This genius ingredient will take your dinner to the next level.

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Compound Butter
Credit: Christina Holmes

Looking for a quick, easy, and delicious way to add flavor to a recipe? Try making your own compound butter—all you need is regular, unsalted butter and flavorings such as fresh herbs, spices, or citrus. Compound butter is super versatile. Make it savory with chives or thyme, spicy with red pepper flakes and cilantro, or light and bright with lemon zest. From here, you can spread zesty versions on pancakes or scones, or add savory compound butter to steak, fish, or grilled vegetables at the end of the cooking process.

How to Make Compound Butter

To create compound butter at home, start with softened unsalted butter that has been brought to room temperature. For an extra rich and creamy product, use European butter, such as Plugra or Kerrygold, which has a higher butterfat content than American butter. If you prefer airy, spreadable butter, mix it in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer; for slightly firmer butter, mix it by hand using a spatula.

Once the butter has come to room temperature, add in whatever herbs, spices, or flavorings you like. The culinary applications—and herb pairings—are endless. A few teaspoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley and a pinch of kosher salt will pair well with nearly any savory dish; combine minced garlic and chopped thyme for a compound butter that will be delicious atop pan-seared steak; mix orange and lemon zest with chopped tarragon for a fantastic finish for fish; or add heat to grilled corn or chicken with chopped chile peppers, cilantro, or chipotle powder.

How to Cook with Compound Butter

Most recipes do not specifically call for compound butter, so it's up to a home cook to decide how they want to use it. If you're in need of a speedy weeknight meal that the whole family will enjoy, add a few slices of compound butter to cooked pasta along with Parmesan cheese. Add a pat of chive compound butter to a baked potato or rub cilantro compound butter on grilled corn on the cob, then spread with Cotija cheese for a Mexican-inspired side dish.

How to Store Compound Butter

Once you've made a compound butter, transfer the mixture to a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap tightly into a log, using a plastic bench scraper to compress the mixture and get rid of any air pockets. Store it wrapped in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or in the freezer for three months so that you have a boost of flavor on hand at all times.

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