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Salted or Unsalted: Which Butter Should I Use When?

Salted or Unsalted: Which Butter Should I Use When?

By Kim
May 01, 2012
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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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The comment was very helpful in deciding whether to use salted or unsalted butter when making my chocolate peanut butter chip cookies. Thank you so much.

Posted March 25, 2016 by Anna Popowski
Test Kitchen Comment
From: Mallory
Glad we could help, Anna! Happy baking!
Posted April 11, 2016

I'm making brioche bread in a bread maker. The recipe calls for unsalted butter but I bought salted butter. Should I reduce the salt in the recipe from 3/4 to 1/2 a teaspoons. Hoping you can help. Thanks

Posted March 19, 2016 by Linda
Test Kitchen Comment
From: Mallory
Hi Linda, you don't need to reduce the salt in the bread. Salted butter will work interchangeably in the recipe. Hope this helps!
Posted April 11, 2016

I keep both in the house all the time. A piece of toast with unsalted butter is just not right. But add Salted Butter and its perfect. When baking and adding the salt with like the recipe calls for the unsalted butter is perfect. Why choose one or the other, when you could have both!

Posted March 02, 2016 by Alicia

Should I use salted or unsalted butter for a maple walnut fudge recipe? It does not specify and no other salt is listed.

Posted February 11, 2016 by Rachel
Test Kitchen Comment
From: mallory
Hi Rachel, you can use whichever you prefer. If you use unsalted, no additional salt is needed in the recipe - it will just have a more subtle flavor. If you use salted, it will help to bring out the flavor of the maple a bit more. Hope this helps!
Posted February 11, 2016

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 November 14, 2015 by bonnie
Test Kitchen Comment
From: mallory
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 December 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 June 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 February 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 November 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 September 30, 2013 by Len

Can I use salted butter in place of salted?

Posted July 15, 2013 by Becky
Test Kitchen Comment
From: Cindy
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
From: Cindy
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