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Salted or Unsalted: Which Butter Should I Use When?

When you go to the grocery store to buy butter, do you ever wonder why it comes in both salted or unsalted varieties and which one to use in your cooking and baking? 

I sure used to! But after working on hundreds of recipes using Land O Lakes® Butter, I’ve got a deeper understanding of which one to use when I’m in the kitchen. 

The dairy in both salted and unsalted butter leaves a smooth, creamy feeling in the mouth that no oil can match. So what’s the main difference between the two? 

Both butters are made of the very same Grade AA quality butter, but salted butter has salt added to it. That’s it! Both salted and unsalted butter can be used interchangeably in any recipe. You really can’t go wrong with either one, but if the recipe calls specifically for unsalted butter, it’s probably because the recipe has been tested with it and it’s the preferred butter for that particular recipe. 

There are a few reasons why you may want to choose one over the other, so here’s where you’ll want to pay attention: 

Unsalted butter gives you, the cook, complete control of the overall flavor of your recipe. This is especially important in certain baked goods where the pure, sweet cream flavor of butter is key (like in butter cookies or pound cakes), or in cooking to let the real, natural flavor of your foods come through. Have you ever noticed that some recipes call for using unsalted butter and then to add salt? Without the added salt in the unsalted butter, the pure sweet cream taste comes through and you can add the exact amount of salt you want in the recipe.

Salted butter is all-purpose, and perfect for spreading on bread, topping veggies and pasta and using in recipes where you are not looking to have so much control over the amount of salt in a recipe. Maybe the salted butter will even add a little something special! Try adding a pat of salted butter to your morning bowl of oatmeal…it really takes it from an ordinary boring breakfast to a delicious treat that’s still healthy. After all, a teaspoon of butter only has 4 grams of fat, and it adds great flavor!


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• Comments •

if the cookie recipe does not specify unsalted, is it ok to use salted? I am always nervous as I don't want my cookies to taste like pretzels, but I never seem to have unsalted on hand. help? lol

Posted Nov 14 2015 by bonnie
Test Kitchen Comment


Hi Bonnie - you can use whatever type of butter you have on hand. Happy baking!
Posted November 16, 2015

I think the bottom line here is: you can always add salt, you can't take it out. If you can't tell the difference, then that's all the more reason to use unsalted butter; why add sodium to your diet for no noticeable reason? Plus, you have no idea how much salt is in salted butter, so you don't know if it's too much or if you need to add more.

Posted Dec 17 2014 by Devlin

And now I have the "rest of the story"
I'll stick with unsalted because I make
a wicked pound cake.

By the way, oatmeal cooked my way is
only delicious, not boring.

Have a great day.

Posted Jun 27 2014 by Thomas

I can't find anywhere on your site that tells the amount of salt to add or eliminate from a recipe if you want to substitute salted for unsalted butter - or vice versa. It's too late for me, but please add this information somewhere for the next person. Thank you.

Posted Feb 28 2014 by La

Recipe called for salt and butter. I used the salted butter and the cookies were so salty I could not eat them. I recently made them again with unsalted butter and they were very good.

Posted Nov 29 2013 by Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was always told that salt was added to butter to help preserve it and help it last longer before spoiling. What does Land-O-Lakes lab say?

Posted Sep 30 2013 by Len

Can I use salted butter in place of salted?

Posted Jul 15 2013 by Becky
Test Kitchen Comment


Yes, salted butter can be used interchangeably with unsalted butter in recipes. In some recipes using unsalted butter has a clearer taste of sweet cream butter but in most recipes either works well.
Posted July 17, 2013

The cookie recipe calls for salted butter and I only have salted. How much salt should I add to compensate?

Posted May 30 2012 by Pam
Test Kitchen Comment


A cookie recipe can be made using salted butter or unsalted butter without making any ingredient amount adjustments. The recipe will be just fine whether you use either one.
Posted July 02, 2012

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