complete it: Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon until you have 1 teaspoon. Juice half the lemon until you have 2 teaspoons. Pick the leaves from 6 fresh parsley sprigs and finely chop until you have 2 tablespoons. Finely chop 1 medium scallion until you have 2 tablespoons. Finely chop 2 garlic cloves.

  2. Melt 1 stick unsalted butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Whisk until melted and combined. Add the parsley mixture and stir to combine. If it separates as it sits, stir to re-combine.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: Cowboy butter can be made up to one week in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. Re-melt the butter on the stovetop over medium heat for a dipping sauce.

Storage: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months.

Compound cowboy butter: For compound cowboy butter, stir all the ingredients into room-temperature butter. Transfer onto a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper. Shape the butter into a log, roll up in the paper, and twist the ends of the paper until taut and the butter is uniform in shape. Refrigerate until firm. To use, unwrap the compound butter and cut into slices. Place the slices on top of grilled meats or seafood.