I Spend $8 on Butter and Have Zero Regrets

published Jan 8, 2021
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cultured butter is spread on top of toast that sits on a plate with knife and butter package next to it
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

When I shop for butter I’m typically quick to grab the grocery store brand. Butter is butter, right? Well, that’s what I thought until the sharp packaging of Banner Butter caught my eye at a local farmers market in Atlanta (where I live). Now I know that small-batch cultured butter is the truth, and fortunately for us it’s sold at Whole Foods and online.

The Better Butter That Makes Everything Better

I still buy basic grocery store butter because it’s more economical than cultured butter when you need large quantities (like for baking). But when I want to add more depth to a dish, or really want to to enjoy the pure flavor of butter on something like toast, I reach for a disc of Banner Butter

Banner’s classic unsalted and salted butters are perfect for smearing on toast, but their compound butters are truly special. Compound butters have ingredients like herbs and spices mixed into them, and Banner’s combinations are interesting and pack a punch. For example, the Red Pepper Mash is made with Fresno chilis and tingles the tongue, while the roasted garlic, basil, and parsley combination is reminiscent of a steakhouse dinner. The one I currently can’t get enough of is the smoked sea salt, which is flecked with salt that has been cold-smoked. On a busy day, the height of luxury is spreading it on good sourdough for breakfast and letting the butter do the talking. 

What Is Cultured Butter?

Two words come to mind when I think about Banner Butter: rich and tangy. 

After trying Banner Butter — straight from the package, with a spoon, no regrets — generic butter instantly tasted, well, generic in comparison. It became clear to me that my go-to butter isn’t actually all that buttery. When I taste Banner I can practically hear cows mooing the distance. Not only does Banner have a golden hue (hello, eye candy), but it also has a creamier mouthfeel and deeper flavor.

The reason why it’s so rich and tangy is the culturing process. Banner’s cream, which is from cows that feast on grass 365 days of the year in the South, is ripened for up to 36 hours. The bacteria that grows gives the butter a subtle yet noticeable tanginess. The fact that the cows are grass-fed also contributes to the butter’s richness.

Because it’s so rich, a little bit goes a long way. It lasts in the fridge for about six weeks, so no rush to use it all at once — although you’ll probably go through it quickly without even trying.

My Favorite Ways to Use Banner Butter

1. Stir it into spaghetti sauce.

I don’t care if your spaghetti sauce is from a jar (mine frequently is): Level it up with some butter. Scoop about a teaspoon (as in your silverware teaspoon) of Banner’s unsalted or salted butter and add to the spaghetti sauce to make it instantly more luxe.

2. Coat a potato in it before baking.

You could rub your potato in olive oil before baking it, or you could coat it in Banner’s roasted garlic, basil, and parsley butter for an extra-savory boost. 

3. Use it to make scrambled eggs.

 It’s good to be a little liberal with the butter when you make scrambled eggs since it helps prevent them from sticking, but also Banner’s butter makes the eggs even more decadent Add a little at the end, too. 

4. Make an incredible sauce for meats.

Banner made a barbecue-inspired butter with Matt Pittman of Meat Church in Texas. It’s infused with Pittman’s barbecue rub. You can cook your meat in the butter, but you can also melt it with some sauce (barbecue or Buffalo, perhaps) to serve as a glaze.

5. Cover your veggies in it for roasted root vegetables.

Root veggies are a quintessential fall dish, and adding one of Banner’s compound butter to them pre-roasting is a no-brainer. I like to use the cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger blend on sweet potatoes, but their balsamic fig and caramelized onion butter would work well for this, too. 

6. Make it the star of buttercream frosting.

While I don’t usually use Banner butter in my baked goods, I do think when the flavor of butter is so prevalent as in buttercream it’s important to use a high-quality butter. This might be best for special occasions, but it’s a worthy splurge. 

7. Put it on top of waffles or pancakes.

This is another example of if you can taste the butter, you want it to be good. When you go through the effort of making pancakes or waffles, you don’t want just any butter melting on top of that carb mountain. You want golden-hued, rich butter that’s going to make that breakfast moment feel special. (Unless you use their chocolate butter for this, which is a great idea, too.) 

8. Jazz up mashed potatoes.

You know you’re adding butter to those mashed potatoes, so go ahead and use the good stuff. The smoked sea salt would especially be great (although you may want to adjust the other salt you add). 

9. Fry up hash browns in it.

If you like a little kick at breakfast, add a little bit of the red pepper mash butter to the frying pan when making hash browns. The butter imparts the heat on the has browns and also crisps them up.

There are countless ingredients clamoring for space in your kitchen. Taste Makers are the ones that actually make a dish amazing. Each month, we’re exploring one ingredient that has earned its place in our small kitchens and will make even simple food taste spectacular.

Your turn: What’s your favorite underrated ingredient in your pantry? What do you reach for when you want to elevate your cooking quickly and easily? Tell us in the comments below! We may give it the star treatment in an upcoming edition of Taste Makers.