TikTok's Viral Cowboy Butter Is The Ideal Accompaniment For Steak

When a foodie TikTok trend starts to rack up literally millions of views, it's fair to say it's a genuine viral sensation. Cowboy butter is the perfect example, filling our screens with chunks of succulent steak dipped enticingly into bowls of colorful, flavorful, and zesty melted butter. While cowboy butter isn't exactly a new creation, it's certainly having another moment in the spotlight. And it's not hard to see why.

So what is cowboy butter, anyway? Essentially, it's a compound butter, which is made by mixing softened butter with herbs, spices, or other flavorings. There are so many sauces to boost a steak, and what they all tend to have in common is big, bold flavors that can stand up to the rich protein. In the case of cowboy butter, a wide variety of fresh and dried ingredients come together to provide a distinctively robust taste. And the perfect accompaniment for the vibrant sauce has to be a juicy, charred steak straight from the grill.

Cowboy butter can either be served chilled as flavorful slices of butter to top the meat and ooze into the protein, or pre-melted as a sauce for dipping. But what really makes it stand out is the balance of components that serve to bring spice and smokiness — as well as freshness and a delicious tang. And despite the fairly large number of ingredients, it couldn't be easier to make.

The zesty flavorful butter pairs perfectly with steak

While there are many recipes for cowboy butter, most start with whisking together softened or melted butter and lemon juice with punchy garlic, shallot, mustard, horseradish, cayenne, and paprika, before stirring through some fresh aromatic herbs such as parsley, chives, and thyme, as well as salt and pepper to taste. You might prefer to add chili powder or crushed red pepper for extra heat, or lemon zest as well as juice for a brighter finish.

While all sorts of steaks suit a rich cowboy butter, ribeye makes the perfect partner. It's naturally a tender cut with a higher fat content, including the 'eye' of fat in the middle, which is where it takes its name from. When this fat renders down during cooking, it adds extra-rich beefy flavors to the meat. And this bold taste is really enhanced by the intensely flavored sauce, with the freshness of the lemon also helping to cut through the fattiness.

But it's not just steak that pairs well with the dip; try barbecue brisket with cowboy butter at your next grill session. It works just as well when served with many grilled chicken, fish, crispy fried seafood, or roasted vegetable dishes. Or for a meat-free option, try it spread on cornbread, stirred through mashed potatoes, or drizzled over freshly grilled corn on the cob for an instant flavor boost.

More tasty compound butters to elevate a steak dinner

Compound butters are easy to whip up for an instant way to elevate many dishes; there's a reason a herby variation is the flavorful butter Ina Garten always keeps in her fridge. And there are so many variations that work especially well with steak, beyond cowboy butter. For a really simple version, try smoked paprika and rosemary, hot chili butter, or just mix softened butter with parsley and garlic.

If you want to experiment further, homemade Cafe de Paris butter is a classic and classy way to elevate a grilled sirloin, combining herbs and spices with other savory condiments such as mustard, capers, and Worcestershire sauce. It makes a great addition to a steak sandwich, too, especially with some hot salty fries to dip in the rich melty butter. To treat your steak to a boozy compound butter, try adding a little brandy or whiskey to the mix. Or if you really want to ramp up the umami factor, combine blue cheese with softened butter for an easy yet flavorful topping.

Once you've made the butter, if you're not using it straight away, wrap it in parchment paper, and make a cylinder shape. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a couple of months; just slice a piece off when you need it. Or freeze it for up to six months, and defrost it in the fridge the day before you're ready to use it.