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.
Once you start making your own butter from scratch you won't be able to stop. It's so good slathered on a freshly baked slice of my easy overnight no-knead dutch oven bread and sprinkled with flaky salt.
Soon you'll be making all sorts of fun, flavored compound butters like this easy whipped honey butter or this roasted garlic and chive butter!
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.
Of course you can also make butter using a jar or one of these little churn things, but when you've got a stand mixer that can do the work for you...? I know what I'm choosing.
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)
- Sturdy spatula
- Cheese cloth or paper towels
- 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.
Wow! I knew that it the process for making butter wasn't complicated but hadn't tried it until I stumbled on your recipe. This was simple and went just as you described. This is definitely one of those recipes that will be easier (and cleaner!) the next time around. I'm looking forward to trying this again.
One tip . . . I didn't know how much to salt the butter so I started with 1/2 tsp of finely ground salt. That proved to be a little too much. Next time I'll start with a little less than half of that and easy my way up if needed.
This makes me so happy!! I’m glad you gave it a try. And yes, it’s definitely one of those recipes that’s messy the first time but gets WAY easier the next time you do it. Salt is definitely to taste — I’m going to update the recipe to recommend starting with 1/4 tsp and then adjusting with more only if needed. Always easier to add more salt than to take salt out. Happy butter making!
It's in the recipe. 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
Totally worth pulling my stand mixer out of storage! Homemade butter s totally underrated.
I did this and was so excited (yes I’m a dork like that). It’s so easy! I was worried about the washing part, but it all came together. Your directions made me feel confident though.
Wow - it never occurred to me to make homemade butter, but it was so simple and tastes sooooo yummy that I am telling everyone. This recipe is easy to follow and I appreciated the video because I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant to put the butter in an ice bath. Just try it … you will be amazed! Enjoy
I've been wanting to make my own butter for the longest time, but didn't feel I had the right equipment. Finally bought a Kitchenaid mixer and haven't looked back.
Probably spent a good hour down the internet "How to make butter" rabbit hole before I found your page. Your's was the most complete and easy to understand that I'd found, so dove in. The butter turned out great!
I did, make a crucial mistake by not reading far enough into the instructions and started with the cream directly from the refrigerator. It took forevvvvver! Luckily, I HAD read where you said you stopped too quickly the first time, and to just be patient. I was:it did.
This is the kind of comment every food blogger dreams of! Thank you so much. I’m thrilled you had buttery success — enjoy your butter!
Great instructions! I've been making butter for a while now and wanted to see if you had any tricks I hadn't thought of...and you did! The large craft ice cubes are a great idea and will definitely make the washing easier! But I may have one for you too. I put the washed butter back into the KitchenAid and give it one last spin with the whisk. Any butter that was trapping cold water droplets gets broken up by the whisk and lets the water out. I always find some water in the bottom of the bowl after this step, and then it's really easy to pour off. Thanks for putting in ALL of the details.
So glad you found the giant ice cube tip helpful! I'll have to try the thing where I put the butter back in the bowl next time I make it. I think I tried it once and found it got a lot messier trying to clean the butter off the whisk — but I may have done it wrong! Good idea, I'll give it another try.
So it's been in there an hour or so....was right from fridge. But won't go inside the beater after it separated its just a wet mess ...help
Doing it right from the fridge means it's going to take a long time! If it separated fully but isn't collecting in the beater that's okay, you need to just strain it using a colander or wire mesh strainer. Then proceed with rinsing! Good luck!
I just tried the recipe, but I wasn’t as successful as everyone else. I didn’t allow my cream to come to room temp, but accounted for this by allowing more time. After the butter milk separated, I was waiting for the butter to collect in the whisk attachment and it never did. Eventually after about 30 min of mixing, the buttermilk reincorporated. I want to try again but should I still wait for the butter to collect in the whisk or do I stop as soon as the buttermilk separates?
What type of cream were you using? The butter should collect in the whisk attachment if you have it at high speed — it can take 15-20 minutes if the cream is cold, I've never heard of it taking 30 minutes though! I did a quick google search for "cream didn't separate into butter" and found that there are a couple things that may have happened: 1) the friction in the bowl may have actually melted the butter, in which case it sounds like if you let it stand for a bit or put it back in the fridge, the butter might separate from the buttermilk as it cools, or 2) your heavy cream may have had sweeteners or stabilizers in it that prevent separation. I would give it another try and this time let it come to room temperature before mixing! It should collect in the whisk.
That said, if you stop sooner (e.g. as soon as the buttermilk separates) you can use a wire mesh strainer to fish all the butter pieces out to rinse and then mush them together into a butter ball. It's just neater if you can get it to the stage where it collects in the whisk. Good luck!!
So I am using raw cows milk, skimmed the cream off the top. I went through the whipped cream stage, then the grainy separating Stage and and that was it. Mixed for about 30 minutes and the chunks never turned yellow and never collected together. Felt more like soggy marshmallows. Any ideas?
I have never used raw cow’s milk to make butter. I don’t know if that’s what may have caused your issue. Heavy whipping cream from the grocery store is fairly standardized in the amount of milk fat it contains. It’s possible that using raw milk and skimming the fat off, the ratio didn’t quite work or that the milk fat percentage is much higher (or lower?) than what you get at the store. I’m sorry it didn’t work for you! But I would recommend looking up some recipes specific to raw cow’s milk — there may be a way to ensure you get the right ratio in your cream!
I don't know if you figured out how to get it to work already, but I just made butter using raw cream and in order to get it to separate from the buttermilk I had to culture it with some clabber that I have. I bet you could use kefir culture too. Once it got thick I put it back in the KitchenAid and it separated really quickly. Hopefully that helps!
Can you use goats milk for heavy cream?
Uh no, I dont think so. Heavy cream and milk are not the same thing, regardless of what animal it came from.
That said, if you have goat milk and are wondering what to do with it, try my recipe for Homemade Goat Cheese!
Can you freeze the buttermilk left over if not needed right away?
Made some of this butter for thanksgiving and it was a huge hit! Rebecca explains the process so it was easy to do (loved the tips to keep the cream from spraying everywhere) and I got to brag about making homemade butter.
The bragging is always the best part 😂 so glad you enjoyed the butter!
You can absolutely let it go to long. Kept going thinking it needed to go in the whisk and now it went back to some sort of whipped state.
Ah yes, sometimes that can happen! Next time try slowing it down a bit more when you hear the buttermilk sloshing around. The butter collecting in the whisk is just one marker to let you know when it's fully separated. If you slow it down when you hear that happen it will help it collect. Otherwise the force of the mixer at high speed may prevent it from collecting! Do you have the same type of mixer as I do or are you using a different style of whisk attachment (e.g. KitchenAid's larger stand mixers have whisks with a lot more tines closer together)? This feedback is super helpful — if you can tell me what mixer you were using I can update the blog post to help future readers out! Thanks so much for sharing your experience, I'm sorry it didn't work for you.