Mexican Butter.

Puro de Leche de Vaca!

Puro de Leche de Vaca!

Where can I find good butter in Mexico? Mexican butter is probably one of the most discussed ex-pat topics, right behind toilet paper disposal. When the Dunosusa mini-market opened their doors down the street from our house, I asked for butter at the small deli counter. The lady offered me margarine. When I repeated that I wanted butter, she shrugged, replying,”It’s the same thing.” I didn’t argue but neither did I buy the proffered plastic placebo. Is placebo the right word? I assume that most placebos are either benign or inert. Poison sounds harsh but is more accurate.

The Extra (a convenience store similar to 7/11) recently started carrying butter. However, ten years ago, nearest butter was 7 blocks away but only Lala or La Gloria brands. Mexican butter tastes odd to most North Americans, probably to Europeans too. It has a slightly plastic mouth feel. It’s okay in cooking, but I wondered about that off taste.  It worried me. This was before my current fervent pursuit of food purity, but I have always been an avid label reader.

When Mexicana Comercial opened the Mega Balcones store, we were excited. it had  better selection  of food stuffs and wider variety of vegetables and products than either Chedraui or WalMart. In an open refrigerator compartment, I found the biggest offering of brands of butter, I had ever seen in Merida. There was imported Danish butter, which cost several times more than the local kinds. I used that as my template, reading the short ingredient list. CREAM. Then I started on the Mexican butter. In addition to the cream, there was annatto, which doesn’t really worry me, it’s used in cooking to make things yellow, better than using yellow dye # whatever. Before the annatto, there was the phrase suero de leche. That literally translates to milk serum,  but means whey. Whey is the stuff left over after you make butter or cheese.

Sometimes, I am confounded by some of the practices here, you can buy milk that has had the dairy fat replaced with vegetable oil, which is probably a whole post in itself and they add back the stuff that is a by product of butter making to the Mexican butter? The so called milk, is Nutrileche.

Fortunately, I found that the Aguas Caliente brand of Mexican butter proudly proclaims on it’s label, Pura de Leche de Vaca. It comes in these sausage looking rounds in two sizes and recently I found it in small 190 gram cubes. Back in 2011 when the Volvo met it’s demise, we started doing less shopping at Mega and more at Chedraui Itzaes. Chedraui started carrying a brand called, Selecto, and after reading the label on the mantequilla sin sal, unsalted butter, we changed to that. Recently, I bought a kilo block and made ghee. It seemed a little odd, and tasting it, it tasted salty! I pulled the wrapper out of the trash, horrified to think that I had carelessly bought salted butter instead of unsalted. I relaxed, the wrapper had the words sin sal written on it. My eyes fell upon the list of ingredients, there were three,cream,annatto, and salt! The next time we were in Chedraui shopping, I looked at every size of unsalted Selecto butter. There on the list of ingredients was salt! I have nothing against salt, but I don’t want it in my butter. I prefer to add it myself as needed.

Shortly thereafter, I was talking to Debi and the subject of butter came up. She confessed that she and Tom had a butter off. Looking for the best tasting Mexican butter. How clever! There winner was Alpura brand. Which is now the one we buy unless I find myself in a store that carries Aguascaliente.

 

 

About Theresa Diaz Gray

Born in New York City, I grew up in California, and have lived in 3 countries and 6 states. I'm a first generation Cuban-American who lives in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. I'm committed to living an abundant and creative life and helping others do so too through DIY!

19 comments

  1. I found your post by mistake, I should say that Aguascalientes is a brand from the city with that name. I live in Queretaro and rarely I bought milk derived products at supermarkets. The best ones are bought in small towns with local brands when they are made and are really fresh. Probably in the south you can get them so easy but you should look at “cremerias” in your city at the municipal market, just ask for fresh products.

    Most of them dont have elaborated labels, just the brand and what they are, just give at try and some are even a lot cheaper than comercial brands.

    • Charlie,
      I haven’t ever seen a cremeria at the municipal market, or even at the Casa del Pueblo, I think dairy is not a traditional food here because of the extreme heat. There are some lecherias that sell milk brought in from local dairies but they don’t stock cream or butter (I’ve asked).
      Things change though, so I will look again. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.
      regards,
      Theresa

  2. María José García Gómez

    Theresa, try Gloria Gourmet-Le Cordon Bleu, they’re exporting it to the US. Check these links:

    http://cremeria-americana.com.mx/index.html

    https://www.cordonbleu.edu/news/annoucement/en

    • María José ,
      I’ve never seen the Le Cordon Bleu in the supermarket here in Merida but I will keep an eye out for it. If they have it anywhere around it will be either in Chedraui Norte (Selecto) or the Superama. If I was in the USA I’d buy Clover since it’s local to where I used to live.

      regards,
      Theresa

  3. To me the answer to the problem is to make your own butter. If you have a food processor, it’s a piece of cake. You basically over beat cream and it turns to butter.

  4. I also am a fan of the Aguascalientes brand. We buy the cheese whenever we can. I also buy their crema. It is not an acidifacada type crema. Since we live in a small town, I generally have to wait until we go to the big city to buy this brand. I also buy Lyncott Untable butter. Also only found in big city!!

    • Susan,
      I wish we could get more Aguascaliente products. Merida is a pretty big city, over a million people but I think it’s just now getting more products from the rest of the Republic.

