Smen (Moroccan Preserved Butter) Recipe

Smen (Moroccan Preserved Butter)

The Spruce/Maxwell Cozzi

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 45 mins
Fermentation: 730 hrs
Total: 730 hrs 55 mins
Servings: 32 servings
Yield: 1 pound
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
102 Calories
11g Fat
0g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 32
Amount per serving
Calories 102
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 15%
Saturated Fat 7g 36%
Cholesterol 30mg 10%
Sodium 120mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 0g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 3mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 3mg 0%
*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.)

Smen is a Moroccan preserved butter that is known as having more of a cheesy taste than a butter flavor. It is made from clarified butter and salt and is left to ferment, where it develops a strong taste and smell. It can also be made with herbs. 

Smen is often added to tagine recipes as well as many other traditional Moroccan dishes, but it is also enjoyed simply spread on bread. A small amount of smen included in a dish will lend a distinct flavor that can't be replicated by a substitute ingredient. 

Before beginning the recipe, make sure you have some cheesecloth and a clean glass or ceramic jar on hand. And don't plan to use it immediately—although very easy to make, the smen will need to sit a month or longer for the characteristic flavor to develop; the longer it sits, the stronger the flavor will be.

"This smen certainly has a distinctly cheesy taste and aroma. I let the smen sit for 6 weeks before tasting it. I've used it to enhance one or two dishes so far and I really like the results." —Diana Andrews

How to Make Smen (Moroccan Preserved Butter)/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 cups (1 pound) unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients to make Smen

    The Spruce/Maxwell Cozzi

  2. Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Increase the heat to medium-low and bring the melted butter to a simmer. Simmer gently until the milk solids on the bottom of the pot have turned a light amber, about 45 minutes.

    melted butter in a sauce pan

    The Spruce/Maxwell Cozzi

  3. Place a piece of cheesecloth over a bowl and carefully pour the clarified butter through the cheesecloth, leaving the solids behind in the pan. Repeat this straining several times if necessary to remove all traces of milk solids. You want only perfectly clear clarified butter for smen.

    melted butter in a glass bowl

    The Spruce/Maxwell Cozzi

  4. Stir the salt into the strained clarified butter, then pour it into a jar. Cover and store in a cool, dark place (a cupboard is fine) for a month or longer.

    Smen in a glass jar

    The Spruce/Maxwell Cozzi

  5. After opening, store the smen in the refrigerator.

    Smen in a glass jar

    The Spruce/Maxwell Cozzi

Fermenting Smen

The longer smen sits, the stronger the flavor will be. In Morocco, many people bury their ceramic jars of smen for fermentation. Jars that have been buried a long time are a sign of a family's wealth; the stinkier the smen, the more prized it is.

What's the difference between smen and ghee?

While smen and ghee are both made from butter, the two are different from each other. Ghee is clarified butter that has been cooked a little to bring out a nutty flavor; it is used in place of butter and oil in cooking as well as baked goods. On the other hand, smen uses clarified butter along with salt to make a fermented thick spread with a distinctive taste, akin to blue cheese. It can be used as the fat in recipes, is added to dishes for flavor, and is used as a spread.