How to Make Butter

For some, butter is a Thanksgiving staple. It covers the turkey before it goes into the oven, and during dinner, pads of butter melt over mounds of mashed potatoes and are spread across hot-from-the-oven dinner rolls.

While it’s certainly easier to run to the store for butter, this Thanksgiving, consider making your own from scratch. It can be a fun and rewarding project for you and your kids. 

If your kids are bouncing around and ready to help, go the “Shake It Up” route. If their arms get tired halfway through, or if you need to speed things along, you can simply pull out your electric hand mixer or stand mixer to finish the job. 


  • Heavy whipping cream 
  • Sea salt and/or other flavorful additions such as lemon zest, chopped herbs or honey 

Here’s a good tip: If you start with one quart of cream (32 ounces), you’ll end up with about 1 pound of butter (16 ounces, or four sticks) and 2 cups buttermilk. 

“Shake It Up” Method

1. Pour your cream into a jar. Leave about ¼ of the jar empty, so there’s enough space for the cream to move around. 

2. Begin to shake, and shake, and shake! 

3. After about 5 minutes, you’ll notice that the cream is beginning to thicken. After another 5 to 10 minutes, it will feel as if there’s no more room in the jar, but keep shaking! After about 15 to 30 minutes of non-stop shaking, you’ll start to see the butterfat separate from the liquid. 

4. Once this happens, pour everything from the jar into a bowl, and continue with step 4 below.

Electric Hand Mixer Method

1. Pour your cream into your bowl. 

2. Turn on your hand mixer to medium speed and blend. 

3. As you blend, you’ll start to see the cream transform. First it’ll become fluffy whipped cream followed by stiff peaks. 

4. After that, you’ll notice the cream separating into soft clumps of butterfat and a liquid. Soon the butter will begin to clump together, and the watery milk will pool in the bottom of the bowl. This will take about 10 minutes. You may want to turn down the speed of your mixer, as the liquid may start splashing. 

5. At this point, stop your mixer and pour out the “buttermilk.” It can be used for cooking, baking and even drinking. 

6. Turn your mixer back on and blend for a few more minutes to get out more of the liquid. Pour it out as before. 

7. Use a rubber spatula and press the butter against the bowl to squeeze out as much of the remaining liquid as possible. 

8. Add about ½ cup of ice water to the butter, and press the butter and water against the side of the bowl. This part of the process, called washing, helps keep the butter from spoiling. Pour off the cloudy liquid, and repeat the process two or three more times until the water becomes less cloudy. 

9. Continue to knead the butter against the side of the bowl until all of the liquid has been pressed out.

10. If you want, you can flavor the butter with a little sea salt, or you can pump up the flavor by adding in lemon zest, chopped herbs, or honey. You can also cut the butter into fun shapes with holiday-themed cookie cutters. 

11. At this point, you can package it up. If you’d like, you can wrap it in parchment paper; the butter won’t stick to the parchment. Then wrap the parchment in plastic wrap or foil for an airtight package. 

You can refrigerate the butter for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months.