This stand mixer butter is my new favorite way to use up leftover heavy cream. How easy is it to make butter with a stand mixer? So easy I figured out how to do it the first time based on a vague memory of seeing someone do it once on a TV show and absolutely zero additional research.
Of course I've since done a bunch of research and tested different methods and techniques. But my point still stands!
If you have a stand mixer and some heavy cream, you can make stand mixer butter in about 10 minutes. It's incredible. It feels like doing magic.
I'm obsessed. So I'm dragging you into my butter obsession too.
Why Make Homemade Butter
Any time I see a recipe call for like, 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, I cringe a little. Heavy cream can be expensive! Trying to find other things to do with it before it goes bad can be... tricky.
Obviously you can use heavy cream it to make homemade ice cream, or whipped cream, but ice cream isn't exactly a quick-n-easy process. And whipped cream has an even shorter shelf life than heavy cream! So that's only a useful option if you've got something to put whipped cream on immediately. Like ice cream. So now you're back where you started. With leftover heavy cream.
Homemade butter, on the other hand, is fast to make, requires no additional ingredients, and is super versatile. It stays good in the fridge for a few weeks, and freezes well too. You can mix it with fresh herbs to make compound butter, or stir in just a pinch of salt to slather it on biscuits and toast.
One other perk of making homemade butter, by the way? The byproduct of homemade butter is buttermilk. Which is also expensive and can be hard to find in the store.
So if you ever need buttermilk (say, to make toasted hazelnut chocolate chip muffins) and don't want to buy it or can't find it... you can always buy heavy cream and make it yourself. And you'll get some fresh homemade butter for your trouble, too!
Honestly, if you thought making homemade goat cheese from scratch was fun, you're going to love making homemade butter.
What Happens When You Make Butter
According to Scientific American, when you make butter, "the cream is agitated (stirred up) so that the fat molecules get shaken out of position and clump together. Eventually, after enough agitation, the fat molecules clump so much that butter forms." The liquid that separates from those fat molecules? That's buttermilk.
The art of making butter is ancient — at least 4,000 years old! So you're joining a very long tradition in a very new fangled way by making butter in your fancy shmancy stand mixer. And trust me, your ancestors are extremely jealous.
Ingredients and Tools
You don't need much to make homemade butter. Here's what you'll want to make sure you have ready to use:
- Heavy cream - aka Heavy Whipping Cream. Full fat. Not light cream, not half and half, not whole milk. Real heavy cream. It doesn't have to be raw, I've used pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized and both work just fine.
- Ice water - This prevents the butter from melting while you rinse any remaining buttermilk particles off of it. Make sure you have enough ice before you get started.
- Fine sea salt - Optional! If you want to make salted butter, the fine grains of sea salt will flavor the butter without making it grainy.
- Stand mixer with whisk attachment - I used a 5 quart tilt-head KitchenAid mixer for this because my big 7 qt mixer bowl is a bit big for this small amount of heavy cream. You can use a hand mixer, but you need to be mixing on high speed for a long time so make sure your arm is ready for that kind of workout!
- Mixing bowl shield - Most KitchenAid mixers come with a plastic bowl shield (with a funnel). This is definitely the time to use one. The heavy cream splashes a lot at the beginning and a lot at the end of the butter making process once it separates. If you don't have a bowl shield, you can tent aluminum foil around the rim of your bowl or stretch plastic wrap across the top with a hole in the middle for the whisk to move around.
- A medium or large mixing bowl - For rinsing the butter.
- Ice water - This prevents the butter from melting while you rinse any remaining buttermilk particles off of it. A few large chunks of ice is better than lots of small pieces of ice, especially the first time you rinse the butter when its in lots of small pieces.
- Sturdy spatula or wooden spoon - The butter gets quite firm in the ice water and you need to be able to press it and smush it around to rinse it. A flimsy spatula is not going to cut it!
- A wire spider - You don't need one of these but I found it was much easier to pick smaller pieces of butter out of the ice bath with the help of the wire spider.
- Paper towels - To dry the butter off and absorb any excess water and buttermilk.
How to Make Butter Using a Stand Mixer
There are a lot of different ways to make homemade butter out there — and there are even several different stand mixer butter methods out there. As I was developing this recipe and trying different techniques and processes, I pulled together a method that works very well for me.
