Enter your email to read this article
Read news on any topic, in one place, from publishers like The Economist, FT, Bloomberg and more.

What is a ‘butter board’ and how would I even eat that?

Close-up photo of butter
Justine Doiron’s camera-ready blend of softened butter, herbs and edible flowers has racked up millions of views on TikTok. Photograph: carrollphoto/Getty Images

Alyx, I keep seeing TikToks of people smooshing butter onto a chopping board. Why is this happening?

Ah, Calla, I see you are one of the 1.2 million people who follow recipe creator Justine Doiron.

You know the saying: “If you come for the king, you’d best not miss?” Well, last month Doiron took a shot at deposing charcuterie boards from their place on the millennial dinner party throne, and it seems her camera-ready blend of softened butter, herbs, zest and edible flowers managed to hit its target.

Since she posted the short video, the hashtag #ButterBoard has racked up 180m views, as thousands of people have attempted their own.

A screenshot of TikTok showing multiple accounts posting about butter boards
TikTok creators trying their hand at butter boards. Photograph: TikTok

Also, Google search interest in “butter boards” has literally gone from zero to 100.

How are you meant to eat that?

If you want to destroy one of these picture-perfect creations by putting it in your mouth, you’ve got two options.

You can either scoop some of it up with a knife and smear it on your bread like a sad loser, or you can just dredge your baguette slice – or radish – right through the artful arrangement like an elegant free spirit, sipping natural wine at a Michi-starred neo-bistro in the French countryside. (But don’t do this in front of an actual French person, they would probably rather you use the knife.)

Wait, how is it replacing charcuterie, in the American sense of the word? They seem to use it as a synonym for anything from a share plate to some kind of horn of plenty buffet table. Is this not just another kind of not-really-charcuterie board?

While charcuterie has lately been used as a catchall for most non-bouquet forms of edible arrangement (nightmarish charcuterie chalets; grazing tables stretching right to the horizon), they do tend to share a common element. It’s the thing Australians think of when we think of charcuterie: smoked and cured meats.

Which isn’t to say you couldn’t spice up your butter board with a few swirls of spicy nduja (so cheugy you can find the recipe on Woolies); but the meat isn’t mandatory.

Precious as a plate of high-end butter studded with nasturtiums and drizzled with honey may appear, Doiron has posited it as a less fussy alternative to the charcuterie extended universe. Given that last Christmas Martha Stewart Living suggested people might like to attempt constructing tiled roofs out of salami, she might be right.

OK, no meat, that makes sense, but why do this instead of just eating bread and butter in the ordinary way?

The butter board fulfils the same need as a charcuterie board: it’s an appetiser that requires no cooking; looks expensive and photogenic; and can be served with a sliced baguette. But it’s quicker and much cheaper than reconstructing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel out of coppa. Also, vegetarians can eat it.

That’s why some iteration of the butter board has existed on the menus of many fancy restaurants for many years, it’s just taken a TikTok for home cooks to notice.

We may be frequenting different restaurants. How long has this been a thing?

Well the recipe that inspired Doiron was from Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg’s 2017 hit slow food cookbook Six Seasons, but in French homes they were dredging radishes through softened, salted butter long before the Wayback Machine started archiving our food pictures (though it took until 2022 for BuzzFeed to declare that ultra-minimalist version of a butter board the snack of the summer).

Basically, any time you’re served prettied-up, softened butter with some bread and other things to schmear through it, it’s the same concept. The main difference is whether said butter is contained in a ramekin or patted across a flat surface. I’ve had it served both ways, the butter spiked with herbs, chilli, honey, nuts and occasionally all three, and paid between $6 and $32 for the privilege. It’s pretty much all been delicious. But only one presentation style allows you to repurpose that expensive marble board you bought in 2017. Back then Joshua McFadden may have already been smooshing up butter at his restaurant in Portland, but online Instagrammable cheese plates reigned supreme.

Related Stories
Butter boards: Is the surprisingly beautiful viral food trend the next charcuterie board?
Concept comes from Joshua McFadden’s 2017 book Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables
From analysis to the latest developments in health, read the most diverse news in one place.
Food experts have some surprising suggestions for dishes to break the Yom Kippur fast
From bagels to honey cake, these are a few suggestions from cooks and food enthusiasts for breaking the fast after the most solemn Jewish holiday. Also, read tips for preparing for the fast.
Butter boards: the deliciously rich trend that’s whipping up a storm
Beating butter then spreading it out and adding sweet or savoury ingredients is fast becoming a restaurant and online sensation
This is how to make a real Italian beef, according to the culinary producer of 'The Bear'
In addition to star Jeremy Allen White's months of training at restaurants, including Santa Monica's Pasjoli, much of the realism so many have attributed to TV's "The Bear" is due to the culinary supervision of chefs Courtney Storer and Matty Matheson, who also played handyman Neil Fak on the show.…
Whipped, hip and drizzled in honey: why Britain is back in love with butter
Chefs and fashionable restaurants are ditching the olive oil and embracing the nostalgic charm of dairy
One place to find news on any topic, from hundreds of sites.
Easy everyday dinners from the Middle East
If the flavours of the Middle East are your jam but you are short on time and cash, give these recipes a whirl, says Hannah Twiggs. Three yummy dishes, two new cooking methods, one region, zero stress