ashley englishsmall measures

small measures with ashley: spring compound butters

by Ashley

It’s official. Spring has come to the mountains of western North Carolina. A jaunt around our property this past Monday provided all the proof I need that the season of buds and birth and renewal is here to stay. One of my favorite things about this time of year is the return of herbs. From hearty perennials like parsley, chives, rosemary, sage, mint, lavender, lemon balm, thyme and marjoram to tender annuals including basil, cilantro, tarragon and many more, the herbs are completely and totally back in town.

One of my preferred means of maximizing the flavor potential of these sensory beauties is to use them in compound butters. Simply butter with at least one added ingredient (although it’s customary to include several flavoring agents), compound butters take dishes from delicious to transcendent in mere minutes. For today’s Small Measures with Ashley, I’ve included five of my favorite compound butters that pay homage to this season, offering both sweet and savory selections. All you need to whip these up is some butter, fresh herbs and (for some of the recipes) fresh citrus. — Ashley

CLICK HERE for the full post after the jump!

Lavender & Honey Butter
I’d pair this butter with a warm scone or blueberry muffin, or use it in a recipe for shortbread.


  • 1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. lavender buds, minced*
  • 1 tbsp. honey

*Dried or fresh buds work equally well.

Tarragon Butter
Tarragon’s flavor is so distinct that in this application, I like allowing it to shine. Pair this butter with fresh green peas, toss it with lightly steamed cauliflower or dollop it onto roasted fish or chicken.


  • 1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp. fresh tarragon, minced

Rosemary Walnut Butter
Try this butter over roasted new or sweet potatoes or atop grilled fish or chicken.


  • 1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 c. walnuts, chopped

Thyme, Marjoram & Orange Butter
A powerhouse of Mediterranean flavors, use this butter spread over a crusty baguette, toss it with a fennel bulb and roast together or spread it over grilled or roasted lamb.


  • 1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme*
  • 1 tbsp. fresh marjoram*
  • 1 tbsp. fresh sage, minced
  • 1 tbsp. orange zest

*Remove leaves from stems on thyme and marjoram. Compost stems.

Lemon Balm & Parsley Butter
If you come across lemon balm, snag it. A perennial herb, this plant of lemony goodness will reward you year after year. Pair this butter with roasted carrots, try a pat atop grilled chicken or salmon or toss some into a bowl of steaming, fresh green peas.


  • 1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon balm, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced


Making these mixtures couldn’t be easier. Here’s how to trick out your butter in no time:

1. Place the butter in a medium-sized bowl.

2. Add additional ingredients.

3. Mash everything together with a fork.

4. Using a spatula, transfer mixture to a piece of parchment or waxed paper (alternatively, you can put the butter into shaped molds). Shape into a log.

5. Twist the ends of the paper up (like a piece of candy).

6. Transfer the roll to a plastic bag or freezer-proof container.

7. Place in the freezer until firm.

8. Slice off amounts as needed, or place in refrigerator and allow to thaw before use.

9. Compound butters will keep for up to two months once frozen.

What about you? Got any herbal go-to, spring-themed compound butters of your own? I’d love to hear about them. Otherwise, I’m off to raid my yard for a whole mess of herbaceous green goodness! Oh, and as for the butter itself — stay tuned. Next week’s Small Measures with Ashley will have us whipping up some homemade butter!

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  • bookmarking!!

    When you say lavender buds, is that the flower buds later in summer? I only have stalks of leaves right now…

  • Thanks for the inspiration, Ashley! Rosemary and walnuts aren’t a combination that I would have considered. Just a quick question: will the butters with herbs like tarragon still be pretty after having sat in the freezer? I know that some herbs get a bit brown after having been in.

  • amy-indeed, i’m talking about the purple buds. i actually used dried buds from my plants from last season. i figured i’d include it here as a “spring” herb, though, as spring last 3 months and the plants will be flowering sometime around late may/early june (at least around here, that is…).

    katie-the herbs in my compound butters have never browned, once frozen. they’ve just been held in a sort of “suspended animation” in the freezer and stayed nice and green!i think the fat in the butter must help keep them from turning.

  • I made the best compound butter last year using chive flowers. Heavenly and pretty too, with the purple flecks in it.

  • I love compound butters! One of my favorites is gorgonzola and parsley to put atop steak or chicken – delicious. Thanks for sharing these delicious recipes.

  • I adore tarragon and had never thought about mixing it in with a butter before! I think that would be delicious with a large loaf of homemade bread or used on a chicken panini!

  • I have a fondness for historical cookery…

    Try rosewater and sugar in your butter. The hard way is to wash your butter with rosewater. The easy way is to take your blender, throw in unsalted butter, a glug of rosewater and tablespoon or 3 of sugar, and blend to make a whipped butter. Then freeze in rose molds for a lovely presentation. It makes a fabulous brunch piece. (the original recipe is from Jewel-house of Arte & Nature 1594)

    If you can get your hands on dianthus (clove gilly-flower, edible carnation type flower), it also makes a nummy butter. I like it combined with honey, or sugar, or the barest hint of vanilla.

  • Oh lord….you had me at ‘butter’! Hehe….

    These recipes are RIGHT up my alley. My mum makes fresh herbal butters every spring, and there is nothing like a little pat of basil-coriander butter floating in a fresh garden pea soup, spreading its little net of freshness as it melts. :)

    I work at a Heritage museum on a farm site, and we make butter in a churn for school programs quite regularly. I’m afraid I am quite the butter-snob now; it’s unsalted or nothing! So I will be quite curious to see how you make yours. Dazy-churns are quite expensive, and I am looking to make my own butter at home.

    Thanks for the mouth-watering article.


  • This article is perfectly timed Ashley, thanks! I had just made a batch of homemade butter when my daughter sent me this link.
    What a wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing your recipes and thanks to all your commenters for their additional combinations of flavors.
    I just made the Honey Lavender butter and it is to die for…

  • Great post. I’m seeing asparagus poached in water & seasalt served with dollops of Taragon Lemon Pepper butter.

    For us, compound butters become increasingly important this time of year, as fresh local produce comes back to our table. Following the “First do no harm” mantra we switch to the simplest preparations—using herbed butters with otherwise unadorned veggies.

    Your Homemade Living: Home Dairy book taught me the secret of Goat Butter. The most amazing butter you’ll ever eat—goat cheese meets butter.

    Also, chicken schmaltz collected from stock, mixed with herbs, makes amazingly complex compounds. Try it on blanched fennel or poached celeriac!

    Yea, SPRING! We EAT again!

  • I have a French friend that makes a compound butter with blue cheese and the herbs of your choice for steak. SO good!

  • I can’t wait to get this started!
    The butter is out and softening as we speak:) I have some herbs coming up now, but some I will make using left over fresh herbs that I have purchased from the grocery store! I hate to loose any of those herbs that we can’t get in the winter, and don’t seem to need all of!!
    Thanks for the reminder about herb butters! I haven’t made them for years! These recipes sound wonderful! I will make them all!

  • You should try making the butter from scratch too…it’s super easy and tastes so much better than the stuff in the store. It’s just 2 C heavy cream, 1/4 tsp salt – put it in the food processor for about 10 mins and drain off the liquid. It doesn’t get much easier!!

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