Butter is made from essentially just one ingredient – cream – so you'd be forgiven for thinking that all butter must taste the same. But its flavour and texture can differ depending on whether it's salted, salt reduced or unsalted, how well it's blended, whether it's cultured or not, where it's from and what the cows feed on, among other things.
So which butter tastes best? We blind taste test and review 33 supermarket butters, from brands including Devondale, Lurpak, Mainland, Pepe Saya and Western Star, to see which is the cream of the crop.
Four butters received an overall score of 80% or more, and got top marks in our expert panel blind taste test of 33 butters.
- Lurpak Slightly Salted Butter 87%
- Western Star Original Salted Butter 84%
- Lurpak Unsalted Butter 83%
- Beautifully Butterfully Butter Unsalted (Aldi) 83%
Popular Danish brand Lurpak took out top spot for taste in the salted butter category and equal top in the unsalted, backing up its longstanding good reputation and claim to be "the most delicious premium butter".
Western Star Original Salted Butter describes itself as "a classic, pure creamery butter with a rich satisfying, five-star taste", and it certainly wowed our judges, taking out second spot in the salted category and overall.
And proving that you don't always have to pay premium price for premium taste, Aldi's Beautifully Butterfully Butter Unsalted came equal first for taste in the unsalted category and equal third overall. At just $2.79 for a 250g pack ($1.12 per 100g), it's about half the price of Lurpak, and a mere quarter of the price of the most expensive butter in our test, Pepe Saya ($4.00 per 100g).
Lurpak Slightly Salted Butter
- CHOICE score: 87%
- Price per 100g: $2.00
- Country of origin: Denmark
- Experts say: "Pale yellow block with even colour throughout. Mild, fresh dairy aroma. Good body and smooth, compact texture. A pleasant butter with balanced flavour of culture and dairy."
Western Star Original Salted Butter
- CHOICE score: 84%
- Price per 100g: $1.48
- Country of origin: Australia
- Experts say: "Nice appearance, good body and texture. Well-balanced flavour and aroma. Good milky favour with a clean finish. Fresh dairy. Salt present but not overdone."
Lurpak Unsalted Butter
- CHOICE score: 83%
- Price per 100g: $2.00
- Country of origin: Denmark
- Experts say: "Light-coloured block butter, even from outside to in. Good, compact texture. Clean, slightly acidic aroma and flavour."
Beautifully Butterfully Butter Unsalted (Aldi)
- Overall score: 83%
- Price per 100g: $1.12
- Country of origin: Australia
- Experts say: "Nice yellow butter. Good, compact, silky texture. Mild dairy aroma, milky sweet, with a clean finish."
- Light and air can each cause oxidation of butter, which affects its taste. Oxidised butter is darker yellow on the outside where it has been exposed. Avoid buying inadequately wrapped products, and be mindful that butters packaged in semi-transparent white wrapping are more susceptible to surface oxidation than those wrapped in opaque foil due to risk of exposure to light during storage or transportation.
- Cultured butter has had live bacterial cultures added to the cream, which causes the butter to taste slightly tangier and have a more distinctive aroma. This is due to the fermentation process by the bacterial culture which converts milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. Culture was traditionally added to help extend the shelf life of butter, but today it's more often done to create a unique flavour profile.
- For a cheaper homemade butter, buy cream when it's on special. We bought 600mL Dairy Farmers pure cream on special for $2.85, which makes approximately 280g butter using our recipe. Coles and Woolworths brand butter costs $2.80 for 250g.
- If serving at room temperature, only cut off the amount you know you'll use and leave the rest in the fridge.
- Unsure whether to use salted or unsalted butter? CHOICE home economist Fiona Mair says it's not so important if you use salted or unsalted for your savoury meals as you can always adjust the salt throughout the cooking. Unsalted butter is ideal for sweet baking and savoury pastry as you won't run the risk of the salt overpowering other flavours. It can be used in all other cooking – just add your own salt if needed.
- Make sure your butter is tightly wrapped or stored in an airtight container. This will prevent exposure to oxygen and also prevent fridge odours from absorbing into the butter.
- Homemade butter will last in the fridge for up to two weeks, depending on the extraction of buttermilk and if salt was added.
- Butter can be frozen for up to 12 months if salted, six months if unsalted.
How much is a stick of butter?
If you've got your kitchen scales at the ready but you're following a recipe that calls for a volume, non-metric weight or unfamiliar quantity of butter – a 'stick' of butter in a US recipe, for example – the following conversions may come in handy.
- 1 pound (lb) of butter = 454g
- 1 cup of butter = 250g
- 1 stick of butter = 113g
- 1 ounce (oz) of butter = 28g
- 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of butter = 20g
- 1 teaspoon (tsp) of butter = 5g
We found it's sometimes cheaper to buy butter than make your own.
Our butter recipe uses 600mL pure cream, which in May 2019 cost $3.85 and $3.90 in Coles and Woolworths respectively (Dairy Farmers brand, not on special). It makes approximately 280g butter, giving our homemade butter a unit price of about $1.40 per 100g. The supermarket brand butters cost $1.30 per 100g or less.
But if you usually buy organic, cultured or other more premium varieties or brands, then you could save money by making your own – assuming you have the time and the necessary kitchen equipment. And if you buy cream when it's on special, your homemade butter may even cost less than supermarket brands.
We included our salted homemade butter in the taste test and it received a solid taste score of 72% – not the highest, but not the lowest either.
Our homemade butter
- 600mL pure cream
- ¼ tsp salt, optional
- 2–3L chilled water
Makes approximately 280g butter.
Butter samples ready for tasting
We tested butters that are available nationally through at least one of the major supermarket chains, including salted, salt reduced and unsalted varieties. Price is based on price in stores for a 250g block or closest (not on special) in April 2019. A total of 33 supermarket products were tested, plus one homemade for comparison purposes.
Our experts judging butters
Our experts tasted the butter samples blind (without knowing the brands) in a randomised order, which was different for each expert.
Each sample is assessed and described
Experts independently judged all butters, scoring each sample for flavour and aroma, texture and presentation.
The overall score is made up of taste 90% (50% flavour and aroma, 30% texture, 20% presentation) and nutrition 10% (100% Health Star Rating, calculated from the details in the nutrition information panel and converted to a percentage).
We recommend products with an overall score of 80% or more.
(Left to right) Penny Lawson, Petra Sugiarto, Peter Commins.
Penny Lawson is a self-diagnosed 'curd nerd' with 20 years' experience in the food industry, including dairy judging at Royal Agricultural Society produce competitions in Sydney and Melbourne. She's been at the forefront of the specialty cheese sector as a retailer and commentator and is a passionate supporter and promoter of Australian producers. You can find her tasting, selling and grilling cheese at her shop, Penny's Cheese Shop, in Sydney's Potts Point.
Petra Sugiarto has an academic background in food technology and microbiology and has been working in the food industry for more than 20 years, in particular the dairy industry in various applications including yoghurt, cheese, ice cream/gelato and dairy desserts. For the past 14 years she's been on the judging panels for the Dairy Industry Association of Australia (DIAA) and Sydney Royal Cheese & Dairy Produce competitions and for the Australian Grand Dairy Awards.
Peter Commins recently retired from the NSW Food Authority after 44 years, during which time his main line of work was auditing Food Safety Programs – mainly with the dairy industry – for compliance to the Food Standards Code and Food Act. Peter has judged dairy produce for the DIAA and Sydney Royal competitions for more than three decades.