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Using Salted or Unsalted Butter For Baking

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The age-old question: should you be Using Salted or Unsalted Butter For Baking? Here’s your answer!


Hi Bold Bakers!

I know this may seem like a no-brainer, but there is lots of question in the baking community about using salted or unsalted butter when baking. I’m here to drop some knowledge and clear things up for all you Bold Bakers who may be wondering if you can use the butter you have in the fridge or do you need to go out and get something different before you start baking things like Pie Crusts or Homemade Chocolate Croissants.

Well, guess what! I am not personally a purist when it comes to butter — you really can use both. Really!

Why I Use Salted Butter

A lot of bakers use unsalted butter so they can have more control over the total amount of salt used in a recipe. I, however, have always used salted butter in my baking while still adding whatever amount of salt is called for in a recipe. Unless your recipe calls for a great deal of butter, salted or unsalted won’t make or break the recipe. At the end of the day, it comes down to your personal preference, so feel free to use whichever type you prefer — and if you are on a low sodium diet, then absolutely use unsalted butter.

[ Get my Best-Ever Buttercream Frosting recipe! ]

My personal and unbiased opinion is that Kerrygold Irish butter is some of the best on the market, and is available worldwide. 

Are there recipes where you absolutely cannot swap them?

While I like having the control of using unsalted butter then adding in the salt on its own, you can swap unsalted for salted. If you do use salted butter just be aware of the salt the recipe calls for and adjust accordingly. If all you have salted butter, try cutting the instructed salt amount in half.

So no, there really isn’t an occasion where you can’t swap the two, as long as you stay aware!

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How long does butter last?

Both salted and unsalted store-bought butter will last up to 3 months in the fridge. Salted butter can last even longer as salt is a preservative. With this, keep in mind that unsalted butter is typically fresher. Also, I keep butter in the freezer for baking emergencies. 

How to store butter in the freezer

If wrapped up correctly, butter can be stored in the freezer for up to one year. For long-term storage wrap the butter tightly with cling wrap then again with foil and freeze. To use from frozen, set out to thaw at room temperature than used as directed.

Frozen butter just so happens to be the secret ingredient in my Easy Rough Puff Pastry recipe.

Can I store salted butter in room temperature?

If you like your butter on hand for spreading, greasing pans, and of course baking, it can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. I like to keep mine in a glass or ceramic butter dish with a lid to make sure it’s not out in the open air, but still at room temperature.

Why is salt used in sweet baking?

Some of you might be wondering if salt is even important and if it can be left out altogether. Well, believe it or not, the sweets we all love often have the tiniest bit of salt and it’s the ever-so-slight contrast here that our taste buds read as a depth of flavor. The salt should never be detected (and taste “salty”), but when used in the correct amount it really just further enhances all the sweetness and flavors of whatever you’re making.

Just as in savory cooking, salt is also a seasoning for your sweets treats.

Can you make your own salted/unsalted butter?

One of my most popular Bold Baking Basic recipes is for Homemade Butter. This rich homemade version is so easy to make and never fails to wow me. It is arguably better than store bought and can be made as salty as you like just by adding salt during the making process.

After You Make Butter, Try These Other Ingredients

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Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, and I’m passionate about sharing my years of experience to show you how to make game-changing baking recipes with over-the-top results! Join more than 1 Million other Bold Bakers in the community for new video recipes every week!

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26 Comments

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  1. Amber on April 20, 2019 at 9:40 am

    Thank you!!! I had this question earlier today.

  2. Ada Wynn on April 20, 2019 at 9:08 am

    It is my understanding that salted butter also holds a higher water content therefore making it slightly less desirable for baking.
    #rememberingosmosis

    • Gemma Stafford on April 21, 2019 at 5:04 am

      Hi Ada,
      haha! you are thinking! There is perhaps about 2% more water content in salted butter but this is inconsistent as the amount of salt added is now for flavor, rather than as a preservative, as it was to be in the past.
      It is a point, and perhaps it makes a difference in some recipes, though I have not noticed it.
      Gemma 🙂

  3. Laura Cooper on March 29, 2019 at 9:13 am

    I’ve always used salted butter, even in recipes calling for unsalted and wondered what cardinal rule of baking that I was breaking…. Lol… Glad to know it’s not that big of a deal.
    Also, my favorite sweet baked goods (I. E. Cookies) are the ones with a little crunch of discernible sea salt. Yum! I love chocolate with sea salt, too!

    • Gemma Stafford on March 31, 2019 at 3:30 pm

      me too! salt is a seasoning for both sweet and savory and sometimes we forget that.

      Gemma.

  4. Sheila on March 22, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    Tried the 3 ingr. peanut butter cookies before, so easy – and taste great! Why cook any other way? can’t wait to try the short breads and oatmeal cookies too!

