April 25, 2011


My husband grew up in Kenya. His family had farm fresh milk delivered to their house every morning. His mother would boil the milk until a thick layer of cream floated up on top. My husband and his brothers would take turns churning that cream until it turned into rich, creamy butter. My mother-in-law would then heat the butter to make ghee, a clarified butter that’s used in Indian cooking.

I grew up in America in the 1970s eating margarine. At the time, we thought it was a healthier choice than butter. Of course, now we know that margarine contains plenty of trans fats, which are even worse than the saturated fats in butter.

So it’s back to butter. And hooray, I say, since butter tastes so much better than margarine.

I’ve always been perfectly happy with the butter I’ve bought at the grocery store. And to be honest, it never really occurred to me to make butter at home.

But then the other day I came across a recipe for homemade butter. It required exactly one ingredient – heavy cream. And no hand churning needed. All the work was going to be done by the food processor.

Ahh, my food processor. 

I got it as a wedding gift, almost 13 years ago. For most of that time, it sat in its box, moving with us from one home to another – or, I should say, from one cabinet to another. I’d think about using it but then I’d get intimidated. It seemed complicated. Not to mention potentially dangerous.

When we moved to our current home, I finally decided to take the thing out of its box and give it some prime real estate on the counter. Well, if it was going to take up precious counter space then I was darn well going to use it. What a revelation! I got over my hang ups and I’ve never looked back. I’ve used it to grind meat for burgers, to puree vegetables for Bolognese sauce and to turn bread into breadcrumbs.

But it never would have occurred to me that a food processor could turn cream into butter. Well, it can. And in under 10 minutes. The result is creamy and delicious. It tastes sweeter and fresher than what you get in the store. And it’s true what they say – food made by your own hands really does taste better.

From here, the sky’s the limit. You can mix the butter with herbs, spices, honey, jams, basically whatever you like, to make compound butters. Spread it on toast, biscuits, vegetables, fish or steak.

I know you can buy butter at any grocery store. But try making it at home just once. I’m guessing your first time won’t be your last.

I started with good-quality heavy cream. If you’re going to make something with one ingredient, that one ingredient better be good.

Pour the heavy cream into your food processor, filling it no more than halfway, and turn the machine on. Within a couple of minutes the cream will thicken into something the consistency of soft serve ice cream.

Then it will thicken even further and you’ll think you have butter. You don’t. Not yet.

Because then the thickened cream will collapse and start to fall apart. You’ll think you’ve ruined it. You haven’t.

The mixture will start to slosh around you’ll notice liquid collecting at the bottom of the bowl. This is buttermilk!

Keep mixing until the fine clumps of butter start to come together into a solid mass while more buttermilk collects at the bottom.

Pour out the buttermilk. (You can drink this.)

Transfer the solid butter to a sieve set over a bowl. This allows more buttermilk to drain out. You can also press it with a spatula and/or squeeze it with your hands to squeeze out as much of the buttermilk as you can. At this point, it's a good idea to “wash” the butter. Just rinse the butter a couple of times with cold water and then squeeze the butter to extract any excess water. Washing the butter apparently keeps it fresher longer.

If you want unsalted butter, leave it as is. Or add salt (I recommend freshly ground sea salt for a delicate flavor) and just mix that into the butter either with your hands or a spatula.

And there you go – butter!


16 oz heavy cream

1.      Place heavy cream in a food processor. Turn on.

2.      Turn the processor off after about 10 minutes when a pool of buttermilk has collected at the bottom of the processor bowl and a mass of solid butter has formed towards the top.

3.      Drain off the buttermilk (you can drink this).

4.      Form the butter into a ball and rinse it with cold water. Transfer the solid butter to a sieve set over a bowl. Squeeze it several times with your hands to squeeze out any excess water. Place it back in the sieve for a little while to let any remaining buttermilk drain out.

5.      Transfer butter to an airtight container.

Makes about 8 ounces of butter.


  1. Like I need ANY convincing that butter is a superior fat. I'm absolutely going to try this. Thanks for the recipe and the photos. I would have figured stopping at the "soft serve" stage was the right thing to do and how wrong I would have been! Thanks Urmi.

  2. I'm definitely going to try this! I knew whipping heavy cream made a great whipped cream but didn't know whipping it some more would make butter.

    There's a brunch spot in NYC called Popover Cafe that makes delicious strawberry butter ... I wanted to replicate it but was never too thrilled about using store bought butter to mix with a strawberry mixture ... I'll try it using this butter recipe!

  3. Just made this with breakfast! Turned out lovely. I added some olive oil to make a "spreadable" butter. It was really exciting!

  4. Reshma, adding olive oil to the cream is such a great idea! Not only spreadable, but healthier too. I'm going to try that next time.


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