I Tried More than 50 Different Sticks and Tubs of Butter to Find the Very Best One
Butter straddles so many categories: cooking medium, schmear, flavoring agent, cookie ingredient, and main meal (if you’re me and testing more than 50 different brands). Which butter sticks out from the rest? A few, actually, depending on the occasion and diet plan. I bought as many as I could possibly get my hands on and held an official taste test to pick some key winners. And this time, I picked runners up. (We should be spreading the love, right?) Here goes!
How I Tested the Butters
I visited three grocery stores (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Stop & Shop) and split the butters into a few categories because I was up to my eyeballs in them. I learned from my olive oil adventures that taste testing tons of fat is not for the faint of heart (or stomach), so I divided the tasting over the span of two days.
I let the butters come up to room temperature to reach maximum spreadability, and while they softened, I crisped up par-baked grocery store baguettes. I studied the color, gave each stick/tub a whiff, and tested the texture of each with a knife. When it came to eating, I scraped the outer layer of butter off to taste a little closer to the center (old butter tastes like other stuff, and I didn’t want anything to interfere with my findings.) I also tapped my mom as a second judge for this endless pale-yellow banquet. Let’s see which pats prevailed!
Best Unsalted Butter: Land O’ Lakes Unsalted Butter
When you think of butter, it’s easy to picture this brand (have you noticed they changed their packaging?). Land O’ Lakes is a classic for a reason. This butter was the most functional, and unlike many of the fancier grass-fed butters we tried (which had their own distinct nutty flavor going for them) Land O’ Lakes is light and clean-tasting. The versatility, coupled with quality at an affordable price point, were the main reasons we picked Land O’ Lakes, and why it made our list of Kitchn Essentials.
Back to the Land O’ Lakes: I also really want to suggest the half sticks. They’re so great — less of a chance you’ll have to store a random, leftover butter butt that will absorb fridge flavors. One more super-cool thing: Land O’ Lakes is a farmer-owned cooperative!
Buy: Land O’ Lakes Unsalted Butter, $3.67 for 1 pound at Walmart
Best Salted Butter: Land O’ Lakes Salted Butter
Land O’ Lakes took the salted butter award, too. It had the cleanest butter flavor, and most approachable saltiness. I have to vote for the half sticks again and especially this time because you’re more likely to lop off a tablespoon at a time of salted butter (whereas you’ll use the whole stick of unsalted in a baked good).
If you’re looking to go organic, try Organic Valley, which has a clean flavor like Land O’ Lakes. For an intense grass-fed flavor we loved Nellie’s; it has a nutty, nearly brown-buttery flavor, and we could tell it was grass-fed before even reading the label. We could sniff it from the stick!
Buy: Land O’ Lakes Salted Butter Half Sticks, $3.99 for 1 pound at Target
Best Vegan Butter: Miyoko’s Creamery Cultured Vegan Butter
Another winner that also made our list of Kitchn Essentials! This vegan butter acts just like a regular butter: It spreads, melts, and browns. And it’s entirely plant-based. The flavor is neither hydrogenated-oily nor overly nutty like many of the nut-based plant butters we tried. Guess what else? I’m not going to add a runner up here because nothing else even comes close to Miyoko’s Creamery. Try the unsalted version for all your baking needs.
Buy: Miyoko’s Creamery Cultured Vegan Butter, $6.29 for 8 ounces at Target
Best Cultured Butter: Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter
Cultured butter gets kudos for having the most naturally intense butter flavor (no added flavors). The live bacterial cultures that are added to the cream help ferment it — almost like cheese — so the milk solids taste more complex. Vermont Creamery’s version is hazelnut-y, but bright like buttermilk. Both salted and unsalted versions are fantastic, but if you can’t find this brand, Trader Joe’s also makes a good version. It really made our baguettes feel anointed.
Buy: Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter with Sea Salt, $2.98 for 8 ounces at Walmart
Best Irish Butter: Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter
Kerrygold takes the gold! Unwrapping that shiny foil got us feeling like it was our birthday, and, good gosh, did we get a gift! The ultra-sumptuous texture somehow didn’t feel too dense, and the salted version wasn’t too sodium-heavy. (Basically, it’s our ideal spread.) We also loved Truly Grass Fed for that pronounced grass-fed flavor.
Buy: Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter, $3.48 for 8 ounces at Walmart
Best Spreadable Butter: Kerrygold Naturally Softer Pure Irish Butter
This was actually the biggest category in this test, with way more options than I was expecting. Because the tubs in this category were mostly oil-based and not dairy-based, I was expecting movie theater popcorn notes from the added butter flavoring. That wasn’t always the case, though. The winner, Kerrygold’s spreadable version, has a natural butter flavor. It’s smooth and glossy, and the flavor is just as impressive as the brick version — just extra luxurious!
We also loved I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter for its unabashedly buttery flavor and its smooth texture. If you’re looking to go totally vegan, we fell for Forager, which is made from sunflower oil and glistened nicely (kind of like mayo once it softened). Country Crock Plant Butter with Avocado Oil was another great vegan option.
Buy: Kerrygold Naturally Softer Pure Irish Butter, $3.58 for 8 ounces at Walmart
This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: I Tried More than 50 Different Sticks and Tubs of Butter — These Are the Ones I’ll Be Buying Again