Butter boards, a spinoff of better-known cheese boards, are all the rage right now. A butter board can transform any occasion into a memorable one, and it can be as simple or as elaborate as you desire. Learn about this culinary trend and impress your guests with an impressive butter board that looks almost too good to eat.
Butter boards — A delicious history
Butter boards have a surprisingly rich and interesting history. Before refrigeration, butter was prominent in many cultures’ cuisine, not just as an ingredient but as a standalone dish to savor. In these early days, presenting butter became something of an art form. Enter the first version of the butter board.
The earliest butter boards were simple; flat pieces of wood or stone, similar to what we know today. As early as the 17th century, beautifully crafted wooden butter boards were found in many European homes. They were not just functional kitchen tools but pieces of art, often engraved with intricate designs and family crests.
As the centuries passed, the butter board evolved along with society’s tastes and technologies. During the Victorian era, for instance, it wasn’t uncommon to see elaborate butter boards made of silver or gold adorning high societies’ best dining tables. These luxurious items were often intricately designed and became a status symbol.
In the 20th century, with the rise of modern manufacturing and materials, butter boards were made from glass, ceramics, and various types of engineered wood. These offered more durability and were easier to clean than their earlier counterparts, making them popular among busy households.
Modern butter boards — Adding flavor, texture and fun
Today’s butter boards are much more than just a flat serving dish for showcasing butter and they’re at home right beside charcuterie boards and snack boards. In fact, butter boards are glammed up with all sorts of tasty treats, turning them into edible works of art.
Modern butter boards are still presented on a board made of wood, glass, ceramic, or any material, as long as it is flat, but they’re topped with myriad ingredients transforming humble butter into a show-stopping appetizer before delicious meals of seafood, roasted meats and more.
Imagine a flat platter topped with softened butter and then loaded with tasty ingredients meant to accentuate and elevate the flavor of the butter. Different colors, textures, and flavors combine to transform butter from a condiment into an experience. Served with fresh baguette slices or crackers, and sometimes even other dippers, these boards are culinary works of art. And with both sweet and savory butter boards to try, the flavors are endless.
“I love butter boards; you get to sample different flavor combinations that you haven’t tried before. Whenever I have friends around for dinner, I’ll always have a selection of different butter and toppings for them to try and I love seeing their reactions to the diverse flavors.”— Mandy Applegate, Splash of Taste
Savory butter boards
Savory butter boards showcase butter’s versatility in ways you may have never imagined. This kind of butter board is a canvas for flavor and texture, and the star is, of course, butter. Start with the very best salted butter. European butter, grass-fed butter and pure Irish butter are far superior in flavor to supermarket-brand butter. Then, have fun with the toppings. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Italian butter board: Top your butter with finely chopped sundried tomatoes, small drained capers, shredded Parmesan, a pinch of Italian seasoning and toasted pine nuts.
- Greek butter board: A drizzle of honey, lemon zest and crushed pistachios with a pinch of finishing salt turns this butter board into a masterpiece.
- Fall butter board: Celebrate the holidays with a butter board topped with toasted pecans, chopped dried cranberries, a pinch of chopped fresh thyme and a drizzle of balsamic syrup.
- Christmas butter board: Top it with pomegranate arils, orange zest, fresh thyme and dollops of cranberry sauce or jam.
- Everything bagel: A sprinkle of this seasoning plus finely shaved red onion and drained capers is a delicious combination.
Sweet butter boards
Butter boards don’t have to be savory, they can also be sweet. In fact, butter lends itself to sweet notes as easily as savory, and with myriad topping options, you can create a mouthwatering butter board without much trouble. Some sweet board ideas include:
- Summer berries: Top the butter with chopped strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and more, chopped mint and a drizzle of balsamic syrup.
- Figs & honey: Chop some fresh figs, and add a drizzle of honey, and a bit of fresh mint to make this stellar board.
- Hazelnut chocolate: Toasted hazelnuts, a drizzle of Nutella, and dark chocolate curls or savings will transform your board into a work of culinary art.
- Cinnamon & honey: A few sprinkles of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey are all it takes to transform this butter board into a delicious appetizer.
What to serve with your board
Wondering what to serve with a butter board? Bread and butter go hand in hand for a reason, but if you want o jazz your board up a bit, consider some of these for the base of your butter.
- Sliced fresh baguette
- Grilled bread
- Sliced sourdough bread
- Fresh pita wedges
- Any kind of cracker
- Sliced quickbreads like zucchini bread
- Vegetables — celery, carrots, peppers, etc.
- Fruits — Use harder fruits like apples and pears.
How to build an epic butter board
Wondering how to build the most amazing butter boards? It’s easy. Just follow these steps, and before long, you’ll be munching on something amazing.
- Pick your board. It should be large enough to hold the butter without having a lot of excess space.
- Soften the butter. This is best done by leaving the butter out on the counter for a few hours.
- Spread the butter onto the board. You don’t want it too thin; you shouldn’t be able to see the board through the butter.
- Top your butter with chosen ingredients.
- Arrange your bread, crackers, or other nibbles nearby, and have at least one butter knife handy for spreading.
- Serve and enjoy.
They’re not just for entertaining
Sure, these boards are perfect whenever you have guests, but they can also be a part of your everyday meals. In fact, Tamara uses them to get her kids to eat more vegetables.
“My toddler girl is obsessed with butter. She can eat it all day, every day, with or without other foods. To make things exciting and ensure she eats other nutritious foods besides butter, I started creating butter boards. We use butter as a canvas for food art. Butter boards became our new favorite thing. My 7-year-old son joined us in the fun too. This helps me sneak in so many vegetables they wouldn’t normally eat.”— Tamara, Thriving In Parenting
Good to the last bit
If you’re a butter fan or you want to pull out all the stops and really impress, these butter boards are just what you need. Sweet or savory, simple or fancy, butter boards celebrate humble butter like never before.
Jenn Allen is a retired chef turned cookbook author, blogger, and traveler. She lives at home with her family and the cats that rule them all. Sign up for all her best recipes at Cook What You Love.