Cheese Lover’s Guide To Butterkäse

October 20, 2021

Cheese Lover’s Guide To Butterkäse
Perhaps we’ll start things off with a quick language lesson, shall we? Say it with us: “booter-keh-zuh. Still not sure if you’re getting it right? Try this helpful pronunciation lesson if you really want to nail it.

In German, the word “butterkäse roughly translates to “butter cheese”. As a cheese-loving group of folks living in the State of Cheese, we can tell you firsthand that butter and cheese are pretty much the ultimate dairy duo. But that’s where the magic of butterkäse really shines — it doesn’t have any butter in it.

Intrigued? We thought you might be.

Cheese history: The story behind butterkäse

To get to the bottom of butterkäse, we’ve got to go back to when it all began. Which honestly, wasn’t all that long ago. In 1906, an Italian cheese called Bel Paese hit the streets. Its soft, buttery qualities were quickly becoming a favorite across Europe, and creameries everywhere wanted to create something similar.

However, the Italians were very clever about protecting their original products, and upon realizing the popularity of Bel Paese, they swiftly trademarked the name. This meant that other creameries would have to come up with their own versions.

The Staatliche Molkerei Weihenstephan dairy company threw their hat into the butter cheese game in 1928. They produced the first German version of the popular Italian formaggio, marketing it as Butterkäse. It appealed to the general public, and especially to children who, like most young kids, weren’t into the “stinkycheeses German cheesemakers were known for.

Butterkäse was mild in flavor, inexpensive to make (thanks to modern factory production and this cheese's short aging process), and easy to use on sandwiches and other quick-to-prepare foods. Its delicate character also earned it the nickname damenkäse, meaning "ladies cheese".

And there you have it — a käse star was born! Over the decades, butterkäse has actually surpassed Bel Paese in terms of popularity, offering a richer, more buttery flavor than its predecessor.

Today, the butter cheese tradition continues, but in Wisconsin, it’s taken a distinctively artisan turn from its mass-produced ancestors. Wisconsin Butterkäse is reminiscent of a young gouda or muenster with plenty of Old World heritage blended with decades of innovation.

All about butterkäse

How is butterkäse made?

Like most cheeses, butterkäse is made from milk, cultures, rennet, and salt. The main difference is that for this particular cheese, the milk is heated to a high temperature before the rennet is added. It then gently acidifies and coagulates with rennet, leaving it with a higher moisture content and a milder flavor. The curds are cooked and separated, then salt is added, the shape is formed, and it’s aged for just one month.

The airy holes (a.k.a. eyes) are a result of the light pressing, giving butterkäse a look similar to other cheeses popular in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria like raclette, emmentaler, and gruyere. Butterkäse contains around 50% butterfat, and due to the combination of the high fat content and its short aging process, it takes on a butter-like flavor, even though it doesn’t really contain butter.

What does butterkäse taste like?

If you love the taste of butter, but you don’t want to go around munching on sticks of butter (for numerous reasons), then this could be the cheese for you. Sticks of butter aren’t popular snack choices because a) they’re slippery and b) there really are some limits to decadence that we can’t justify crossing.

However, butterkäse is like the perfect marriage between cheese and butter. It’s incredibly creamy and smooth, but the richness is delicately balanced. You can think of it as the love child of, for example, a triple cream brie, half a stick of butter, and the melty texture of American cheese. Hey, no one said love was easy.

How long is butterkäse aged? 

This cheese ripens after only one month. So, it’s always worth the wait—especially because it’s a short one.

Must-try Wisconsin Butterkäse

Edelweiss Butterkase: One of the best, most buttery specimens statewide is this one from Edelweiss Creamery in Monticello, Wisconsin. Not only is this wedge one of the most Wisconsin-esque cheeses you’ll find, but it’s also made using rBGH-free milk sourced from three farms.

Master Cheesemaker Bruce Workman and the rest of the Edelweiss crew know exactly how the animals are cared for, what they eat, and they can see for themselves how high the quality of their milk really is. Believe us when we say that you can taste the difference with this cheese!

