Difference between Salted and Unsalted Butter in Baking

January 14, 2017 by Editorial Team

How much time do you spend staring at the dairy section trying to decide whether to pick salted or unsalted butter? If it takes you only a few seconds, good for you! If it takes you longer, don’t worry. Many are confused about whether to use salted or unsalted butter in baking. If you are one of them, then this article is for you. In this article, the difference between salted and unsalted butter will be discussed.

Descriptions

The name says it all. Salted butter is a type of butter that contains brine or granular salt. The purpose of the added salt is to improve the taste and prolong the shelf life of the butter.

It is important to note that the type and level of salt added to the butter vary depending on the brand. Because of this, you will be unable to determine exactly how much salt you are putting into your recipes and it will be hard to tell how salty your product is until you actually taste it.

Since salt acts as a preservative, salted butter has a long shelf life of about 4 to 5 months as long as it is in the refrigerator. Additionally, salted butter contains a high amount of water, so baked goods made with this type of butter are slightly spongy. Salt can sometimes alter the taste and odor of the product as well.

Salted butter is a versatile product. Aside from being used in baking, it is also widely used as a bread spread or as an oil substitute in frying and sauteing. Unsalted butter does not alter the flavor and makes the natural tastes of the product to come through, which is why most baking recipes call for it.

Unsalted butter is a type of butter that contains no salt. It is easily perishable and stores for only a month or two. However, some brands may add other elements like lactic acid to butter to improve its taste and prolong its shelf life.

Because unsalted butter does not contain salt, you have the freedom and ability to control the amount of salt in baked products made with butter. You will be able to guesstimate how salty your product is without actually tasting it. If you want to achieve that “buttery” taste in your recipe (like butter cookies) it is best to use unsalted butter. Unsalted butter contains a small amount of water, so the baked product will be firm.

Comparison

As their names suggest, salted butter contains salt whereas unsalted butter does not contain salt. Using unsalted butter in baking will give you the freedom to control the level of salt in your recipes, which is almost impossible to do when you are using salted butter.

In baking, using salted butter may result in a slightly spongy crumb since it contains a higher amount of water than unsalted butter. Salted butter may also alter the taste and odor of the baked product because of the presence of salt. Using unsalted butter allows the natural flavors to come through.

Moreover, the salt content in salted butter acts as a preservative, which is why salted butter stores longer (4-5 months) than unsalted butter (1-2 months).

Comparison Chart

Salted ButterUnsalted Butter
Contains added salt (either brine or granular salt)Does not contain any salt but some brands may contain lactic acid
When using salted butter in baking, you will be unable to determine the exact amount of salt added to the mixture since the level of salt varies per brandUsing unsalted butter in baking allows you to control the level of salt added to the recipe
May create slightly spongy crumbs since salted butter contains more waterContains little water and creates firm crumbs
Salt content may alter the taste and odor of the product; used in baking, cooking, or as an instant bread spreadAllows natural flavors to come through; is commonly used in baking recipes
Longer shelf life (if stored in the refrigerator, lasts for 4-5 months)Easily perishable (if stored in the refrigerator, lasts for 1-2 months)