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Recipe: Smen(Beurre Rance)

During our travels in Morocco, Evan and I encountered a local method of fermenting butter that’s traditionally buried in the ground in a sealed clay pot to age for long periods of time, some bury a pot on the day of a daughter’s birth and then dig it up to enjoy at her wedding. You don’t need to have a child or a wedding to enjoy the savory, salty butter and we decided to try it out here since our climate is similar to Morocco’s. A good friend of mine in Morocco, Nabil, helped us with the recipe and told us how its traditionally made. We only fermented our first batch for two months but the results were incredible.


  • 3 lbs room temp. natural unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbs salt
  • 1 1/2 cups dried thyme(or oregano)
  • 1 Tbs Mariola(optional)
  • 6 cups water
Smen Ingredients


  1. Allow butter to come to room temperature in large mixing bowl.
  2. Put dried herbs into a coffee filter or tea bag and add to saucepan with water. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
  3. Once steeped, discard herbs and allow to cool. Put ~1 cup of herb water to the side for later.
  4. Add salt and cooled herb water to butter. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Put the butter mix into two quart sized containers. Clay is best but glass works too.(No plastic.)
  6. Top butter with a little more salt and the reserved herb water. Close lids tightly.
  7. Bury jars in the ground(or put it somewhere dark and cool) and forget about it!
Harvested Mariola
Satchel of herbs
Herb boil
Salting the butter
Mixing in the herb tea
Burying the smen
Covering it up
Evan after digging up the smen
Ready to open
Had to taste it before getting a picture

We recently got quite a bit of rain and the area where we buried the smen was underwater so we took that as an opportunity for an easy extraction. The aroma upon opening was reminiscent of parmesan. The longer you let it age the more complex it becomes, like a fine cheese. We’ve been enjoying ours on warm tortillas, pasta, cooked with eggs, and basted on chicken(the options are endless).

Laura and Nabil in Morocco

Recipe courtesy of Nabil(thank you!)


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Laura Shaw

Owner of Terlingua Oasis Project

Former Bartender, Baker, Forager, Trail Guide, Cowboy, and Horse Trainer(which I’ve returned to part time).  I decided to lay down roots in the desert and help enact ecological and social change in the area by starting the Terlingua Oasis Project.

-Laura Shaw

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