How much salt to add into unsalted butter to make it salted?

In this brief guide, we will answer ‘how much salt to add into unsalted butter to make it salted?’ Also, we will see some differences between salted and unsalted butter and settle down which is the best option.

How much salt to add into unsalted butter to make it salted?

The amount of salt in salted butter varies from brand to brand. Typically salted butter contains 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of unsalted butter. At home, you may add ¼ teaspoon of salt for every stick or ½ cup of unsalted butter to make it salted. According to the US Department of Agriculture, there are 4 types of butter: salted, unsalted, whipped and clarified. The salted butter should contain less than 2% salt, while unsalted butter does not contain salt and is good for those who have to control salt ingestion. Whipped butter has better speradability due to its by air increased volume. Clarified butter can be heated to higher temperatures, because it has been removed from water and milk solids (1).

Does adding salt to unsalted butter make a textural difference?

Yes, you may experience some textural differences depending on how you used the butter. If you have added salt in cold butter there is a possibility that the salt will still remain undissolved leaving behind a crumbly or grainy end product. If butter is not shaken sufficiently during the manufacturing process, then water droplets that contain salt may reside on the surface of the butter. As the water evaporates, salt in the form of white crystals remains on the surface of the butter, changing the texture (3).

Similarly, if you add large grain salt like kosher salt to the butter, you may experience the same texture difference. Therefore, it is advised to use room temperature butter along with fine table salt.

How is butter made?

Butter is made from milk fat in cream and contains about 80% milkfat, 18% water and 2% solids (proteins and salt). The process goes like this: Pasteurized cream is shaken or churned until the milk fat (butterfat) separates from the remaining fluid, which is known as buttermilk. After churning, the butter is rinsed, if making unsalted butter and salted, if making salted butter while the excess buttermilk is removed (1).

Why is there salt in butter?

Salt is added to the butter to make the butter salty. This in turn also makes the dish salty. Salt is added as a natural preservative that increases the shelf life of butter. Salted butter is produced by adding salt in the unsalted butter in the buttermaking process. Salt, as well as its role in the taste, preserves the product and extends the shelf-life – the average shelf-life of salted butter is five months when refrigerated while this period is three months in unsalted butter (4). 

However, it is suggested to keep your salted or unsalted butter in the refrigerator to preserve its quality and taste. You can also place the butter in the freezer to further extend its shelf life.

Can you substitute unsalted butter with salted butter?

Yes, you may substitute unsalted butter with salted butter. All you have to do is add the same amount of salted butter as the recipe called for unsalted butter and simply decrease the amount of salt that you will further use. The average salt content of sodium per 10 g serving is 80 mg. This corresponds to 8 mg of sodium for 1 g butter (4).

Suppose, the recipe called for a stick or 1 cup of butter then you may decrease ¼ teaspoon of salt from your recipe.

Other measurements to determine the substitution

Amount of butterAmount of salt
One tablespoon15.6 milligrams
Half a stick62.5 milligrams
One cup¼ teaspoon
One block1 teaspoon

Is there any difference in taste?

Unsalted butter has a totally different flavor profile compared to salted butter. Salted butter tastes a bit salty while unsalted butter carries a more flavourful profile and is a bit sweet in nature. The presence of ‘‘grittiness’’ or ‘‘grit’’ (undissolved salt) can be detected most easily by biting gently between the molars. If undissolved salt is present, a gritty effect is usually noticed at once (3).

Salted butter enhances the taste of foods as the salt bring out not only the butter flavor, but the other flavors that are in the food (4).

Unsalted butter is the purest form of milkfat, hence, a sweet and prominent flavor profile. Unsalted butter is also known for its sweet mellow taste and creamy texture.

Which butter is more widely used?

Chefs all over the world prefer unsalted butter over salted. So do the majority of cookbooks. Why is that? Simple, using unsalted butter lets you capture the natural essence or flavor profile of the dish. They prefer unsalted butter over salted as it lets the chef have more defined control over the amount of salt added to the dish.

Unsalted butter is a must while baking. Whether you want to make brownies or a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies, each recipe you’ll find will call for unsalted butter. Despite letting chefs have control over the all-over flavor profile of a dish, its sweet mellow and creamy taste goes well with all types of baked goods. Some culinary applications require unsalted butter and many consumers demand and use unsalted butter, exclusively (3).

Which butter is better – salted or unsalted?

Despite being so delicious, generally speaking, butter is not healthy. Butter is mostly milk fat that when eaten will only increase your risk of a number of health diseases.

However, if used in moderation it will possess no harm. Still, the question remains, salted butter or unsalted? I’ll say opt for unsalted butter as this way you will restrict your overall sodium intake. For longer periods of storage, it is necessary to use salted butter. A controlled study showed that the addition of salt had enhancing effects on the oxidative processes of butter, that is, lipolysis, which triggers the accumulation of free fatty acids, causing off-flavors described as rancid,butyric, bitter, unclean, soapy or astringent (2).

Other FAQs about Salt that you may be interested in.

Does salt water taffy go bad?

Does sea salt expire?

How long do you smoke salt?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered ‘how much salt to add into unsalted butter to make it salted?’ Also, we have seen the difference between salted and unsalted butter. Hopefully, you find this guide helpful and informative. In case of any queries or comments please do let us know.

Citation

  1. Francis, W. New Infographic Spreads the Word about Butter Grading. US Department of Agriculture. 2021.
  2. Méndez-Cid, Francisco J., et al. Changes in the chemical and physical characteristics of cow’s milk butter during storage: Effects of temperature and addition of salt. J. Food Compos. Anal, 2017, 63, 121-132.
  3. Bradley R.L., Smukowski M. (2008) Butter. In: Clark S., Costello M., Drake M., Bodyfelt F. (eds) The Sensory Evaluation of Dairy Products. Springer, New York, NY. 
  4. Akan, Ecem, Oktay Yerlikaya, and ÖZER KINIK. Importance of salt in dairy products and sodium reduction strategies in food and dairy products. Agro Food Ind Hi-Tech, 2017, 28.