Moroccan Preserved Butter With Thyme or Oregano

Moroccan Preserved Butter on a Spoon

PicturePartners / Getty Images

Prep: 2 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 12 mins
Servings: 32 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
105 Calories
12g Fat
1g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 32
Amount per serving
Calories 105
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 15%
Saturated Fat 7g 36%
Cholesterol 30mg 10%
Sodium 438mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 1g 0%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Protein 0g
Calcium 26mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This is a preserved Moroccan butter with a pungent, cheesy aroma similar to Parmesan. A small spoonful is usually sufficient for lending a unique flavor to classic Moroccan dishes such as in a tagine or mixed with couscous. Some Moroccans also enjoy it as a spread on bread in place of butter or soft cheese.

Smen is fairly easy to make, but you will need to plan ahead—you will want to allow a full month or longer for the butter to sit undisturbed to develop its characteristic flavor. Keep in mind that the more time it sits, the more pungent it will become. In warm climates it will take longer for the smen to mature; whereas the smen is ready to use in colder temperatures in a month's time, it can take up to four months in warmer areas for the smen to reach the same depth of flavor.

This recipe calls for (wild thyme) or oregano which is boiled in water to infuse the water with the herb's flavor. You will need to have a clean glass or ceramic jar on hand for storing the smen.


  • 1/2 cup dried za'atar (or dried oregano or thyme)
  • 2 cups/1/2 liter water
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 pound/500 grams unsalted butter (room temperature)

Steps to Make It

  1. In a small saucepan, add the dried herbs to the water and bring to a boil—Cook for 5 minutes. Over a bowl pour the water through a strainer to remove the herbs and leave the water to cool to room temperature. Discard the herbs.

  2. In a large bowl, knead the salt into the butter with your hands. Add the strained, cooled water and continue kneading the mixture to ensure all of the butter is making contact with the water.

  3. Strain the water from the butter, squeezing the butter to remove any excess. Place the butter in a clean glass or ceramic jar, pressing and packing it down to ensure there are no air pockets. Cover the jar.

  4. Leave the jar undisturbed in a cool, dark place (a cupboard is fine) for 30 days, or longer if you prefer more pungency. After opening, store the smen in the refrigerator.

An alternate method of making smen with herbs is to follow the clarified butter method described in the Plain Salted Smen Recipe, except that a few tablespoons of thyme or oregano are tied into a cheesecloth and simmered in the butter as it clarifies. The herbs are discarded, and the butter is strained and salted as usual.