Butter with a Twist: Chipotle Cilantro Compound Butter

ChipotleCilantroCompoundButter[Jump right to the recipe: Chipotle Cilantro Compound Butter]

What recipe can you think of that can:

  • Be infinitely variable in its flavor profiles?
  • Be made days, if not weeks ahead?
  • Amp up the taste of almost any dish in a tablespoon or less?

While there are probably many answers to this riddle, my favorite one is “compound butter”.

A compound butter is simply a combination of seasonings and usually a bit of acid mixed with softened butter and returned to the fridge to set. I like to role my butters in to logs for easy slicing and a pretty presentation. Michael Ruhlman has a lovely description of compound butters on his blog that really does this simple yet powerful concoction justice. You can put just about any combination of ingredients into a compound butter to compliment the flavor profile of your meal. Parsley and lemon is a classic combination or you can add an Asian flair with ginger and lime. A quick Google search shows that these are just the tip of the iceberg.

I like compound butter as a finish for a meal because it’s one of the fastest paths to a sauce that I know of and, if you’re feeding a group with diverse tastes, you can even prepare two or three butters and let each person pick their poison. Compound butters bring flavor to just about any kind of food, from perfectly grilled steaks to steamed vegetables and even biscuits warm from the oven (think blueberry and lemon or maple and pecan). And of course, compound butters get big points from me because you can make them a couple of weeks in advance and also freeze them as long as you wrap them very well.

Compound butters are also great for building bridges between the different dishes in a meal. Recently, I made a Mexican-inspired green chile and corn squash side to go with a steak. While I would typically finish the steak with plain butter or even a bit of goat cheese, I wanted to tie the steak more closely to the flavor profile of the squash. A chipotle compound butter did the trick. The smoky chipotles complimented the ancho chile powder I used in the squash dish and brought just a bit of subtle heat to the finish of every bite of steak. Cilantro and a bit of lime juice and zest brightened the final compound and helped balance the richness of both the butter and the steak.

Recipe: Chipotle, Cilantro, and Lime Compound Butter


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 0 min


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Tbsp. minced chipotle peppers stored in adobo sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
  • Zest and juice of 1 small lime
  • ½ tsp. salt


  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir with a spatula until well mixed.
  2. Turn the mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap and form a log about 4 inches long.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until firm.
  4. Slice into ½ inch discs when ready to use.

Recipe for Success

  • Chipotle peppers are smoked jalapenos that won’t burn your mouth. Instead they have a smoky and slightly sweet flavor with a slight heat that simmers on the back of your tongue. You can buy chipotles dried but for this recipe you’ll want the ones that come in adobo sauce in a can. The adobo is a combination of tomatoes, vinegar, and spices that bring extra flavor to the chipotle and keep them soft for easy integration with the butter. You can find chipotles in adobo on the Mexican food aisle of your grocery store or in markets that specialize in Latin foods. You can also buy chipotles in adobo online if you can’t find them locally.
  • You can store the butter for up to three weeks in the refrigerator wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. You can store it for up to a month in the freezer wrapped in both plastic wrap and a couple of layers of foil.
  • If you or someone in your life doesn’t like cilantro you can substitute parsley.

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