Cheese and butter are beloved food items that are used in a variety of ways to add flavor and richness to any dish. Commonly used throughout the world and in many types of dishes, it’s hard to find a recipe without cheese or butter as one of the ingredients.
Cheese and butter are both considered dairy products, meaning they come from milk. That’s where their similarities end.
So what is the actual difference between cheese and butter? The main difference between cheese and butter is that cheese is made by the coagulation of milk casein, while butter is made by separating the butterfat from the buttermilk.
In this article, we’ll go through the differences between cheese and butter, including how they’re made, nutritional information, taste, texture, and best uses.
Keep reading to learn everything there is to know about cheese and butter.
The Actual Differences Between Cheese and Butter
Cheese and butter are both key ingredients to grilled cheese sandwiches. With the gooey cheese melted on the inside and the butter crisping up the bread nicely on the outside, it’s truly a match made in heaven.
So what’s the difference, and why don’t you make grilled cheese the other way around, with the cheese on the outside and the butter on the inside? The answer should be obvious: they aren’t the same thing.
But what is it that makes them different? Like we mentioned before, both cheese and butter start off as plain milk, but the processing that they go through is what turns them into completely different end products.
Read on to find out how cheese and butter are made as well as their flavor and texture profiles.
The Complete Guide to Cheese
Cheese is a general term for a range of cheese that vary depending on the following factors:
- flavor – mild, medium, sharp, and extra sharp
- texture – soft, semi-soft, and hard
- age – fresh or aged
- preparation – unripened, mold-ripened, and bacteria-ripened
- type of milk – cow, buffalo, sheep, goat, etc.
- country and region – where it was made
We will teach out everything you need to know about cheese (in relation to butter), including how it’s made and how to use it.
How Cheese is Made
Cheese is made by coagulating the casein that’s found in milk. In other words, cheese is curdled milk.
In the states, we typically think of cow milk when we think of cheese, but cheese can be made from sheep, buffalo, reindeer, camel, and goat milk. In fact, there are more than a thousand types of cheeses.
Feta is traditionally made with sheep milk, but since cow’s milk is cheaper, you’ll more easily find cow milk feta at your grocery store.
The mozzarella that you’ll find on the classic Italian Margherita pizza is traditionally made with buffalo milk, hence why it’s called buffalo mozzarella.
The softest cheese is known as ricotta. You’ll find ricotta in many Italian recipes, including lasagna and manicotti.
There’s plenty of other things to know about cheese, but for the sake of this article, we’ll end things with the best uses for cheese and then move on to our next subject: butter.
Flavor and Texture of Cheese
As we mentioned before, cheese is categorized on a number of things, but for this article, we’ll focus on the flavor and texture.
The flavor of the cheese depends on which additives have been introduced to the cheese culture in order to form a specific flavor.
The flavor of cheese ranges from:
- Mild – Havarti, Baker’s cheese, Brie, Cheddar
- Medium – Cheddar, Gouda
- Sharp (and extra-sharp) – Cheddar, Parmesan
You may have noticed that cheddar is on all three flavor profiles. That is because cheddar can be formulated to taste as mild or as sharp as you want it.
The texture of cheese depends on how long it has been aged as well as which, if any, additives have been used.
The texture of cheese ranges from:
- Soft – Ricotta, Cottage Cheese
- Semi-soft – Brie, Havarti
- Hard – Parmesan, Cheddar
Soft cheese usually tastes mild, while hard cheeses tend to have a more pronounced taste. This isn’t the case for all cheeses but works as a general guideline.
Best Uses for Cheese
Here are our recommended uses for cheese:
- Sandwiched between two buttered slices of bread and grilled on the stovetop (yep, you guessed it: grilled cheese)
- Layered on top of french onion soup
- An essential ingredient in mac n cheese
- Folded inside chicken enchiladas
- Use cream cheese to make cheesecake
- Chopped up on a cutting board next to cured meats and fruit to make a charcuterie plate
- Breaded and fried (mozzarella sticks)
- Grated and layered on top of a pizza
The Complete Guide to Butter
Learn how butter is made and its recommended uses in the sections below.
