Differences Between Salted and Unsalted Butter and When to Use Them

sliced salted butter and butter knife

Salted and unsalted butter are very similar, but their slight differences can make each option a better choice for different types of recipes. Knowing what sets each type of butter apart is key when it comes to selecting the best option from the shelf. Here is an overview of the differences between salted and unsalted butter and the types of recipes each option tends to be best suited for!

Salted vs Unsalted Butter 

Simply put, salted butter is unsalted butter that has had salt added to it. Unsalted butter is closest to its natural form, while butter that has had salt added to it has several subtle but important differences to be aware of before adding a box to your shopping cart at the grocery store


Unsalted butter provides a smoother, creamier texture and taste, which makes it a delicious option for a wide range of uses. While both types of butter usually taste similar, the slight extra flavor of added salt tends to enhance and bring out the flavor of the bread or other food you are enjoying it with. This means that salted butter can be a somewhat more versatile option to add to a variety of your favorite savory recipes. 


If you are stocking up on butter that you plan to keep for a while, it can be a good idea to go with salted butter. Salt acts as a preservative, which can significantly extend the shelf life of your butter if you only use a little at a time or do not plan to use it right away at all.

Salted butter is generally good for approximately five months when kept in the refrigerator, while you may only be able to get unsalted butter to last for around three months. This also means that unsalted butter is often fresher in the store, which can give it a better taste even if you plan to eat it right away and are not concerned about how long it will keep. 

When to Use Salted and Unsalted Butter 

If you are not concerned about the shelf life of your butter, considering the type of recipes that you plan to use it for is another helpful step in determining which option will work best. As a general rule of thumb, salted butter tends to be the best choice for savory dishes, while unsalted butter works better for baked goods. 

When to Use Salted Butter 

Salted butter’s tendency to bring out the flavor of many savory foods makes it an excellent choice for cooking. This type of butter often works well for soups, pasta, vegetables, meats, spreading on bread, and other recipes that are less demanding about their exact salt content. 

When to Use Unsalted Butter 

Unsalted butter is generally the preferred option when baking. Its rich, creamy flavor tends to work better for sweet desserts than butter that might add a slight (but unwanted) salty flavor to this type of recipe. The neutral flavor of this type of butter makes it easier to consistently get the taste you want. This is especially true because it is impossible to know exactly how much salt a particular stick of salted butter will add to your recipe, which can impact the taste and texture of your baked goods.

The smoother texture of unsalted butter can also be somewhat easier to blend into your batter than the slightly rougher salted butter, which can help make baking more enjoyable. 

The differences between salted and unsalted butter are subtle enough that either option will work for most recipes, but knowing which option is the most compatible with what you are planning to make can help you choose the option that will produce tastier results!

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