No matter what method you follow, the heavy cream will go through the same stages before it becomes butter.
Below I'll show you what those different stages look like. The first time I tried making butter I was super impatient and thought it wasn't working because it was taking forevvvver (it wasn't) and I stopped the mixer about 30 seconds before it would have fully separated.
I don't want that to happen to you. So I've got step by step photos so you'll know exactly what to look for!
The first step of making butter is to let the heavy cream sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before you get started. This helps encourages the cream to separate. If you can let it sit for more like 60 minutes, that's even better!
You don't want the heavy cream to be warm, but the closer it is to room temperature when you start whisking it, the faster it will separate and turn into butter.
First, the heavy cream will whip up into whipped cream. But if you let it keep going, it will start to break apart. It will be yellow-ish in color and look kind of grainy. The butter will cling to the walls of the bowl, and you might even hear or see small amounts of buttermilk in the bottom of the mixing bowl.
Keep going! It's not butter yet.
You'll actually be able to see the moment it becomes butter happen before your eyes. The butter will start coming off the sides of the bowl, you'll hear a lot more splashing, and the butter will begin collecting inside the whisk. This happens in a span of about 15-20 seconds.
And you'll definitely want to have that bowl shield in place when it does!
You won't hurt the butter by letting it go too long so if you're not sure if it's "done" — keep going at a medium high speed until the butter has collected inside the whisk.
There might be a few small pieces of butter floating in the bowl, but that's okay. Most of it should be inside the whisk. Pour the buttermilk into a separate container and save it for later. Then get your ice bath ready to rinse the butter.
Rinsing Homemade Butter
Rinsing the butter is crucial. It's tempting to skip it, but you really don't want any buttermilk particles trapped in your butter because they can cause it to go rancid! Yuck.
There are a lot of different methods for rinsing butter. I tried a bunch and combined my favorite bits from the different methods into a process that worked best for me. But I've included some other options for the ice bath, in case what I do doesn't necessarily work for you!
Note: It's better to use a few large ice cubes in your ice bath than to use lots and lots of small ice cubes. Do as I say, not as I do. In the photos above I have way too many ice cubes in my bowl. Usually I use one or two of these big round cocktail ice cubes, but I was making so much butter in testing and shooting this recipe that I bought a bag of ice for these photos without thinking about how ice size would change the process.
Why does the size of the ice matter? You want to rinse the butter very well to remove any remaining buttermilk particles. And trying to scoop up small pieces of butter without trapping any tiny shards of ice in the butter isn't easy!
The water doesn't need to be ICE COLD, either. You just want it to be cool enough that the butter isn't melting while you're rinsing it. The cold temperature helps keep the butter firm.
A few options for setting up your ice bath:
- Large ice cubes: Use one or two large ice cubes that can withstand the water being changed a few times without melting completely. Give them a few seconds to get the fresh water chilled again before putting the butter back in.
- Chill the water: Skip using ice cubes and instead chill a pitcher of ice water in the freezer (without letting it freeze). Use the chilled water in the rinsing bowl without pouring the ice out of the pitcher when you fill the bowl.
- Double bowl method: Fill one bowl halfway with ice water and then nest another bowl inside of it for the rinsing water so that the ice chills the water but isn't actually in the water with the butter. Give the fresh rinsing water a minute to get cold before putting the butter in. (This has been my preferred method recently, tbh!)
- Standard sized ice cubes: If you're using standard sized ice cubes, you only need about 5-6 to chill the water. Keep it minimal so that the ice doesn't get in the way of you collecting up the butter pieces.
When you first transfer the butter out of the whisk into the ice bath, break the butter up in smaller pieces. That way they get rinsed quite well. The water will quickly become cloudy. Gather the pieces up in a paper towel (use a wire spider to help fish out any smaller pieces). Empty and refill the ice bath.
Repeat the rinsing step, using your hands or a spatula to smush and fold and break apart the butter in the ice water, then reform it into a ball. Repeat with fresh ice water until the water runs clear. This usually takes about 3 rinses for me.
Once the water runs clear, press the butter against the walls of the bowl one final time to press out any last tiny bits of buttermilk. Then gather the butter back up in a clean paper towel and squeeze well to press out any excess water. Repeat a few times with clean paper towels until the paper towel is mostly dry after pressing.
