Salted Butter Versus Unsalted Butter

Kitchen Knowledge Lifestyle | Published November 12, 2019 by Mimi Council

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Now that baking season is fully underway, I thought I'd write a post about one of the top baking ingredients — butter. Specifically the debate of salted butter versus unsalted butter. Can you use salted butter when it calls for unsalted butter, or do you have to run to the store and buy unsalted butter? And, can you use unsalted butter if that's all you have — and a recipe calls for salted butter?

For more kitchen knowledge, check out some of my other posts like 5 Easy Tips to Improve Your Bakes, Easy Egg Replacers for Baking, or Should You Cook Pie Filling Before Baking?

butter on a plate on the counter

Most baking recipes on the internet will tell you to use unsalted butter. However, most of those recipes clearly have salt in them. And, if you bake any of the recipes on my blog or in my books, then you know I prefer to use salted butter.

I have always just used salted butter for baking because it's the only butter my mom bought growing up. Plus, when I lived on my own, I didn't want to have to buy two different types of butter — one for eating and one for baking. So, I am going to answer your questions about salted butter versus unsalted butter.

Salted Butter Versus Unsalted Butter

So what really is the difference? It's pretty simple — salt. While salted butter has the salt added for you, unsalted butter doesn't have any salt. One of the main reasons I bake with salted butter is I learned to bake when I was young, and that was the only butter we had in our house! My mom refused to purchase unsalted butter, probably because she wasn't a baker. And, who wants to eat unsalted butter on their bread? No thank you.

So, I used what we had, salted butter. And then when I moved out of my parents house, I felt the same way. Why would I buy two different types of butter? It seemed unnecessary. So, I have always developed my recipes to use salted butter for ease and convenience for myself.

There is no right or wrong way to use butter, as long as you end up with a finished product that you are happy with and want to eat. People may call for unsalted butter in recipes because it can be more of a control than salted butter, as there is no rules to how much salt is added into salted butter from brand to brand. But, the general consensus is about ¼ teaspoon of salt per half cup of butter. And, if you are consistently buying the same brand, then I believe you can use whatever kind you want as you'll get to know how it tastes in recipes. I use the same butter pretty much every time I develop and make a recipe so I know I can count on it.

Can you use unsalted butter if a recipe calls for salted butter?

If a recipe calls for salted butter, and you only have unsalted then it would be fine to substitute it for the unsalted. However, you should adjust the amount of added salt in the recipe to be more, because of the lack of salt in the butter. I recommend adding ¼ teaspoon of salt for every half cup of unsalted butter. This a minor change that will make a big difference in your final product!

Can you use salted butter if a recipe calls for unsalted butter?

If a recipe calls for unsalted butter, and you have salted butter, then you must do the same thing but remove some of the added salt in the recipe so you don't end up with something that is too salty or inedible. Use the same ratio here, if you are using salted butter where it calls for unsalted butter, then remove ¼ teaspoon of salt for every half cup of butter in the recipe. It's that simple.

Don't be stressed out by the description of butter in a recipe, and don't let it discourage you from making the recipe because you have the wrong kind of butter. But do pay attention to it, and adjust your recipe whenever needed. Then you can feel free to purchase the kind of butter that you prefer, no matter what!

butter sticks stacked up on the counter

My Favorite Organic Butter

The butter I love is organic salted butter, and it's what I call for in all my recipes that use butter! My favorite brand is Organic Valley Salted Butter, that's is my top pick. If you can get this one then I highly recommend it!

My second favorite butter is the Kirkland Organic Salted Butter — yes, from Costco! Costco does a great job at making organic products. It may seem like you don't want to buy from them since they are so large, but to be honest, Costco sources out all their private label to other companies. Some of which could be small or big, and they have high standards. So, I find that so many of their organic products really taste amazing. This is what I buy if I can't get Organic Valley!

I also really love Straus Family Creamery European Style Organic Lightly Salted Butter. This is a more decadent butter and I really enjoy this when I'm eating butter like on toast or making a sauce with it.

butter boxes on counter

The Takeaway

In conclusion, the only difference between salted butter and unsalted butter is salt. You can use unsalted butter whenever it calls for salted butter in a recipe, just add ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt per half cup of butter. If a recipe calls for unsalted butter, you should not use salted butter in its place unless you reduce the amount of added salt in the recipe.

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