    Thanks for the salted/unsalted butter info too. I always wondered on that one – was just going to leave out all the salt if the recipe called for it. I only buy salted! 🙂

    • Gemma Stafford on March 23, 2019 at 2:15 am

      Hi Sheila,
      That is good to hear, thank you, a simple thing for sure, but simple is not always bad.
      I did not know there was such a thing as unsalted butter when I was growing up! haha, salted was the first, and sometimes only, choice in Ireland back then. not now of course, all are available.
      Thank you for being in touch,
      Gemma 🙂

  5. Marie on March 20, 2019 at 10:35 pm

    I have always wondered about this. Thanks for the info.

    • Gemma Stafford on March 21, 2019 at 6:17 am

      Delighted you found it useful, Marie!

      I personally love salted.
      Gemma.

  6. Margaret on March 20, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    Hello Gemma from Cairns in Australia!
    My German Mum always I used cultured butter when I was a child, which was unsalted. What is the difference between cultured and regular butter? Danish butter can also be bought cultured so it seems to appeal to European taste.
    Love your recipes; I’m going to give the hot cross buns a go and your ice cream was a big hit with everyone I’ve made it for. I’ll be trying our summer mango (puréed) through a partial batch – yum.

    • Gemma Stafford on March 22, 2019 at 2:03 am

      Hi Margaret,
      what a lovely place to live! I hope the hovering cyclones do not get to you! that looks scary.
      cultured butter/clabbered butter was made from the cream which settled on the milk which was left to stand overnight where it naturally soured a bit (cultured naturally). This then gave the butter a particular nutty taste/slightly acid, and that was butter back then. Pasteurization changed this as now milk/cream will not naturally sour, but rather go bad. Buttermilk too, which one could happily drink, now has to be cultured, and is a different thing.
      Over time we have become used to the sweeter taste of uncultured butter, but farmers markets can be a place to find the original. Food regulation has changed things a lot, for better or worse, I am not too sure.
      I do hope you enjoy the hot cross buns, my mum bakes in the cross by making a thick flour and water paste and adding this to the tops before baking.
      Thank you for being in touch, sounds like you have the life!
      Gemma 🙂

  7. Sabrina on March 20, 2019 at 9:55 am

    Can I add the salt into the food processor so the salt will blend well?

    • Gemma Stafford on March 20, 2019 at 4:41 pm

      Hi, i’ve never tried that, but that’s a great idea!

  8. Sabrina on March 20, 2019 at 9:52 am

    What brand of full cream milk do you think yields the creamiest and tastiest butter

    • Gemma Stafford on March 20, 2019 at 4:42 pm

      Hi i just use a generic heavy cream, but i like Horizon dairy products.

  9. Sammy on March 20, 2019 at 7:32 am

    I used the regular salted butter in the vanilla cake and frosting but after baking and frosting the cake it turned too salty. I have used the same butter in non baked and cooked recipes but they never turned soo salty. Could you tell me where I’m going wrong?

    • Gemma Stafford on March 22, 2019 at 6:28 am

      Hi Sammy,
      I too use salted butter for all of my baking, it is minimal really, just cuts the sweetness of the buttercream usually. I think it is a question of taste! I do not think you can do anything about this one, but do share it, you may find that you are over critical of your baking. Perhaps for you the unsalted butter is a better choice for frosting, this is true for lots of people, it divides opinion!
      Gemma 🙂

  10. Mrs. Sista' on March 19, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    Personally Ms. Gemma, I like using Salted Butter.

    Maybe, I’m just imaging…but especially in my Pound Cakes…the taste is much…much better than ‘adding’…salt.

    But then….my brain and taste buds are a bit….er weird.

    • Gemma Stafford on March 21, 2019 at 6:05 am

      I’m right there with you! Salt is flavor and makes a huge difference in your baking.

      Best,
      Gemma.

  11. Meenakshi Vasanthan on March 19, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    Thank you Gemma for being very informative all the time🙏🏻🙏🏻☺☺☺💗💗💜💜

    • Gemma Stafford on March 21, 2019 at 6:06 am

      Delighted you liked this post 🙂

      Gemma.

  12. Tracy on March 19, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    Absolutely every recipe of yours has come out perfectly! My favorite part of the day is getting a new tip/trick from you. I make so many things from scratch that I didn’t even know we’re possible! Homemade heavy whipping cream? Not sure if that’s possible? Thanks!

    • Gemma Stafford on March 21, 2019 at 5:57 am

      Hi Tracy!

      Thanks for your lovely message. I really am delighted to hear that. I didn’t know they were possible either until I heard from the community that they couldn’t source all of the ingredients.

      The heavy cream is unfortunately just not possible. I get asked constantly and unless you live on a dairy farm then we have to use store bought.

      Hope this helps,
      Gemma.

  13. Kylie Lomas on March 19, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    In addition to what is above, you can also store butter at room temperature for up to a month when you use a butter bell. Just change the water every three days.

    • Gemma Stafford on March 19, 2019 at 6:14 pm

      Exactly! great point Kylie 🙂

    • Marie on March 20, 2019 at 5:28 am

      What is a water bell?

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