Salted vs. Unsalted Butter

I am curious as to why you always state (on TV show) to use salted butter. All other cooking shows are virtually unanimous in recommending using unsalted butter so as to control the amount in any dish. Can you explain your logic in being so different?


  • Thanks for your question. Yes, we are different from what you will usually hear from other cooking professionals. Here at Milk Street we experimented with using both salted and unsalted butter in both savory and baking recipes. The overall opinion was that the small amount of salt in the butter was undetectable in the recipes. Since salted butter has the advantage of extending the butters shelf life, it also makes it a good choice for home cooks who may not use butter all that often. Even though conventional wisdom is to use unsalted we have decided it really doesn’t make a difference. If you have unsalted at home, it should work just as well in our recipes. If you are concerned, add a pinch of salt to the recipe for good luck.

    Hope this helps. 

    Deb at Milk Street

  • One other thought. We do feel that using salted butter in a savory recipe is slightly different than just adding salt to a recipe. We think that it provides a better foundation for the dish. However, this has not been tested side by side so we cannot confirm that this is true. I also strongly suggest that you purchase a high quality high butterfat content butter and I also like a well-salted butter - some of them are "lightly" salted which does not cut it when spread on bread or toast. The higher butterfat brands really do make a difference -the texture is richer, silkier and the mouthfeel is better.

  • Since salted butter has the advantage of extending the butters shelf life

    I agree that that should be true but with my experience I disagree. I had two sticks of butter, same brand put out at the same time one salted, one not, same type of dish. They got hid by something and sat way to long. When I discovered them, the salted was rancid the unsalted was not.

  • how old is butter when it goes rancid?

  • Hi Sally - the box that your butter comes in actually has a date by which your butter should remain fresh. If you don't go through butter quickly, I would recommend freezing some and leaving a stick or two in the fridge. To remind yourself, you can write the date from the box on the stick but, keep in mind, that if you open the packaging it will go bad faster. Generally speaking, the date on the box will be about four months from when it was packaged. However it's unlikely that box will get to you immediately after it's packaged so I'd say it's probably less than four months. Hope that answers your question! Best, Lynn C.

  • You mention using high butterfat, what would that percentage be? And if a package does not specify then better to move to another or are most European butters higher in butterfat then the USA? I just made croissants for the first time and they are fantastic except I should have spend more time thinking about which butter.

  • A good butterfat content has to be at least 82% although a really top quality European butter (there are also some very good American producers now as well) might be 85% plus. The typical mass market supermarket domestic butters run around 81%. You might not think this makes much of a difference but if you melt a supermarket mass market butter next to a high butterfat brand, you will see a big difference. And, yes, it matters in baking when you are dealing with any sort or puff pastry or croissant. This is a good link for butterfat and brand comparisions. https://www.sfgate.com/recipes/article/When-Put-to-the-Test-Here-s-How-Butter-Brands-3236719.php

  • That was a great article! I loved the chart. Especially since most brands don’t list fat percent, moisture and milkfat solids. Thank you

  • For your Swedish sticky chocolate cake, how much additional salt should I add if I use unsalted butter to make this (instead of salted as called for in the recipe)?

  • Hi Gail - This cake would probably be fine without any additional salt as long as you use the 1/2 teaspoon called for in the recipe. I doubt you would notice it being under seasoned. If you still would like to add more salt to mimic the salted butter, I'd say 1/4 teaspoon more would probably be pretty close to the salt level if you made the cake with salted butter. Good luck! Best, Lynn C.

  • Decades ago, A friend of the family, who happened to be a farmer with dairy cows, told me in a discussion that it is much better to buy unsalted butter. The reason she said was you get the top of the line butter fat as the quality/content goes down the markets add salt to improve flavor.

    I didn’t know anything about butter nor did I know anything about the production side of butter but that stuck with me. Does anybody have any nuggets like this? I have researched it to no avail.

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