What’s a butter board, you ask? Well it’s basically what it sounds like — a grazing platter that has a base layer of butter topped with various sweet and savoury tit-bits. As a food trend, it’s one of the hottest of 2023 — celebrities have got into the game, there’s a hashtag on Instagram and TikTok and you get specialty butter for boards now (well, you do in the US, though there’s nothing wrong with Amul butter).
As far as internet food trends go, most people agree that it was probably created by Portland, Oregon-based chef Joshua McFadden and popularised by US-based food blogger and recipe consultant Justine Doiron. It was then picked up by other recipe networks and food shows and became a faddy new thing to do at parties. “Think of butter boards as the better way of serving bread and butter at a dinner party,” says Doiron.
Experts like Doiron and other food bloggers and recipe developers who have been working on creating and perfecting butter boards agree with a few simple steps to get started:
1. Use a wooden cheese or charcuterie board as your platter, use softened butter at room temperature, and start by sprinkling flaky sea salt over it. If you're using salted butter, which is frankly more flavourful, go easy on the salt. Some recommend adding some citrus zest to this top layer to balance out the saltiness and fattiness of the butter
2. To this, you can add any toppings that you wish — fresh herbs, nuts, chunks of fruit, freshly ground pepper, garlic, and sesame seem to be some of the most popular and basic toppings. For meat-eaters, chunks of ham or salami, or small, fresh prawns would do wonders to elevate the taste. Make sure that your taste profile remains harmonious, though, and stick to 2-3 main ingredients
3. A sweet ingredient like drizzled honey or fruit preserves (just like a cheese board) can add a depth of flavour to the entire assembly
4. Serve the board quickly while the butter remains soft with sliced, lightly toasted baguettes, crackers or breadsticks. Experiment with these as you get better at your butter (board).
A few Indian creators have made desi butter boards as well, by using popular Indian flavours and toppings like coriander, chopped tomatoes, onions, bell-pepper and well, paneer. We recommend being a little more adventurous, though, and creating Italian, Japanese, Korean or Lebanese -inspired butter boards, always using the freshest ingredients.
The million dollar question, though, is whether all this butter is healthy. Well, it’s not exactly health food, but hear Duane Mellor, lead for evidence-based medicine and nutrition at Aston Medical School, Aston University: “When it comes to butter on its own, it appears that eating it has a relatively small or neutral effect on the risk of heart disease. But research that compared butter to olive oil (another source of saturated fat) found that butter can increase levels of LDL cholesterol, which is sometimes called “bad” cholesterol as it’s linked to greater risk of heart disease.”
“Overall, sharing a butter board with friends every now and then is unlikely to cause much harm to your health. But doing it often, or eating very large quantities, could raise cholesterol levels and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease somewhat,” says Mellor in an article in The Conversation.
If you can’t wait to butter up, remember that moderation is key — as is sharing.