Way back in the innocent mists of early 2020, we reported that boards were no longer just for cheese and artisanal meats — people were heaping boards with pancakes, salads, french fries and anything else they could find for artistic (and Instagrammable) tableaus. But, folks, it seems we’ve reached a new summit in our collective food-on-boards journey: All hail the butter board.
Butter boards — boards smeared with softened butter and topped with all manner of savory and sweet accoutrements — started popping up on social media last week, after food influencer Justine Doiron posted on TikTok introducing the concept. “I want to make them the next charcuterie board,” she says in the video, which has been viewed nearly 8 million times as of this afternoon. “Not to usurp charcuterie, but maybe, a little bit.”
Her version is topped with lemon zest, salt, edible flowers and a “honey coriander situation,” resulting in an appealing, colorful spread through which she drags hunks of warm, crusty bread.
She notes that her inspiration came from chef and author Joshua McFadden, whose 2017 cookbook “Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables” included a recipe for flower- and herb-strewn butter, which he described as a dish to delight guests. “I’ve never put this on a table without it prompting a lot of conversation and happy faces,” McFadden wrote.
Others soon followed Doiron’s lead, posting images and videos of butter boards topped with figs, rosy radish slices and ripe strawberries. Riffs included a board spread with whipped cream cheese and topped with berries and jam, with bagels for dipping, and goat cheese with savory crackers.
Of course, the concept of flavored butter isn’t new — compound butters have long been a staple for chefs and home cooks alike, used to top meats, fish and vegetables hot off a grill or to spread on a toasty slice of bread. And the French were dunking radishes into salty butter back when TikTok just described the sound clocks make.
But the butter board seems to have tapped into our collective love for food arrayed artfully on boards, as well as a pent-up desire to share and entertain. Also, the timing is right, as we contemplate fall gatherings — this isn’t a dish for serving on a sweltering summer patio.
McFadden, who doesn’t use TikTok and professes himself to be inept at Instagram, said he first heard that his recipe — which he came up with when he did farm events as a chef and would forage for fresh toppings — had gone viral when Doiron messaged him about it. Now, he’s enjoying seeing people experiment with it. “It’s a fun recipe because anyone can do it; it’s really accessible,” he said.
And he thinks a lot of the draw is that it’s food that’s meant to be shared. “No one is making a butter board just for themselves — I mean, if they are, more power to them,” he said. “But it’s connecting people, and that’s super cool, especially at a time when the world is so weird.”
The concept had some skeptics on social media, many of whom worried about double-dippers and the idea of communal-style eating while covid remains a threat. And some seem intimidated by the prospect of cleaning their board (usually a bread or cutting board) afterward. “I love this,” one commenter to Doiron’s initial video wrote. “BUT … I’d rather throw this board away after than try to wash it.” (A good scrub with soap and warm water should do it, easily, it seems?)
My colleague, Voraciously staff writer Becky Krystal, wasn’t enthused either — though her reasoning has more to do with a preference for simplicity than public health or cleanup fears. “Look, I love butter slathered on bread, and it’s a staple of my diet, but do we really have to make it A Thing now?” she Slacked me when I asked for her thoughts. “Especially one that’s basically just a messier way to eat compound butter.”
She’s a fan of really good (cultured, salted) butter on bread and thinks the toppings people are loading up on seem overwrought. But if she were forced to make a butter board (I imagined a “Misery”-style scenario here), she said she would keep it simple: “Channel garlic bread by scattering creamy, spreadable, caramelized cloves of roasted garlic on top, maybe with some chives and flaky salt,” she suggested. “Heck, just a dusting of everything spice would be fine, too.”