Homemade spoon oil
House & Home

Homemade Spoon Oil (Or As I Like to Call It, Spoon Butta!)

Around this time of year, I always feel a little dry. My lips are chapped, my hands are scaly, and my wooden spoons are looking thirsty after months of mixing and stirring. It’s the perfect time to whip out a jar of spoon oil and give everything a good rub-down.

Oiled wooden spoons and utensils

Just like your skin, which feels fabulous and smooth after some silky conditioning, your wooden utensils are healthier, sturdier, and lovelier after a swipe of some spoon oil (sometimes called wood butter). The mixture helps protect the wood from splits and cracks, and regular oiling offers a layer of water resistance. I often oil up my entire collection of wooden utensils when my hands are dry and overworked — usually early winter and late spring — because spoon oil hydrates your skin as well!

A lot of spoon oils are a mixture of mineral oil and a hard wax (usually carnauba or beeswax). Mineral oil is known as a non-drying oil, meaning it washes away easily because it never cures. While it’s wonderful for wooden cutting boards, where repeated application helps the oil sink into the layers of pores and cracks to condition the wood, it’s less effective on wooden utensils that are constantly washed with soap.

My spoon oil (or as I like to call it, spoon butta!) is a mixture of walnut oil and beeswax. Walnut oil is known as a drying oil. That means it absorbs into the wood and then cures, or hardens. It gives the wood a satiny sheen that stands up to repeated use. The beeswax adds another layer of protection and waterproofness. Together, they give new life to your parched wooden implements in a natural, effective, and food-safe way.

Behold the before and after…

Before and after wood conditioning

Walnut oil is also a good alternative for people who want to avoid mineral oil, a petroleum by-product. I feel this is a matter of personal preference, as I still use mineral oil on my cutting boards… sometimes you just have to pick your battles. Since I don’t cook (heat things) on my cutting board, I feel the exposure is minimal.

While you can use my homemade spoon butta for your cutting boards as well, I actually don’t because walnut oil will cure. While this sounds ideal, theoretically it means repeated application of walnut oil will simply build on top of each other, so the oil isn’t able to absorb and fully sink in to a thicker cutting board. I have a beautiful butcher block that’s nearly 15 years old now and has always been conditioned with mineral oil, so I’m sticking with that.

As for rancidity, walnut oil is highly resistant to oxidation (it’s used by many woodworkers for this reason) and the spoon butta will keep for at least a year at moderate room temperature. If you’re not able to source walnut oil, you can use another edible oil that’s high in linoleic acid (the property that causes it to cure) such as sunflower oil, though it’s more prone to going rancid. To prolong the shelf life of any oil, you can add the contents of a vitamin E capsule to your spoon butta.

Keep a jar in the kitchen for not only spoons, but for your hands as a natural moisturizer too! I like to leave a jar on my counter just for this purpose (but always remember to reach in with clean fingers). Use twice a year on all kinds of wooden implements, but your go-to spoons should get buttered up every couple of months.

Homemade Spoon Oil (Or As I Like to Call It, Spoon Butta!)

Makes 1 pint

Ingredients

8 fluid ounces walnut oil
1/8 pound beeswax, cut into chunks (or 2 ounces beeswax pastilles)
1 vitamin E capsule (optional)

Method

A block of beeswax and a bottle of walnut oil to make spoon butter

Any brand of walnut oil will work; I simply use what’s available in my local store. I also use a wide-mouth canning jar to make it easier to scoop from.

Pour the walnut oil and beeswax into a pint-sized glass jar, then place the jar in a saucepan filled with 2 to 3 inches of water. Heat the jar over medium heat, stirring until the oil and wax are well mixed. (I use one of my wooden spoons to get ahead of the game!) You want the water to be simmering, not boiling.

Combine walnut oil and beeswax in pint jar

Stir walnut oil and beeswax until melted

When the mixture has liquefied, remove the jar from the pan. If using, break the vitamin E capsule and squeeze the oil into the mixture. Stir to combine, then wipe down your stirring spoon to ensure it’s evenly coated with the spoon oil.

Walnut oil and beeswax

Allow the spoon oil to cool before using; it will thicken and solidify to a balmy texture. When you’re ready to start spoon-buttering, simply swipe a (clean) spoonful or fingerful of the butta onto your wooden spoons, handles, and other utensils and give them a good rub-down. Let the oil absorb overnight, then buff out any excess oil the next day with a soft rag.

Homemade wood butter

Homemade spoon butta makes a thoughtful gift for an avid cook, so divvy up the recipe between two half-pint jars for two of your favorite people!

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  • Emily Meyer

    Hi. Great article. I just bought bamboo utensils, and I think I will try your butta on them. Concerning cutting boards, I also bought a couple of bamboo cutting boards. They are quite thin, no where near what I would call a “chopping block.” (The brand is “Bambu,” their “undercut” series.) Do you think the butta would be ok on a thinner board? Thank you!