      My friend makes her own spreadable butter by mixing avocado oil with butter. Costco has the best price on the oil but several supermarkets also carry it.

      regards,
      Theresa

  5. Ahah! A butter post!!! Aguascalientes brand must have some persnickety people running it. Their yogurt is also the best in Mexico, in my humble opinion, but it’s hard to find. Call me silly, but I figured it was from its like-named city, and I’ve noticed it’s easier to find in the North than in Central or Southern Mexico.

    Milk with vegetable oil?!? Yuck!!!!! That sounds truly awful.

    As much as I love Mexico, there are certain things about gastronomy that I find lacking. For example, something labeled “Honey” will as often as not be flavored corn syrup. Yuck again!!! Ditto for maple syrup, though that’s a sin well-known NOB too, though here the government at least makes them label it “maple flavored.” And as far as I can tell, it’s also impossible to buy either half and half or light cream (a New England thing as far as I can tell). So I have to buy whipping cream (with stabilizers) and make my own. Frankly, when in Mexico, I usually just end up putting whole milk in my coffee, and that’s OK.

    But those are minor inconveniences. And where else can you order a glass of orange juice in a restaurant, and someone promptly cuts some oranges in half and juices them on the spot? There are offsets.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we have visions of smuggling butter, vinegars, bitters, and a few other such things across the border some day.

    • Kim,
      I have never seen Aguascaliente yoghurt. You’re probably right about it being from another part of Mexico.

      I’m making my own yogurt these days, I use Alpura natural as my starter. It’s the only brand that I’ve found without sugar or artificial sweeteners. It does have thickeners. I buy fresh milk either from the guy who comes in the Moo mobile (a small motorcycle cart that goes moo!) but he doesn’t come that often or at the lechería on C 69.

      I gave up on cream because of the stabilizers. I just use butter instead. Look up bulletproof coffee. I don’t use anywhere near the quantities of butter they use though!

      You can get Anchor butter here too. Also expensive.

      regards,
      Theresa

      • You make your own yoghurt! Wow! I used to do that, and it was WAY better than the store-bought stuff. But I haven’t made any in years, seems like too much of a hassle. But I’d imagine that in Mérida, you can mix it up and then just leave it on the counter, no? Or somewhere outside if you have a/c?

        The Aguascalientes yoghurt is liquid, and comes in smallish containers. But it’s much better than any of the other brands, much more creamy.

        Saludos,

        KG

        • Kim,
          The first time I ever made yogurt was when I lived in Las Vegas and left a glass of milk on the kitchen counter overnight. It really shocked me when I realized that the milk was solid, but I wasn’t brave enough to taste it though.

          My Merida technique is pretty similar. I heat milk until nata forms on the top (skim off and eat the nata). Let it cool to blood temp. I then add it to a couple of tablespoons of room temp plain yogurt, mixing well with a wooden spoon. I’m not really sure if the spoon needs to be wooden but I’m a little superstitious about it. Our bedroom temp is more or less 30 degrees year round so I cover it and put it in a corner of the room next to a wall.

          It’s plenty thick since I use whole milk. If I want a thicker yogurt, I drain it using cheesecloth and a strainer over a bowl. I used to add powdered whole milk to the heated milk but for some reason I can’t remember decided that it’s not something I want in my diet. I may have to revisit that decision.

          regards,
          Theresa

  6. After trying Mexican butters we now only use Kirkland unsalted butter from Costco. The Danish butter is supposed to be wonderful, but the price is not. How does the Alpura or the Aguascaliente butter taste vs the Danish? And which of the milk uses vegetable oil?????? I don’t read labels as closely as you do, perhaps it is time to start.

    • Joanne,
      I bought a small stick of the Danish butter from Superama the other day. We’ve been here so long that I was wondering if I had just forgotten what good butter tastes like. We compared the Alpura to it and we were happy with the Alpura. I also buy Kirkland but I hope that the Mexican butter has no hormones or the BHT stuff.

      The milk that has vegetable oil says so right across the front, I can’t remember the brand but printed on the front is some BS about not containing cholesterol. Next time I see it, I’ll take a photo.

      Reading labels is very depressing, it’s getting so I can’t buy anything already prepared because of all the additives. I know that they put starch (probably cornstarch) in tomato sauce to make it thicker but I prefer to have thinner sauce and no extra stuff.

      regards,
      Theresa

      • I’m not sure I’d hold my breath on the “BHT-free” idea. More likely that it’s used, but there’s no labeling requirement. That said, I don’t really know. But if I cared, I try to call a couple of dairies and ask.

        • Kim,
          Sometimes I am too overwhelmed to ask. I don’t want to know the answer. No telling where it would lead. I’ve kept goats, don’t really want to own a dairy cow or goats. There is a limit to even my DIY. I think it’s livestock.

          regards,
          Theresa

          ps: maybe ostriches aren’t so dumb after all?

          • Livestock, and car-repair, as I recall, are outside your “circle of DIY.”

            So I guess this means you have no chickens in the backyard? How un-Mexican of you!

            Saludos,

            KG

          • Kim,
            One of my daughters raised chickens and the other raised goats as 4-H projects, if I lived on a half acre or more,I would think about chickens because of the eggs. However, chickens are vicious dirty little creatures. I would never keep a rooster.
            The idea of making a chicken tractor intrigues me.

            regards,
            Theresa

    • The milk with vegetable oil is Nutrileche. I’m going to add that info to my post.

      regards,
      Theresa

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