My refrigerator is always stocked with at least a pound or two of butter so I’m prepared for an emergency batch of chocolate chip cookies or banana bread, especially during stressful times like these. But recently, I discovered a new kind of this must-have ingredient—goat butter—and I’m hooked. Over the past few weeks, I’ve baked the flakiest pie crusts I’ve ever tasted, whipped up the sandiest shortbread cookies, and (let’s be real) even found excuses to eat buttered saltines as a snack—it’s that good. Goat butter has an almost velvety texture and a true melt-in-your mouth quality that, to me, elevates it beyond any other butter out there. Here’s what to know before stocking up and subbing goat butter in every holiday baking recipe you can think of.
How Goat Butter Differs From Standard Butter
All butter is made by the same process no matter what animal’s milk it comes from, says Seair Lorentz, communications manager with California-based Meyenberg, the country’s largest producer of European-style goat butter and the only one that ships nationally. What sets a type of butter apart is the source, as that will give it distinctive properties. Goat butter has more flavor than standard cow’s milk butter; more personality, I’ll say. There’s a bit of tang, a bit of earthiness, but the flavor isn’t as strong (or perhaps, as polarizing) as goat cheese. “It’s a much more dialed-back experience,” says Lorentz.
Another big difference is the color. I was surprised to find that goat butter is stark white, almost like shortening. The reason for this is that goats process beta-carotene—the pigment found in things like hay and grass that animals graze on—differently, so the color isn’t passed on to their milk the way it is in cows, Lorentz explains. “What’s cool about this is that if you’re looking to make a white decoration on a pastry or frost a cake, you can have it be a true stunning white,” she adds.
Finally, one last major variant of goat butter is that it has a slightly lower melting point than regular butter: 6˚F, to be precise, because the fat globules in goat’s milk are smaller than they are in cow’s milk. This is the quality that really gives goat butter its magic. “When you make something like an all-butter pie crust [with goat butter], you get this incredible lamination and flakiness, almost like a croissant,” says Lorentz. “Similarly, with a quick bread like zucchini or banana, the low melting point adds a velvety mouth feel.” It also makes it delightful to eat smeared on a slice of sourdough or, even simpler, a cracker. “Even that raw experience of it is so good,” Lorentz notes, adding that it’s also amazing melted over popcorn (next on my list!).
What to Know Before Substituting Goat Butter
First, don’t be afraid of the distinct flavor. While on its own, you might notice goat butter has a bite similar to goat cheese, the flavor becomes less pronounced when it’s incorporated into baked goods or other cooked preparations, says Michael Laiskonis, chef and creative director at Institute of Culinary Education in New York. If you really enjoy that tang, however, Laiskonis suggests using goat butter in savory baked goods, like scones or biscuits, that allow the flavor to stand without being obscured by any sweetness.
Pound for pound, goat milk can get expensive; because goat milk is lower in butterfat than cow’s milk, it yields less butter per gallon, driving the cost up. It also isn’t widely available in stores yet, so expect to pay a premium for it if you’re ordering online—about $7 to $10 or more for 8 ounces. (Check out options from Meyenberg, or St. Helen’s Farm and Delamere Dairy out of the U.K. on Amazon.) And before you splurge, make sure you’ll be using it for something where the flavor can really shine through. Otherwise, you’re better off using regular butter, Laiskonis says.
When you are working with goat butter, be mindful of the lower melting temperature, as it can sneak up on you if you’re not careful. For example, baking in a kitchen that’s already warm from a lot of oven use can cause your goat butter to get too soft when making pie dough. If you’re making a recipe that requires creaming butter and sugar together, keep in mind that your butter will cream faster than usual, so be wary of overmixing. And making something like caramel with goat butter can be tricky, as it can easily burn when the butter melts much quicker than you’re used to. It can be done, however. Jimmy MacMillan, pastry chef at Pastry Virtuosity in Chicago, says he loves using goat butter to make actual caramels—they stay chewy and soft at room temperature, and the translucent color of the butter allows for a deep rich, brown color in the caramels.
Technically speaking, though, you can really use goat butter for anything you can think of in place of regular cow’s milk butter. It gives biscuits a wonderful fluffy texture, gingerbread cookies a perfect sandiness, and imparts an impeccable flakiness to shortbread. You may want to avoid making something like croissants with goat butter, Laiskonis says, as that can be cost prohibitive due to the amount of butter required. Butter-rich brioche, on the other hand, could be a great item to experiment with, he adds.
One last thing to note: Goat butter freezes beautifully, says Lorentz, so you can stock up and pull out a package when you need it. That is, if you don’t use it all up on your morning toast first.