What is Sweet Cream Butter?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Stick of Butter
Stick of Butter.

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Sweet cream butter is the type of butter usually found at restaurants, in the refrigerator and on the shelves at grocery stores. It's the main butter American consumers eat and gets made from pasteurized fresh cream rather than cultured or soured cream the way European butter is created. Find this ingredient in just about any food from baked goodies to savory casseroles to breakfast breads.

Fast Facts


  • Melting Point: 90- to 95-degrees Fahrenheit
  • Main Components: Fresh cream with or without salt
  • Substitutes: European butter, olive oil, shortening

What is Sweet Cream Butter?

In essence sweet cream butter is what most people think of when they think about butter. It's the sticks found in the side door of many refrigerators, the pats of butter given at diners and one of the main ingredients in shortbread. Sweet cream butter is made from pasteurized fresh cream and, often, salt. Despite the name, this food doesn't have a saccharine flavor. The moniker differentiates this type of butter from European butter, which uses soured cream instead and tends to have a higher fat content.

To make sweet cream butter, cream gets sterilized with heat until the fats break away from the liquid, otherwise known as butterfat and buttermilk. Once the two have separated, the thick fat on top gets churned or agitated in a different container until it forms a solid mass. Butter makers wash the solids, and press until all liquid has been extracted, creating the end product consumers know as butter.

How to Use Sweet Cream Butter

When a recipe calls for butter don't hesitate to reach for a stick of sweet cream butter. It's probably the only butter gracing most American refrigerator shelves, anyway. This butter gets cubed cold and beaten with sugar to make cookies; cooked down in a pan to create brown butter; smeared on hot toast with jam; and melted over noodles to create a simple and savory sauce. Use sweet cream butter in any recipe that calls for butter, paying attention to whether the stick has salt or not. It won't add unwanted sweetness, but will make a dish richer in flavor and texture. 

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What Does Sweet Cream Butter Taste Like?

The flavor of plain sweet cream butter has notes of warm grass and hay-laced milk, though the overall profile remains mild. When melted down the flavor can intensify, and if browned in a saucepan, the sweet cream butter becomes deeper in color with caramel and honey notes on the tongue. The fat of the butter can enhance other aspects too, drawing out sugars, salt and heat. In this way sweet cream butter takes on the nuances of the foods it is paired with, rounding out meals and adding an umami finish.

Recipes

Sweet cream butter goes well on all sorts of foods as it is, without adding too much richness. To enhance a dish or make baked goods butter is a must. Use this ingredient in cooking, baking and to garnish a sandwich, or try it out in one of these recipes.

Sweet Cream Butter Selection

Most of the butter found in American markets is sweet cream butter. Check out the packaging to confirm, and make sure to pick out salted or unsalted based on preferences. Every grocery store carries this type of butter, which comes in stick form, in tubs, whipped, formed into blocks and sold in single pats.

Sweet Cream Butter Storage

Keeping butter in the refrigerator will prolong the life of the food. Sweet cream butter can also be held at room temperature in an airtight container, as long as it's being used regularly. In the summer months butter tends to melt, so it's best to keep the food cool during this time. Butter can be wrapped or unwrapped, though if frozen it's best to keep in a sealed container to prevent freezer burn or dehydration.

Nutrition and Benefits

The main component in most commercial sweet cream butters is fat-- about 80-percent. Despite being made out of cream, there's no calcium to speak of, though each tablespoon of the stuff contains about eight-percent of the daily recommended dose of vitamin A. Salted sweet cream butter also contains sodium.

Myths

Even though the name implies this ingredient should only be used for dessert, sweet cream butter isn't sweet, nor is it creamier than other butters. In fact, it has less fat than European and Irish butter, and there isn't any more cream in this product than the aforementioned ones.

Butter may not be a health food, but it's better to lace foods with this ingredient than with processed vegetable oil. On the other hand, olive oil proves comparable to butter and contains the same amount of fats and calories, but less saturated fat.