Find out how to make Christmas tree butter with spruce, fir, or other edible conifer needles. This is a simple base recipe that can be used as-is or as an ingredient in a wide variety of other foods to add unique flavor.
Using and making Christmas tree butter
Before we jump in to the recipe details…
We detail three warnings in our Edible Christmas Tree Guide that we’ll briefly outline again here (read the guide for more info):
- You should know what type of tree you’re planning to eat (especially when foraging) because there are poisonous evergreen species. For instance, yews are deadly poisonous, although yews are not used for Christmas trees or ornamentation in the US.
- Commercial Christmas trees may have synthetic pesticide residues on them. In some locations, organic Christmas trees are available. Synthetic pesticides are not permitted on organic farms.
- Like any food, some people may have sensitivities/allergies to edible conifer needles. Especially if you’re prone to food allergies, try a small amount to make sure you have no averse reactions before eating larger quantities.
What are the best conifer needles for Christmas tree butter?
The types of edible conifers/Christmas trees that will make the best Christmas tree butter are:
- spruces (Picea spp.)
- firs (Abies spp.)
- Douglass-fir, which is not a true fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
- hemlocks (Tsuga spp.)
Some species of pines (Pinus spp.) would also work in a pinch, but the trees listed above will work better. Keep in mind that each genus/species of edible conifer tree listed above has different, unique flavor characteristics.
To find out more about the various species of edible conifers plus how to ID, harvest, and process the needles, please give our Edible Christmas Tree Guide a read!
Regardless of which edible conifer species you use for this recipe, we’d recommend using fresh, green mature needles for best results.
Two ways to make Christmas tree butter, depending on the season:
In our How to Eat Your Christmas Tree Guide, we also detail the culinary differences between the tender young vibrant green growth tips versus the mature needles on edible conifers (like spruce, fir, and hemlock trees). Thus, there are two ways you can make this recipe depending on the season:
In late winter-early spring, the young growth tips of conifers offer a soft and delicate texture, unlike the tough and fibrous texture of mature conifer needles (like the ones on your Christmas tree). Also, the flavor of these immature needles is not nearly as intense as mature needles.
That means, early in the year, you can dice these growth tips on a cutting board or toss them in a blender, then mix them into room temperature butter before refrigerating. Voila! Subtle, delicately flavored Christmas tree butter (just like making a standard herb butter).
However, with this method, the flavor isn’t infused throughout the butter.
Even if you were able to dice mature Christmas tree needles in December, the texture the needles would add to your butter would be unpleasant – and the flavors would be way too intense.
This means making Christmas tree butter at Christmas time requires an infusion process. Problem: butter easily breaks when heated. Since you’re not trying to make clarified butter/ghee, that means you have to be extremely careful when doing a heated infusion process:
- you’ll be using the lowest heat setting possible on your stove;
- you’ll be using your whisk a lot and removing the butter & needles from the heat every few minutes;
- the process will take at least 30 minutes for good flavor infusion.
Even so, the consistency of the heat-infused butter will be slightly different than regular butter since even lightly heating it affects its molecular structure. Not bad different, just different.
Recipe: Christmas tree butter from mature/winter needles
Christmas tree butter
An infused butter made from edible conifer needles that can be used as-is or as an ingredient in a wide variety of other baked goods.
- 1 cup organic grass-fed unsalted butter
- 4 tbsp (16 gm) edible conifer needles (see article for ideal conifer tree species to use)
Put butter and mature, green conifer needles in sauce pan on lowest heat setting for 30 minutes (you do not want the fat to break!). Whisk regularly and temporarily remove butter from heat every few minutes or earlier if you see any foam starting to form or hear it starting to sizzle. Leave butter off heat for 2-3 minutes then return to heat to continue infusion. Taste after 30 minutes to determine whether the infusion is strong enough for your tastes.
When ready, remove from heat, strain immediately while hot, and put butter in glass container to cool in fridge until solid. Use in baked goods as needed or let come to room temperature when serving as a spreading butter.
Want to dig your fork deeper into edible conifers?
Start here: Tyrant Farms’ Edible Christmas Tree Guide
Additional Christmas tree/edible conifer recipes:
We’d also like to recommend two books for other Christmas tree eaters and food explorers; each contains delicious recipes you can make with your Christmas tree: