What Is Irish Butter?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Irish butter

Getty Images / Natalie Board

The bright yellow hue of Irish butter is one way this ingredient stands out, but it also has a richer, more golden taste than what's normally found in those gold-foil-wrapped diner pats, or in the average grocery store stick of butter. Many chefs and bakers prefer this Irish butter to spruce up baking and cooking. Find out why Irish butter is so coveted as an ingredient and how and why it differs from other butter.

Fast Facts

  • Flavor: Grassy, golden and creamy
  • Origin: Ireland
  • Cost: More expensive than regular butter 
  • Substitutions: European butter, Cultured butter

What Is Irish Butter?

Irish butter comes from Ireland, but like all European butters, at 82 percent it has a higher fat content and less water than American butter, which is typically around 80 percent. Irish butter is available salted and unsalted. The Irish brand Kerrygold, which also produces cheeses, is widely available in the United States, for example, and is the leading exporter of Irish butter. The cows consume about 90 percent fresh grass; the rest is supplemented with dried grasses and grains.

The bright yellow color also makes this ingredient stand out, a direct result of the lush, beta carotene- filled grasses cows consume. Most Irish butter is made in the Southwest Ireland. Historically speaking, it gained popularity through the Cork Butter Market, which ran from 1770 to 1925. However, the increasing interest in eating traditional foods has propelled Irish butter from niche item to an even more coveted item because it is so creamy and flavorful.

How to Use Irish Butter

The best way to eat Irish butter is smeared onto a warm piece of bread or biscuit recipes. It is a simple but effective way to really taste the difference. Irish butter is delicious over fresh corn and other simply steamed vegetables. Bakers can use Irish butter in cakes and cookies, as it makes for an especially flaky pastry crust, is great in butter cookies, and takes Rice Krispies treats to a whole new level.

Use Irish butter any way you'd use butter in cooking, but expect a deeper flavor and a richness that you may not be accustomed to if you mostly use American butter; a little bit can go a long way. Try a pat mixed in with simple cooked rice or pasta, and add some herbs and salt and pepper.

Corn with butter

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Butter on toast with honey

Getty Images / Mehmet zhan Araboga

Irish butter

Getty Images / robynmac

Irish butter melting in a pan

Getty Images / Johner Images 

Irish Butter

Getty Images / FotografiaBasica 

What Does It Taste Like?

With sweetness and sunny, golden flavor, Irish butter has nuances of the bright green grass eaten by the cows who make the milk for the butter. There's a freshness and a depth of flavor to the butter, and it's richer than American butter, thanks to the higher fat content.

Recipes

Use Irish butter on toast, biscuits and with a French-style ham sandwich. Or, try one of these recipes out and see how Irish butter can change the flavor for good.

Where to Buy Irish Butter

The most popular Irish butter on the market is Kerrygold, which came into production in 1962 in the town of Cork. This brand has remained at the forefront of the Irish butter revolution oversees, and is found in most supermarkets either in 8-ounce blocks, sticks and tubs of spreadable butter. While traditional Irish butter is salted and unpasteurized, this company caters to the American market by offering the goods unsalted and made with pasteurized cream. There aren't many other Irish butters offered in the mass market, the closest thing being a fresh, high-butterfat butter found at a farm, dairy or farmers' market.

Storage

Though the package will recommend keeping in the fridge, as long as it's in an air- and moisture-proof container, go ahead and leave Irish butter out at room temp. The fat content keeps this butter free from mold and bacteria, and this easily spread butter is even creamier at room temperature.

In the refrigerator, wrap Irish butter well so it doesn't absorb the flavors of other things in the fridge. Irish butter can also be frozen to prolong freshness.

Nutrition and Benefits

Irish butter contains more butterfat than its American counterpart, and although people have been concerned that fat was to blame for heart disease and chronic diseases of inflammation, in recent years, some research has negated those claims as the role of fat in our diets is more understood. In short, fat isn't as vilified as it once was, but a tablespoon of Irish butter will contain 12 grams of fat, most of it saturated.