Butter is a dairy product made from the fat and protein components of churned cream. 

It is a semi-solid emulsion at room temperature.

It consists  of approximately 80% butterfat. 

It is used as a spread, melted as a condiment, and used as an ingredient in baking, sauce making, pan frying, and other cooking procedures.

Most frequently made from cow’s milk, butter can also be manufactured from the milk of other mammals, including sheep, goats, and buffalo.

Butter is made by churning milk or cream to separate the fat globules from the buttermilk. 

Salt and food colorings are sometimes added to butter. 

Removing the water and milk solids from butter produces clarified butter, which is almost entirely butterfat.

Butter is a water-in-oil emulsion resulting from an inversion of the cream, and the milk proteins are the emulsifiers. 

Butter is a firm solid when refrigerated, but softens to a spreadable consistency at room temperature, and melts to a thin liquid consistency at 32 to 35 °C (90 to 95 °F). 

The density of butter is 911 grams per liter.

Butter, generally has a pale yellow color, but varies from deep yellow to nearly white, depending  on the source animal’s feed and genetics.

Commercial manufacturing process commonly manipulates the color with food colorings like annatto or carotene.

Unhomogenized milk and cream contain butterfat in microscopic globules. 

These microscopic globules are surrounded by membranes made of phospholipids and proteins, which prevent the fat in milk from pooling together into a single mass. 

Butter is produced by agitating cream, which damages these membranes and allows the milk fats to conjoin, separating from the other parts of the cream. 

Altering methods of butter production 

create butters with different consistencies, mostly due to the butterfat composition in the finished product. 

Butter contains fat in three separate forms: free butterfat, butterfat crystals, and undamaged fat globules. 

The different proportions of these forms result in different consistencies within the butter.

Churning produces small butter grains floating in the water-based portion of the cream. 

This watery liquid is called buttermilk.

Buttermilk today is a directly fermented skimmed milk.

The buttermilk is drained off, consolidating the butter into a solid mass and breaks up embedded pockets of buttermilk or water into tiny droplets.

Commercial butter is about 80% butterfat and 15% water.

Butterfat is a mixture of triglyceride, a triester derived from glycerol and three of any of several fatty acid groups.

Butter making previously, was usually collected from several milkings and was therefore several days old and somewhat fermented by the time it was made into butter.

Butter made from a fermented cream is known as cultured butter. 

During fermentation, the cream naturally sours as bacteria convert milk sugars into lactic acid. 

The fermentation process produces aroma compounds which makes for a fuller-flavored and more buttery taste. 

Dairy products are often pasteurized to kill pathogenic bacteria and other microbes. 

Butter made from pasteurized fresh cream is called sweet cream.

Clarified butter is butter with almost all of its water and milk solids removed, leaving almost-pure butterfat. 

Clarified butter is made by heating butter to its melting point and then allowing it to cool; after settling, the remaining components separate by density; whey proteins form a skin at the top, which is removed. 

The resulting butterfat is then poured off from the mixture of water and casein proteins that settle to the bottom.

Cream may be separated from whey instead of milk, as a byproduct of cheese-making. 

Whey butter may be made from whey cream. 

Whey cream and butter have a lower fat content and taste more salty, tangy and cheesy.

1000 pounds of whey will typically give 3 pounds of butter.

Today that more margarine than butter is eaten in the U.S. and the EU.

Normal butter softens to a spreadable consistency around 15 °C (60 °F), well above refrigerator temperatures. 

Keeping butter tightly wrapped delays rancidity, which is hastened by exposure to light or air, and also helps prevent it from picking up other odors. 

Wrapped butter has a shelf life of several months at refrigerator temperatures.

Butter can also be frozen to further extend its storage life.

Butter is sold in 250 g (8.8 oz) and 500 g (18 oz) packages.

Butter is essentially just the milk fat, and contains only traces of lactose. 

Butter consumption is not a problem for lactose intolerant people.

Milk allergy patients may need to avoid butter, which contains enough of the allergy-causing proteins to cause reactions.

Whole milk, butter and cream have high levels of saturated fat.


Nutritional value per 1 US Tbsp (14.2g)


101.8 kcal (426 kJ)


0.01 g


0.01 g


11.5 g


7.3 g


0.5 g


3 g


0.4 g


0.1 g


Quantity %DV†

Vitamin A equiv.

12% 97.1 μg

Vitamin A

355 IU

Vitamin B12

1% 0.024 μg

Vitamin E

2% 0.33 mg

Vitamin K

1% 0.99 μg


30.5 mg

Properties of common cooking fats (per 100 g)

Type of fat Total fat (g) Saturated fat (g) Mono­unsaturated fat (g) Poly­unsaturated fat (g) Smoke point

Butter 80-88 43-48 15-19 2-3 150 °C (302 °F)

Canola oil 100 6-7 62-64 24-26 205 °C (401 °F

Coconut oil 99 83 6 2 177 °C (351 °F)

Corn oil[65] 100 13-14 27-29 52-54 230 °C (446 °F)

Lard[66] 100 39 45 11 190 °C (374 °F)

Peanut oil 100 17 46 32 225 °C (437 °F)

Olive oil 100 13-19 59-74 6-16 190 °C (374 °F)

Rice bran oil 100 25 38 37 250 °C (482 °F)

Soybean oil 100 15 22 57-58 257 °C (495 °F)

Suet 94 52 32 3 200 °C (392 °F)

Ghee 99 62 29 4 204 °C (399 °F)

Sunflower oil 100 10 20 66 225 °C (437 °F)

Sunflower oil (high oleic) 100 12 844 

Vegetable shortening  100 25 41 28 165 °C (329 °F)

Hypercholesterolemia people should keep their consumption of butter to a minimum, whereas moderate butter intake may be considered part of the diet in the normocholesterolemic population.

A meta-analysis and systematic review found relatively small or neutral overall associations of butter with mortality, CVD, and diabetes. 

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