Dietitians and Food Safety Experts Weigh In on the Butter Board Trend

Butter board

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Key Takeaways

  • Butter boards are a new take on charcuterie boards that use butter instead of cheese as the main ingredient.
  • Butter has a higher calorie and fat content than cheese, so dietitians say consumers should be mindful of serving sizes.
  • It's safe to leave butter out at room temperature, but the add-on ingredients might be prone to spoilage.

Butter boards have been spreading through social media in recent weeks. The trend, which involves loading a tray with smeared butter and garnishes, has enticed some to whip up their own while repulsing others.

But what do dietitians and food safety experts have to say about this trend? Do butter boards have a place at the table?

Like cheese or charcuterie boards, butter boards come in different varieties. The trend went viral after recipe developer Justine Doiron shared a TikTok a homemade butter board with salt, lemon, onions, basil, dried leaves, and honey. Since then, other social media creators have personalized their own butter boards with various spices, sweeteners, deli meats, fake flowers, or vegetable garnishes.

In the video, Doiron used a slice of bread to dip into her butter board. But she wrote in the comment that people can eat a butter board with utensils, too. Other creators have swapped out bread for crackers, or used a knife to spread the butter onto their food.

Butter Boards vs. Cheese Boards

Butter boards might not seem that different from cheese or charcuterie boards, but they have sizable differences in protein and fat.

One serving of hard cheese contains about 120 calories, 6 grams of saturated fat, and 8 grams of protein. It also contains about 180 milligrams of calcium, and between 1 and 30 grams of cholesterol, depending on type.

On the other hand, one tablespoon of unsalted butter is contains 102 calories, 12 grams of fat, and barely any protein or calcium. It contains no carbohydrates, fibers, or sugars, but it does have 30 grams of cholesterol.

“If we think about the nutrients that people are trying to acquire in consuming dairy products, cheese is technically superior as it is higher in calcium and protein,” Andy De Santis, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian, wrote in an email to Verywell. “Butter, if unsalted, could be lower in sodium which is a cool consideration for those trying to reduce their sodium intake.”

Butter Isn’t Bad

Butter boards aren’t necessarily unhealthy. Although butter is low in protein and calcium, it contains butyrate, which could help intestinal inflammation and promote healthy gut bacteria. Adding butter to dishes can also benefit people who are looking to gain or maintain a healthy weight, as it can be a quick and easy way to increase calorie and fat intake and nourish the body.

“I look at a butter board as a fun thing to do on occasion for those who are into butter,” De Santis said. “It can certainly be enjoyed in moderation.”

What’s more, dietitians say, butter can keep you full longer.

“Butter is a really delicious source of fat that can make a meal or snack more filling and satisfying,” Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS, a registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorder recovery, wrote in an email.

Still, like most foods, moderation is key. Since butter is high in saturated fat, eating it in excess can raise a person’s risk for complications like heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat consumption to about 5% to 6% of your daily food intake.

If you eat about 2,000 calories a day, it means keeping your saturated fat intake to around 120 calories or 13 grams per day. That’s about one serving of butter, or less, depending on whether you have other sources of saturated fat, such as cheese, red meat, and oils.

To make the most of a healthy diet, the AHA recommends looking at the whole picture of what you are eating—not just how much or how little butter you consume. Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps to create a more well-rounded diet in addition to fat and protein content.

De Santis recommends topping a butter board with foods like fruit, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, or fatty fish like smoked salmon to enhance its nutritional value.

But Are Butter Boards Hygienic?

While most dairy products should be refrigerated, butter is an exception. Although butter is a dairy product, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says it’s generally safe to leave it out at room temperature. However, if it’s at room temperature for more than a day or two, it can go rancid and develop a bad taste.

Butter goes bad outside of the fridge because exposure to air and light can change the quality of the product, according to Mitzi Baum, MS, CEO at Stop Foodborne Illness. Keeping butter out in an area warmer than room temperature can further accelerate this unsavory process.

Still, the potential food safety hazard of a butter board comes largely from the snacks or garnishes, rather than the butter itself. “The butter is not the culprit,” Baum wrote in an email to Verywell. “The other items that are added to the butter can create problems.”

Adding raw items, proteins like pulled chicken or smoked salmon, or cooked carbohydrates like pasta or potatoes, creates a harmful environment for bacteria to grow, Baum added. It’s safer to avoid add-ins that are prone to spoilage or to be mindful of how long the board has been sitting out at room temperature. Keep in mind that while butter can be left unrefrigerated for days, other toppings may not.

Butter boards can also invite too many hands or double dipping. Practicing proper hand hygiene and having people use individual utensils could help reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.

To keep your butter board safe for consumption, Baum recommends the following measures:

  • Wash your hands before assembling the board, between handling raw and cooked materials, and before serving and eating.
  • Wash all the herbs and produce before adding them to the board.
  • Handle cooked and raw proteins with care and only leave them out of the refrigerator for short periods of time.
  • Avoid leaving protein-carb combos out at room temperature for too long.
  • If you’re making the butter board ahead of time, store it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
  • Adding acid, like a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, to your board can reduce the risk of bacteria formation.
  • For large groups: Consider making multiple small boards, instead of one big board.

What This Means For You

Butter boards can be a fun alternative to charcuterie boards. But as with any food, butter should be enjoyed in moderation.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source. Cheese.

  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture: FoodData Central. Butter, without salt.

  3. Gonçalves P, Araújo JR, Di Santo JP. A cross-talk between microbiota-derived short-chain fatty acids and the host mucosal immune system regulates intestinal homeostasis and inflammatory bowel diseaseInflamm Bowel Dis. 2018;24(3):558-572. doi:10.1093/ibd/izx029

  4. American Heart Association. Saturated fat.

  5. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Is butter safe at room temperature?

By Claire Wolters
Claire Wolters is a staff reporter covering health news for Verywell. She is most passionate about stories that cover real issues and spark change.