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Smen Recipe - Moroccan Preserved Butter with Thyme or Oregano




Photo © Christine Benlafquih

Smen is a preserved Moroccan butter with a pungent, cheesy aroma. A small spoonful is usually sufficient for lending unique flavor to classic Moroccan dishes. Some Moroccans also enjoy it as a spread for bread.

Smen is fairly easy to make, but you'll want to allow a full month or longer for the butter to sit undisturbed in order to develop its characteristic flavor. The longer it sits, the more pungent it will become. Try using it in some of these traditional Moroccan recipes which call for smen.


The recipe below calls for za'atar (wild thyme) or oregano; also see the Plain Salted Smen Recipe. Have a clean glass or ceramic jar on hand for storing the smen.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 500 g (1 lb.) smen


  • 500 g (or 1 lb.) fresh unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 liter (2 cups) water
  • 1 tea glass (1/2 cup) dried za'atar (or dried oregano or thyme)
  • 2 tablespoons salt


1. Add the dried herbs to the water and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes. Pour the water through a strainer to remove the herbs and leave the water to cool to room temperature.

2. In a large bowl, knead the salt into the butter with your hands. Add the strained, cool water and continue kneading the mixture to ensure all of the butter is making contact with the water.

3. Strain the water from the butter, squeezing the butter to remove any excess. Place the butter in a clean glass or ceramic jar, pressing and packing it down to ensure there are no air pockets. Cover.

4. Leave the jar undisturbed in a cool, dark place (a cupboard is fine) for 30 days, or longer if you prefer more pungency. After opening, store the smen in the refrigerator.

An alternate method of making smen with herbs is to follow the clarified butter method described in the Plain Salted Smen Recipe, except that a few tablespoons of thyme or oregano are tied into a cheesecloth and simmered in the butter as it clarifies. The herbs are discarded and the butter is strained and salted as usual.

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