What Is Irish Butter?

Everything you need to know about the tasty butter that's popping up in American kitchens.

Kerrygold Butter on a two-tone yellow background
Photo: Allrecipes Image

Everything is better with butter, but is there a butter that stands out above the rest? We're glad you asked.

With so many butter options to choose from, it can be overwhelming, but there is a clear winner in the dairy aisle: Irish butter.

Irish butter, or European-style butter, is one of your grocery store's best-kept secrets, but if it's creamy, decadent, and extra spreadable butter that you're after, it's the only one that should be in your fridge.

Here's everything you need to know about this gem that is gaining popularity in American kitchens.

What Is Irish Butter?

The standards for the minimum amount of butterfat — which is the fat found in cream — content in butter is different in Europe than it is in America. In Europe, the minimum is 82%, while in America it's 80%, and anything lower than those percentages cannot be considered butter. So Irish butter is a cultured butter that has been churned to at least 82% butterfat content. The higher the butterfat content, the richer and softer the butter.

What's the Difference Between European Butter and American Butter?

In short, European or Irish butter has more butterfat than American butter. And that equals a lot more delicious flavor.

Butter begins as cream, and as the cream is churned, it becomes whipped cream. With even more churning, milk curds form (which is why when you overwhip your whipped cream, little curds form) and turn into butterfat. The butterfat is what you want because it's pure butter. The longer the cream churns, the more butterfat is developed, and the better the butter.

The two percent difference between butterfat content in American butter and Irish butter doesn't seem like a lot, but it actually has a large impact on taste and texture. Because the remaining percentage in butter contains mostly water, it takes away the flavor and creaminess of the butter.

Even though the butters can be used interchangeably, Irish butter has a higher fat and lower water count than American butter, so it has a better taste and makes it a better choice for baking.

Is Irish Butter More Expensive Than American Butter?

There are many good brands of European-style butter on American shelves, but the most popular is Ireland's Kerrygold Grass-Fed Irish Butter.

Kerrygold has held onto its title of second largest butter brand in the U.S. for years, second only to Land O'Lakes — which has been around for 40 years longer than the Irish favorite. Some other good European-style butter brands to look for include Échiré and Plugrá.

While you may see your favorite American brand butter on sale more frequently, Irish butter doesn't cost as much as you would think. Most European-style butters retail for about one dollar more than your traditional American butter.

When Should You Use Irish Butter?

Opt for Irish butter when baking as it creates baked goods that are flakier and rise higher. And it produces a delicious, deep caramel and hazelnut flavor when it's used to make browned butter.

Of course, you can use Irish butter in your everyday cooking too, as the rich, creamy flavor works great on toast or vegetables.


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