Saxon Creamery Snowfields: Another spectacular Wisconsin Butterkäse is Snowfields Butterkäse Style Cheese from Saxon Creamery in Malone, Wisconsin. They use autumn and winter milk for this delicately flavored cheese. Since the cows feast freely on field grasses, you can detect a wonderland of seasonal flavor notes, from sweet almond to hay and even a touch of lemon, in every bite.

Saxon Creamyer also offers self-guided tours if you find yourself in the area and craving a round of cheese. It’s well worth a visit, particularly because they’ve been spearheading the sustainable cheese production practices that have been sweeping Wisconsin farmsteads in recent years.

Hoard’s Dairyman Farm Creamery Sark: Made from award-winning Guernsey milk that’s produced right on Hoard’s Dairymans’ historic farm, this triple-cream butterkäse is delightfully buttery yet versatile. Despite being decadently melt-in-your-mouth, this butterkäse improves basically any dish it’s added to. Soup? Grate some Sark on top. Warm pasta? Ditto. Steamed veggies? You guessed it, Sark! Sark won't do you wrong.

The name of this butterkäse comes the island of Sark found in the English Channel, a neighbor of the larger island of Guernsey and right off the coast of Normandy. If you’re looking for a cheese that you could taste every day and never get tired of, Hoard’s Dairyman Creamery has you covered with Sark.

Pairing butterkäse

What beer goes well with Butterkäse?

Since beer and cheese pairings are all about balance and contrast, you want to reach for something dry enough to cut through the richness of butterkäse's flavor. Pair this decadent buttery cheese with a German pilsner, lager, Kolsch, or a weiss beer.

What wine pairs best with butterkäse?

The perfect pairing for this cheese is its German buddy, riesling. You could also opt for a chardonnay or even a dessert wine.

What accompaniments should I serve with Butterkäse?

This is one cheese that’s unique in its ability to span from simple to sophisticated with ease. Kids love it in the most uncomplicated kid-friendly dishes, and it also has the magic ability to crossover into adult-ville, landing on cheese boards in fancy restaurants and at upscale dinner parties.

Pro-tip: If your butterkäse is destined for a cheese board, cut it as soon as you take it out of the fridge. Otherwise, the creamy consistency sets in and, well... things get messy. Unless, of course, you meant for it to be spreadable, in which case, you’re a genius. That’s the beauty of butterkäse: it works both ways!

Throughout Germany and Austria, spaetzle is one of the most popular dishes you’ll encounter. These noodle-y dumplings are usually served with gravy or a cheesy sauce. Basically, noodles and cheese. Remind you of anything? When you want to upgrade your next mac and cheese, think butterkäse.

And that’s not all. Melt it in a pot for a richly satisfying fondue. Use it in a béchamel for your next plate of nachos or smother it over a burrito. Add a thick slice to top off a decadent burger. Butterkäse elevates any dish that relies on a melty, velvety smooth textured cheese or cheese sauce.

Our friend Bob Wills, a Butterkäse Master Cheesemaker over at Cedar Grove Cheese, swears by the butterkäse grilled cheese. It’s easy to see why it works so well with the world’s favorite melty, gooey sandwich. Bread, butter, and buttery cheese — we’ll take two, please!

Ready to melt?

Now that you've met one of your new best cheese friends, you know exactly what Wisconsin Butterkäse to look for whether it’s for your next dinner party or your next comfort-fueled mac and cheese dinner. Why stick with the same ol’ cheddar when you can butterkäse?

If this deep dive into Wisconsin Butterkäse has you feeling cheesy, check out our selection of over 400 handcrafted recipes featuring Wisconsin Cheese. Get inspiration from our Instagram feed or our Facebook page!

Searching high and low for that one Wisconsin Cheese with no luck? You can get all your favorite Wisconsin Cheeses delivered right to your door with our continuously updated list of cheesemakers and retailers that allow you to order cheese online. Award-winning Wisconsin Cheese is just a click away!


What cheese is similar to butterkäse?

The cheese most similar to butterkäse would be muenster, but its texture is closer to brie with a more buttery flavor profile.

How do you eat butterkäse?

Its best use is for any dish that calls for a rich, melty cheese. Think mac and cheese, grilled cheese, or fondue.


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