How Butter is Made
Butter is made by separating the milk fats (the solids) from the buttermilk (the liquid). By mixing milkfat solids with casein (milk protein), water, and sometimes salt, you end up with a classic stick of butter.
Butter can be made with either fermented or unfermented milk. The butter you usually find in grocery stores is made with unfermented milk.
It can also be purchased with salted or unsalted. People generally prefer salted butter because of the flavor, but if you’re trying to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, it’s best to choose unsalted butter.
Flavor and Texture of Butter
Butter is very spreadable, similar to cream cheese, and can either be hard or liquid depending on the temperature of the food.
It’s common to spread butter on bread, toast, pancakes, and baked potatoes. It’s also a good choice for sauteeing veggies or cooking meats.
Slap it on top of salmon before baking, stir it into your mac n cheese, or melt it into your coffee along with MCT oil (known as bulletproof coffee).
The flavor of butter is mild and can be salty or tangy depending on the type of butter.
Types of butter:
- Salted and unsalted butter
- Cultured butter
- Clarified butter and ghee
- Vegan butter
The type of butter you choose depends on your goals and your tastebuds. If you’re trying to limit your salt intake, then unsalted butter is the best choice for you.
If you are intolerant to dairy, then you may want to try either clarified butter, ghee, or vegan butter.
Cultured butter has had bacteria added to it, which gives it a tangy flavor and adds additional health benefits such as better digestion.
Best Uses for Butter
Butter is a classic ingredient in many dishes. Our favorite uses for butter are:
- Spread on top of bread and/or toast
- Mixed in with mac n cheese for a richer flavor
- Simmered with onions and a bit of brown sugar to make caramelized onions
- As a pancake topping along with maple syrup
- In rice dishes to add flavor and moisture
Make Your Own Cheese and Butter
Yes, you can make cheese and butter at home, and it’s relatively easy.
To make cheese and butter at home, here’s what you will need:
- Whole milk – you can use milk from any of the animals listed earlier, but you’ll more commonly find cow milk at the grocery store unless you have access to other farm animals.
- Strainer or cheesecloth – you can find the best cheesecloths to buy in this article.
For cheese only:
- Rennet – this is what will coagulate the milk to form cheese.
- Additives (optional) – this can include things like salt, coloring, herbs, and spices.
- Calcium chloride (optional) – helps to form a hard curd and rebalances the calcium in pasteurized milk. Calcium chloride is not recommended for stretchy cheeses like mozzarella.
- Acids (optional) – helps the cheese develop that nice acidic flavor that we all enjoy. You can choose citric acid or tartaric acid depending on the type of cheese you’re making.
Now that you have everything you need, watch this video by How To Make Everything, which is a Youtube channel about, well, everything. Check it out.
Thanks for reading our article about the differences between butter and cheese. While we covered everything you need to know, there’s still more you might be interested in learning. That’s why we’ve answered the related questions below.
Is butter better than cheese?
The answer to this question depends on who you ask.
There are some studies that show the dangers of casein (milk protein) which is found in high amounts in cheese. Plant-based researchers have found a link between casein and the development of cancerous tumors. It’s important to stay educated, so you can check out this article about whether dairy causes cancer here.
However, cheese is also considered a nutritious food that provides sufficient amounts of calcium and protein in our diets.
If you’re looking strictly at calories, cheese wins. Butter contains 100 calories per tablespoon while cheese contains about 30 calories per tablespoon, making cheese a friendlier option to people who are watching their caloric intake.
Cheese has more protein content than butter. In fact, butter is pretty much 100% fat, while cheese is more balanced with a ratio of about 70-75% fat 25-30% protein (this will vary depending on the type of cheese).
Can we use cheese instead of butter?
If you’re trying to replace cheese with butter in a recipe such as mac n cheese or grilled cheese, you are in for a big disappointment.
Butter and cheese are meant to be used in different ways.
Are butter and cheese good for health?
The science has gone back and forth about whether cheese, butter, and dairy products in general, are good for your health.
The general consensus is that dairy products are healthy in moderation. This means no more than 1 cup of milk or yogurt or no more than 2 ounces of cheese per day.