  • Jo Beth Harlan

    Have you ever used an oil other than walnut oil? My husband is allergic to walnut. I’m going to try it and see if he reacts, but it would be good to know of an alternate oil that would work with the beeswax. Thanks!

    • I personally have not, but you can certainly use another drying oil. Unfortunately, these drying oils are nut oils, such as boiled linseed and tung. This may or may not work for you if your husband is allergic to all nuts. Alternatively, you can just use a vegetable oil for your spoon butter. Since vegetable oils don’t dry, they’re more of a wood conditioner and not a wood finish. It just means you’ll have to condition your wood more frequently, since a soap and water scrub will wash away the oil.

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  • santiagobenites

    Thanks so much for sharing your expertise regarding the making of spoon butter. I especially appreciated how you made the distinction between different oils and described their specific properties and applications. I’m definitely adding you to my favorites list!

    • Thank you for reading my blog! I’m glad you’ve found something useful here!

  • Kitty Auvil

    I was reading your post about oiling wooden spoons. I am carving some for myself and maybe to sell. They are not treated with anything yet, the wood is smooth and hard. I wondered about the walnut oil and using walnut for the wood. Will it cause nut allergies? Any ideas, I have put many days in making them and want them done right.

    • It’s hard to say. Most nut allergies come from peanuts, which are actually legumes and not nuts at all. But tree nut allergies are out there. I know that a protein in walnut causes the allergy, but as to how potent that protein is once it’s cured in your spoons (or whether it still exists if you’re using heated or treated walnut oil) is something you have to consider. If you do use it, I think a warning that your products are finished with walnut oil would be a good idea.

      • Kitty Auvil

        Thank you kindly for the information, during the research I found some allergy issues so I will sell spoons that are natural and the owner may choose an oil. I have always used beeswax alone, but like your recipe for me 🙂 thanks

  • sara

    I wish I had read your post before going to Ikea. I purchased this walnut oil, but read it was roasted and had ground walnut shell in it. Not sure whether to purchase plain walnut oil(if it’s different), I happened upon Skydd(Ikea’s brand of mineral oil) for only $5 for a 17oz bottle.

    Oh well…I’ll try it for my butta and save the other for food considering you can’t really eat mineral oil.

    • The Skydd will likely last you a long time, but for future reference, food-grade mineral oil is often sold in the beauty aisle of a drugstore for much less than the mineral oil sold as wood conditioner. The only difference between the two is that manufacturers will sometimes add essential oils or other things to their wood conditioning mineral oil. It’s more about marketing than functionality.

      • sara

        Thank you.

      • sara

        Since you used roasted walnut oil, did you have any problems with the walnut grains?

        • If you’re referring to the roasted walnut oil from La Tourangelle, I believe the oil is filtered, as I didn’t see any sediment floating around before or after heating.

          • sara

            Thanks.

  • John

    Nice spoon collection! I’m looking around for something to put on a outdoorsy wooden knife handle and am thinking of doing something similar to what you did with the walnut oil and beeswax, what would you say the texture or ‘grippyness’ of the spoons are after applying the finish? Are they slick or grippy or not much difference either way? I don’t want the knife handle to be slippery or anything like that. Thanks a bunch for any help.

    • It feels silky/velvety, but not slick.

  • Kristina

    Hi! I was wondering if you have used spoon butta for bamboo utensils or cutting boards?

    • Yes, it works great on bamboo!

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  • Beth

    I’ve got a block of beeswax, what method do you use to cut off the desired amount? I just did it with a warm knife, but it was extremely difficult. Thanks.

    • I use a large chef’s knife; I make a few cuts as far as the knife will go, then break off the pieces with my fingers.

  • Rozzie Mistry

    This clearly makes a big difference! Thanks for the recipe 🙂 Can I ask where you got your gorgeous spoon collection from? I love the flecks of darker wood in them.

    • Those were collected on my travels through Vietnam. I haven’t been able to find any like them here in the States, which is unfortunate because I need to replace a few of the well-worn ones!

      • Rozzie Mistry

        That’s a shame you haven’t been able to replace them. I’ve never seen anything like them here in the UK before either. Oh well, I was considering Vietnam as a travel destination for my next adventure, so I might yet be able to pick something up! 🙂

        • Most of those were purchased from the market stalls at Cho Lon (the main market in Saigon). I’m long overdue for another trip out there. 🙂

          • Rozzie Mistry

            Thanks for that! I’ll have a wee look at the possibility of visiting Cho Lon. I’m also considering Bali, but I reckon they’d have similar gorgeous crafted things to buy too.

  • extravagantgardens@gmail.com

    Thanks for a great homemade recipe. I’ve always rubbed my spoons and knife handles down with olive oil, but I’ll try this now.

    Caroline

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