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
- 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.
Hello. Can I mix butter extract with Canola oil to make my own sauce base for emulsion sauces?
If the extract does mix with oil what parts oil/extract do you recommend to make a bearnaise sauce, just using this, egg yolks and vinegar?
Hi there! This is quite the question that has quite the answer, so buckle up.
So, can you mix butter extract with canola oil? Yes, of course. Can you use it as a base for emulsion sauces? This is where it gets a little tricky.
Technically, I’m sure you can. As we all know, vinegar and oil (just like all fat and water bases) do not want to mix. So, using the egg yolks as the emulsifier should work to bring the two together, just like they do in a traditional béarnaise.
What I’m most concerned about is the fat content.
So, one tablespoon of canola oil contains, on average, 14 grams of fat. Butter contains around 12g of fat per tablespoon, whereas clarified butter contains around 14g. The canola oil with butter extract could work as a substitute for clarified butter due to the higher fat content, however that doesn’t take into mind the saturated fat content. The devil’s in the details, right?
While one tablespoon of clarified butter contains 10g of saturated fats alone, one tablespoon of canola oil only has 1.1 grams of saturated fat. Since béarnaise is all about butterfat (and saturated fat, in general), I would be wary of using an oil with such a low saturated fat content as the base.
Butter extract also has an extremely low (or nonexistent) fat content, since all of it gets removed in the extraction process.
All this to say, I am 100% onboard for experimentation and seeing what fun you can have in the kitchen. However, I am unsure that using canola oil and butter extract will authentically replicate a true, buttery béarnaise. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth a try, though!
To mix canola oil and butter extract, I recommend starting with 1/2 cup of oil and 1 tbsp of butter extract. Taste as you go and see if that’s too buttery or not enough. As for how much to use in the recipe itself, I’d do some reading to see how much butter is often called for and then attempt to match the liquid amount with your canola oil/extract mixture.
Hopefully this helps a little in your béarnaise journey. Happy cooking!