We’ve had charcuterie boards, fruit boards and cheese boards. And now we have the butter board. It’s the latest trend sweeping social media with the hashtag #butterboard being viewed an astonishing 115.5 million times on TikTok.
Mostly served at social gatherings as a pre-dinner ice-breaker, the butter board is presented in a similar way to an antipasti platter, with slices of bread or crackers for scooping. Softened butter is spread directly onto a small board, usually in swirls or patterns, and is then topped with several flavourings such as sea salt, herbs, slices of fruit and edible flowers.
In the past, the yellow stuff was linked to raised cholesterol and heart disease, but good, old-fashioned butter is making a comeback – the latest nutritional advice is that it causes far less harm than an ultra-processed spread.
“There aren’t many foods that I’m really fussy about, but good butter is a small pleasure that makes a big difference to everyday life,” says Telegraph food writer Diana Henry. “I actually go to bed looking forward to breakfast.” Her favourite varieties are Bungay Butter or Isigny Sainte Mere. More extravagant brands include Sublime Butter No 55 – a £38 artisan butter flavoured with lobster, crab, Sicilian lemon, caviar and fennel butter. But even run-of-the-mill butter is getting pricey. News that the average price of a 500g pack of Lurpak has increased by 33 per cent since June led shoppers to take to Facebook to share their frustration. Shoppers have even reported security stickers on £9 bumper packs. A 250g block of own-brand butter now costs £1.99 in Sainsbury's, Morrison’s, Tesco and Aldi.
So what’s behind our enduring love of the dairy spread? “Butter is flavour,” says Oliva Potts, author of a new cook book titled Butter. “The fats in butter mean that they coat the tongue; if you flavour your butter with herbs or spices, sweet or savoury, those flavours stay in contact with your tastebuds for longer, and with greater intensity.”
Even with the recent price rises, it’s still cheaper and prettier to load a board with butter and a few exciting sprinkles than fill a basket with the necessaries for a charcuterie board. So, in the name of research, I decided to make my first butter board for breakfast, filming it as an Instagram reel as I build it.
First off, I beat half a block of Kerrygold until soft enough to spread. Next, I scour the fridge for flavourings, settling on some crispy streaky bacon which I scrunch into crumbs, some slivers of red onion, a drizzle of maple syrup and sprinkle of nigella seeds. Unlike the TikTok butter board superstars, I don’t have the necessary edible flowers, so I make do with some tiny herbs and salad leaves from the back garden. I can see how easy it is to get carried away and put the tub of crispy fried onions back in the cupboard. The results are pretty and rather delicious but I need to remember that, sometimes, less is more.
How to build a butter board
Start with softened butter, leave it out of the fridge for half an hour then beat with a wooden spoon until smooth enough to spread. Using a shallow bowl rather than a deep one will make it easier when it comes to spreading on to the board.
Choose a presentation board, ideally wooden but ceramic or slate will work well too. Go smaller than you think as most will only wish to eat a relatively moderate amount – a 20cm x 28cm board is easily big enough for six. You might like to lay a sheet of baking parchment onto the board first to make cleaning up easier.
Using a small palette knife or the back of a spoon, smudge small dollops of softened butter in rows across the board so it resembles fish scales. If you have a round board, start from the outside and radiate the butter in rings towards the centre for a flower-like appearance. Don’t worry if it’s not even, your flavourings will help disguise any imperfections.
Sprinkle over your choice of toppings, aiming for a balance of flavours, textures and colours but try not to over-do it. Grated lemon zest, edible flowers and herbs are all winning additions. Serve with bread or crackers for scooping. Warn guests that double-dipping is forbidden.
Six butters worth trying
Best unsalted butter: Essential Waitrose Unsalted Dairy Butter, 250g, £2.20
Smooth and creamy. A good base for adding smoked or flavoured salts
Best colour: Guernsey Dairy Guernsey Butter Salted, Waitrose, 250g, £2.40
A mild flavour and beautifully bold, golden colour for a striking butter board
Best plant-based butter: Flora Plant Butter, most supermarkets, 250g, £2
Smooth texture with a creamy mouth feel, a great dairy-free choice
Best salted: Isigny Sainte Mere Unpasteurised Salted Butter, most supermarkets, 250g, £3.50
Great flavour and the right amount of salt.
Best value: Lidl Aberdoyle Dairies Scottish Salted Butter, 250g, £1.75
The cheapest butter around, beating the other own labels by 24p a pack
Best premium: Bungay Butter, Fen Farm Dairy, 200g £7
Diana Henry’s favourite. A raw cultured butter, it has a great sour tang and creamy richness.