At this point your butter is ready to be flavored and/or stored! You've made homemade butter. It's that easy.
Practical Tips & Recipe Notes
- DO NOT SKIP RINSING YOUR BUTTER. If you have any buttermilk particles left behind in the butter, it can go putrid, rancid, and take on a funky, cheese-like smell. This will happen particularly quickly if you keep it at room temperature. Which brings me to...
- Do not leave homemade butter out at room temperature for longer than 4 hours. If you're planning on using it softened you can leave it out overnight, but definitely not any longer than 12 hours.
- This recipe is written using a pint of heavy cream (aka 16 oz, aka 2 cups) and makes approximately 6.25 oz butter. For reference, one stick of butter (½ cup) is 4 oz.
- I used a 5 quart tilt-head KitchenAid mixer to make this butter. My usual mixer is a massive bowl-lift 7 qt mixer which isn't great for small batch recipes, but could get the job done if I needed it to. Stand mixer butter works best starting with a minimum of 1 cup (8 oz) heavy cream.
- If you want to shape your butter into sticks you can use one of these silicone molds which even has tablespoon markings on it. Freeze the butter well before unmolding. You can also find cool vintage and custom butter molds on Etsy.
Storing and Freezing
Store homemade butter in the fridge in an airtight container. How long it lasts depends on how well you've rinsed the butter — it can stay good for up to 2-3 weeks if you've rinsed all the buttermilk out. If you haven't rinsed it thoroughly, it will probably start to sour after about a week.
Basically, if it smells like sour milk, don't eat it.
Wrapped well in the freezer it will stay good for up to 3 months!
I do not recommend storing homemade butter in a butter bell at room temperature.
Stand Mixer Butter FAQ
Just keep going. The temperature of your heavy cream and the size and style of your mixer can all affect how long it takes to separate. But it will separate if you just keep going.
You can but you might get slightly inconsistent results. Butter is made up of milk fat, water, and milk solid particles, and store bought butter brands use very precise ratios that are hard to intentionally replicate at home. Depending on the brand of heavy cream, how well you rinse the butter, how much salt you add, etc. your homemade butter can vary wildly. That doesn't mean you can't use it for baking, it just means it's not going to be as reliable as store bought butter.
That said, I've been using my homemade butter to make biscuits without a problem.
Yes you can! It will just take a little longer to separate.
Nope! Cultured butter uses a similar method, but the heavy cream has a culture (like yogurt or buttermilk) added to it at the beginning.
After rinsing the butter you can use a tofu press lined with cheesecloth to press any additional liquid out of the butter.
Homemade Butter (Stand Mixer Method)
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 1 bowl ice water
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Remove heavy cream from fridge and let stand at room temperature for 30-60 minutes to encourage separation.
- Pour heavy cream into stand mixer bowl, fitted with whisk attachment. Place bowl guard/pouring shield on bowl to prevent splashing.
- Gradually increase mixer from lowest to highest setting. This should take 20-30 seconds. After about a minute or so it will look like like whipped cream. Keep going at full speed — after about 3 minutes it will separate. The butter will collect inside the whisk and the buttermilk splash around in the bottom of the bowl.
- Spoon any lumps of butter out of the buttermilk and smush them onto the butter in the whisk. Pour the buttermilk into a separate container and set aside. You can use it for baking, drink it, or freeze it for later.
- Fill a bowl with 3 cups of water and a few ice cubes. Use a spatula to knock the butter off the whisk into the water. Swirl the butter around, then start gathering the pieces together on a paper towel. Change the ice water a few times as needed until it runs clear. Then smush and fold the butter firmly against the walls of the bowl to press out any additional buttermilk.
- Wrap the butter in several layers of cheese cloth or two layers of paper towels and squeeze to remove any additional moisture. Flatten the butter into a disc between two paper towels, then fold back into a ball and repeat, until the paper towels aren't picking up any moisture.
- Place the butter back in the mixer bowl and beat on medium with the paddle attachment. Add salt or any desired herbs to taste and beat again to combine.
- Wrap butter well in an airtight container and chill.
- If you don't have a bowl guard or shield for your mixer you can stretch plastic wrap over the bowl and cut a hole in the middle for the whisk attachment to fit through.