Can You Use Salted Butter For Cookies?

We’ve all had that experience when we were ready to make a cookie recipe and wondered whether we could use salted butter because that was all we had in the fridge.

When you came to that realization and you went to the supermarket to buy some unsalted butter that day, then you probably thought that there was no way you could make your cookies with salted butter. But is that so?

Unsalted butter is commonly used in baking recipes for cookies, however, both unsalted and salted butter can be purchased from your local supermarket without any specific instructions on what they can be used for.

Whenever an amateur baker goes for the butter and realizes that it is salted rather than unsalted, he or she most probably despairs.

What follows is a series of questions that they ask themselves, like “can I bake cookies using salted butter or will I end up baking salty cookies?”

Continue reading for the answer as well as some butter facts. Yes, you read that right: butter facts!

Can I Bake My Cookies With Salted Butter?

Let us tell you right away that no, if you take our recommendations, you will not bake salty cookies. It is possible to bake your cookies with salted butter as the main ingredient, but you should reduce or eliminate the amount of added salt called for in the recipe.

Many folks online would tell you that it’s “safer to use unsalted butter” when making cookies, and although this is technically correct, I guarantee you that most of the time (if not always), your cookies will turn out great even if you mistakenly use salted butter instead of unsalted.

The Differences Between Salted And Unsalted Butter

Now that you know there are two types of butter, you might be wondering why that is so. So, it is time to distinguish between these two to ensure that we are all on the same page, as there are some extra variables other than the salt concentration.

To begin with, as its name suggests, there is no salt in unsalted butter. This means that it also has a reduced shelf life, while its flavor is subtle and sweet.

On the other hand, each salted butter stick contains around 1/4-1/3 tsp of salt, which obviously gives it a stronger and saltier flavor. Moreover, thanks to the preserving qualities of salt, salted butter lasts longer when kept under the right temperatures at home.

Salted butter can be used in a variety of ways, including as a spread for toasts and sandwiches or in recipes that ask for a salty and sharp flavor.

Why Is Unsalted Butter Necessary In Many Cookie Recipes?

Unsalted butter is frequently called for in cookie and pastry recipes. Maybe this is puzzling for some, especially when those very same recipes have ‘salt’ noted down in their list of ingredients you need to use.

The reason behind this is that by using unsalted butter, you can better track how much salt you are actually adding to your cookie dough. Clearly, the final result of many of our baking recipes is a sugary, rather than a salted, delicacy.

The recipes’ authors are seeking to help all of us, regardless of where we are based and are aiming for us to have the same baking results.

That is why it is much easier for them to instruct us to use unsalted butter in their cookie recipe and then add the necessary amount of salt.

Alternatively, if they asked us to add salted butter, the results for every home baker would largely differ as the amount of salt that each butter contains differs a lot depending on the brand.

Therefore, it would be very difficult to control how much salt we’d actually have to add to the recipe and if we’d need some extra or not.

How To Make Cookies With Salted Butter

When you have no other option but to use salted butter, don’t discourage yourself from baking those cookies, as there are two alternatives when it comes to adding salted butter to your cookie recipe.

One option is to simply swap the salted butter for the unsalted one you have in hand and leave the rest of the recipe as it is. No modifications, no other substitutions. 

Yes, we are well aware that this might be unacceptable and a straight ‘no’ for some of you, but there are many folks we know (and we bet you know some too) who have never even checked their butter packaging to see if it’s salted or unsalted. What happens to the cookies then?

Well, to be completely honest, they might come out a bit saltier than what you would have expected but it normally won’t ruin that batch.

Secondly, if you still prefer to use that salted butter instead of going to the supermarket to get an unsalted one but don’t want your guests to comment on the salty taste of your cookies, simply reduce the quantity of additional salt by around one-quarter of a teaspoon.

Consequently, if you’re just required to add a quarter teaspoon or less of salt, leave it out entirely.

The Bottom Line

It was not as confusing as you thought it would be, right? While there are baking replacements that can make your baking plans fall apart (for example, if you run out of flour then say farewell to that cookie recipe you wanted to make today!), using salted butter instead of unsalted butter is not one of them.

If all you have left in your fridge is salted butter, do not panic, as you can still use it to make those delicious chocolate chip cookies.

Don’t worry about them turning out saltier than you remembered them; simply skip adding any extra salt the recipe calls for and you should be fine!

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Kathryn Sewell

Hi! I'm Kate and I have been baking and cooking for as long as I can remember. I like to share the most interesting tips and recipes I try here on What Kate Baked for you to enjoy. If you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share send it over on social.

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