Butter Extract – A Comprehensive Guide

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Last updated on May 7, 2022


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Every good chef has a secret ingredient. That's just a fact. Not to expose anyone here, but butter extract is one of the most common ones out there.

Butter extract works great in baked goods, dishes that need enriching, or when mixed with cooking oil. It's versatile, delicious, and fat-free.

In this article, we will go over exactly what butter extract is and how it can up your cooking game from now on. Let's get into it!

What is Butter Extract?


Butter extract is essentially a highly-concentrated butter solution. Just like vanilla extract, it's made by extracting the essence of butter (weird, right?) through high-proof alcohol. To be labeled an extract by the FDA, it must contain at least 35% alcohol.

Here's another way to think about it: butter extract is a substance that is the flavor of butter, but without the fat. Sounds pretty dang good, right?

What is Butter Extract Used For?


Butter extract is all about that flavor.

It's most often used to enhance the flavor of butter in baked goods. So, if you're making cookies that call for browned butter, adding a few drops of butter extract will kick that delicious flavor into high gear.

This liquid gold can also change the texture of whatever you're making into creamy heaven. No more dry cake!

For example, butter extract could take these sourdough cookies and make them even more delicious.

Since butter extract is flavor without the fat, it's also a common substitute for melted butter--think frosting or icing.

And if that weren't enough, it can also be used in place of oil or margarine when sautéing. You could even add a few teaspoons (or tablespoons!) to a dish to get that delicious, rich, buttery flavor. Or you could add a few drops to your cooking oil and let it heat up before throwing in the rest of the ingredients. The possibilities are endless!

What is Butter Extract Made From?


Butter extract, in its simplest form, is just butter and alcohol. The infusion process removes the lactose, fat, and other ingredients in butter. All that remains is the flavor!

Some brands may add extra flavors to spice up their product, such as vanilla, almond, or pecan. Usually, though, it's only butter and alcohol.

Where to Find Butter Extract


You can find butter extract at practically every grocery store. This ingredient is incredibly common despite being somewhat unknown.

It's usually located in the baking aisle, occasionally in the section with the other flavorings (think vanilla extract, almond extract, lemon rind, etc).

Of course, if your preferred grocery store is lacking, there are always online retailers that'll ship a bottle straight to your door.

Best Butter Extract Brands

Oh, the classic, the incomparable Watkins Butter Extract. This bad boy has been used by bakers and chefs alike for decades. It's gluten-free, non-GMO, kosher, and made in the USA. What's not to love?

The Silver Cloud Butter Pecan Extract is a fan favorite for baked goods. It is nut-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, and kosher, so it's friendly for just about everyone!

For those staying away from alcohol-based extracts, you can try LorAnn's Butter Emulsion. This buttery goodness is made from water instead of alcohol, so the flavor is less likely to burn off when exposed to high heat. This alternative is gluten-free and vegan.

Butter Extract vs Butter Flavoring vs Imitation Butter Flavor


The differences between butter extract and butter flavoring are very similar to the differences between vanilla extract and vanilla flavoring.

Butter extract is made with alcohol, per FDA regulations. Whereas, butter flavoring is usually made with water and an isolated compound, like diacetyl.

Imitation butter flavor, on the other hand, is made with water or ethanol and isolated compounds, like other butter flavorings. It can be lactose-free, but it's often not dairy-free.

Also, butter flavoring is often more subtle than pure butter extract.

How to Make Butter Extract


Making your own butter extract is not as hard as it may seem. Follow these simple steps, and you should have a little jar of your own, homemade butter extract!

  • Combine 1/3 cup of butter and one cup of vodka in a saucepan.
  • Melt them together over low heat to ensure the alcohol won't evaporate.
  • Once it's fully combined, let it sit at room temperature for 5 hours.
  • Afterward, freeze the mixture overnight so the fat can infuse the spirit and freeze separately.
  • Then strain it! Remove the hardened fat and strain the extract to remove any extra particles. Use a cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Strain it once or twice.

There you go! Keep your jar of butter extract in the fridge and it should last you a good long while.

Butter Extract Substitutes


There are plenty of butter extract substitutes out there, so never fear if you can't find any at the store! Here are a few that'll serve you well in many different recipes.

All of the following substitutes work excellently in cakes, cookies, ice creams, you name it! For baking purposes, you'll want to recreate the flavor and texture of the butter extract. So, adding vanilla extract for some sweetness or Greek yogurt for creaminess will go a long way.

For baked goods:

  • Vanilla extract
  • Coconut oil
  • Apple sauce
  • Greek yogurt
  • Butter
  • Almond butter

The following oils work well as a butter extract replacement in more savory dishes. Such as sautéing vegetables, adding rich flavors to a dish, or simply kicking your favorite meals up a notch.

For sautéing or general cooking:

  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Soybean oil

Frequently Asked Questions


Is butter extract gluten-free?

Yes! It should be, but be sure to check the ingredients label if you have celiac disease or a severe gluten intolerance.

Is butter extract vegan?

No. Butter extract is made using water from butter, a dairy byproduct.

Here's a vegan butter flavor option for dairy-free folks.

Is butter extract lactose-free?

Yes! Although it's made from butter, the extraction does not contain any lactose.



Clearly, butter extract is an incredibly versatile and handy ingredient to have in your pantry.

You can purchase some from your local grocery store or online retailers if you want to give it a shot. Be sure to check the ingredient label if you're dairy-free or gluten-free.

Whether you're cooking or baking, a few drops can elevate a dish to ambrosia levels of goodness.

Happy cooking!


About the author, Dolly

Dolly is a student at Goldsmiths, University of London and an avid cook. After managing a miniature organic farm for a year, she fell in love with the art of cooking and the taste of homegrown greens. Dolly first became plant-based eight years ago, and she is now a full-blown vegan; her plant-based journey has made her creative and experimental in the kitchen. If she’s not writing or cooking, Dolly can be found on her front porch, strumming her guitar and singing for anyone who will listen.