Drunken Cranberry Orange Compound Butter


slice of compound butter

I know: When will I stop raving about compound butter? Never, probably. (But I’ll bet you could guess that.) The stuff is just too easy to make—and too darned good.

What is compound butter?

If you’ve never made it, compound butter is a great way to add a lot of flavor to a dish with very little effort. It’s generally used as a finishing ingredient or a garnish.

To make compound butter, just soften the butter up, then smoosh in a bunch of ingredients to give it a certain flavor.

For examples of other flavor-packed, buttery goodness, check out my Pecan Scotch Compound Butter and Fresh Herb Compound Butter.

Mmm, cranberries soaked in cognac

For this particular compound butter, you macerate (soak) chopped, dried cranberries in cognac. The cranberries plump up and absorb a little of the liquor. The remaining cognac gets perfumed with cranberry flavor.

Use sweetened dried cranberries for this recipe. (In the U.S., I’m talking about the ubiquitous Craisin.)

Dried cranberries

Uses for cranberry orange butter

This Drunken Cranberry Orange Butter is great on baked goods (English muffins, croissants, etc.). It’s also a great topping for pancakes and waffles. You can use it as a spread for chicken or turkey sandwiches—or stir it into wild rice before serving.

The sweetness of the dried cranberries is tempered by a generous drizzle of cognac and a spoonful of bright, fresh orange zest.

fresh orange zest

If you don’t have any cognac on hand, try a little brandy or even dark rum.

Drunken Cranberry Orange Compound Butter

8 Tbls. butter (that’s one stick in the U.S.)
1/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries
2 Tbls. cognac
1 Tbls. orange zest

Yields about 9 Tbls. butter

Macerate the dried cranberries in cognac

Take the butter out of the fridge and set it on the counter to soften. By the time your cranberries are ready, the butter should be soft enough to use.

Chop up the dried cranberries.

Chopped dried cranberries

Toss them into a small bowl. Drizzle with cognac.

Drizzle the cognac over the dried cranberries

Give them a stir. Let them sit on the counter for about 30 minutes.

macerate the dried cranberries in cognac

Mix up the compound butter

Zest your orange.

zest the orange
I used about a tablespoon, but by all means use more or less depending on your taste.

tablespoon of orange zest

After about 30 minutes, you should notice that your cranberries have absorbed some of the cognac. Toss the orange zest into the bowl.

orange zest and cranberries

Put the butter into a medium-sized bowl. Mash it up with a fork to break it up.

soften the butter

Toss in the contents of your bowl (cranberries, cognac, orange zest).

butter with cranberries and orange

With a fork, mash the contents of your bowl together.

mash the orange zest and cranberries into the butter

It will take a minute or two to work the cranberries and zest into the butter—and for the cognac to disappear into the butter.

mix the butter until uniform

You’re aiming for a uniform mixture, like this:

soft cranberry orange butter

Give the butter a taste. This is your chance to correct the seasoning, if you want to. (Add more orange zest, etc., to it if you think it needs it.)

Roll the compound butter up and refrigerate

Put a large piece of wax paper on the counter.

wax paper on counter

Scoop the butter mixture onto the center of the paper.

compound butter on wax paper

Smoosh it into a rough log shape.

form the butter into a log

Roll the butter up in wax paper.

roll the compound butter into a log

roll the butter in wax paper

roll of cranberry orange butter

Twist each end of the wax paper, just like a hard candy wrapper.

twist the ends of the wax paper

Pop the butter into the fridge for at least an hour, or until solid again.

Enjoy your compound butter!

After about an hour, your butter should have solidified.

refrigerate the compound butter

When you unroll it to slice it, it’ll be generously flecked with orange rind and bits of cranberry.

cold cranberry orange compound butter


cranberry orange butter up close

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. This sounds like it would be SO GOOD in a hot buttered rum. It was 55 degrees today in Quincy so that would have felt WRONG, but later on in the week, when our cold rain/snow starts up again…

  2. Cool! The butter must have tasted heavenly!

  3. you read my mind;). okay, well not really. but compound butter recently regained my attn and I thought about how underutilized it is. not enough shout-out for a fantastic ‘extra’ to have in your freezer. I usually think of the savory, herb butters, but love the idea of cran/orange for french toast and rice! very cool!

  4. Compound butters are amazing, I just love that you can put anything in it and use it as a topping. I love the colors and the flecks of reds from the cranberries so pretty!

  5. Oh my goodness ~ this looks wonderful. I would love to have some on an English Muffin right now! What a fabulous idea 🙂

  6. Looks wonderful! But I have to ask – what would be a good non-alcoholic substitution for the cognac for a sober version? I was thinking orange juice. Ideas?

  7. Looked so pretty, but I had to improvise with ingredients on hand. Used dried cherries and lemon rind. Added a little honey..
    Can’t wait to try it on home made biscuits later! Thanks for the inspiration!