Did you know: On the counter, garlic can last for months and, in the fridge, butter can last for months too. Which means, even when other ingredients are few and far between, homemade garlic butter can swoop in and save the day. Add it to hot pasta, maybe with a handful of that arugula wilting in the crisper, and you have dinner. Spread it on a crusty loaf, bake until golden, and you have the world’s greatest side dish. Rub some on your elbows and call it moisturizer. Paint it on a canvas and call it art. The world is yours when it comes to garlic butter, thanks to how enormously easy it is to make.
What’s the best ratio of garlic to butter?
A lot of recipes recommend 1 stick of butter to a modest 1 or 2 cloves of garlic. There are plenty of occasions when 1 or 2 cloves is enough, like this Creamy Lemon Pappardelle or this Sesame Tofu With Broccoli. (Notice how I didn’t say Garlicky Lemon Pappardelle or Garlic Tofu With Broccoli.) But modest has no place in garlic butter.
For garlic butter that delivers on its promise, we’re using 1 whole head of garlic. How many cloves that amounts to varies—figure between half a dozen and a dozen, albeit the size of those varies too. It’s all good. This is not brain surgery. Reach for a little head or a humongous head or somewhere in between, depending on your mood.
Some recipes use garlic powder instead of, or in addition to, fresh garlic. But because we’re using so much to begin with and using it two ways (raw and fried), there’s no need to drag out another ingredient.
What’s best—salted or unsalted butter?
Salted, hands down. Not only does this simplify the process (it’s already seasoned), but salted butter has a funky complexity that its unsalted counterpart lacks. That said, if you only have unsalted in the fridge, just add a pinch of kosher salt to the butter.
And what about American-style vs European-style?
Great Q. But first, what’s the difference between American-style and European-style? American-style has a slightly lower fat content, is often uncultured, and is typically a neutral beige. European-style has a richer, tangier taste, and certain brands have a sunny yellow hue.
In many recipes, the type of butter doesn’t make a difference. Homemade garlic butter is not one of them. A good rule of thumb is: If you don’t feel tempted to eat the butter straight, it is not the butter for you. My go-to is Kerrygold for its beautifully buttery flavor.
Any tips on peeling garlic?
Lots. My favorite method is flattening each clove with the side of a chef’s knife, then using my fingers to slip off the shattered skin. Keep a cup of warm water nearby, to rinse your fingers whenever they get sticky. You could also place the garlic cloves in a container, close it up, and shake, shake, shake until the skins start to peel themselves. You could also use a paring knife to trim the end, then peel from there. Whichever route you choose, this is not a fast task. Turn on a bouncy playlist or chatty podcast. Prep time can be fun time too.
Can I use pre-peeled garlic?
Who am I to tell you what to do? There’s no denying that freshly peeled garlic has more oomph. But when you are using around a dozen cloves, even pre-peeled will yield a garlicky garlic butter. If that shortcut is a game-changer for you, by all means. Just try to avoid pre-minced garlic; it can taste artificial.
Here’s how to make Golden Garlic Butter:
- ½ cup salted butter, preferably European-style
- 1 head of garlic
- Finely chopped fresh herbs, such as chives, dill, and/or parsley (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper or chile flakes (optional)