Unsalted Butter Substitutes

You can use that salted butter!

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Many baked good recipes call for unsalted butter, but if you don't have any on hand you can use salted butter in its place, with only slight modifications to the recipe. This is great news when you don't want to run to the store for just one ingredient!

If you're trying to tweak a recipe to make it dairy-free, vegan, or lower in fat, there are additional unsalted butter substitutes you can try, although keep in mind it will change the recipe a bit.


What You'll Need

Make sure you have the same amount of salted butter as unsalted butter called for in the recipe. 


It is an equal swap—replace the unsalted butter called for with an equal amount of salted butter—but you must then adjust the amount of salt in the recipe. Reduce the salt called for in the recipe by 1/4 teaspoon for every stick (1/2 cup) of butter used.

One caveat is that different brands of butter contain different amounts of salt—a single stick of butter could have anywhere from 1/8 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of salt. But don't sweat the difference. Just taste your recipe and tweak it if necessary. In most cases, having a little more or less salt in a dish won't make a bit of difference. Because when you get right down to it, an extra 1/8 teaspoon of salt isn't much when you divide it among all of the servings in a recipe.

Why Recipes Call for Unsalted Butter Instead of Salted Butter

Since the amount of salt varies from one brand of butter to the next, many bakers develop their recipes with unsalted butter, adding the salt as a separate, measured ingredient.

This gives the baker precise control over how much salt is included, so the recipe delivers reliable results that are easy for others to replicate.

In general, recipes don't call for unsalted butter in order to decrease the amount of sodium in your diet, but this can be another reason for unsalted butter to be specified in a recipe.

How to Replace Unsalted Butter With Butter Alternatives

If you're looking for an unsalted butter substitute because you want to make a recipe dairy-free or vegan, here are some options to consider. Keep in mind that these substitutes will introduce new flavors to the recipe, and may also change the texture of the finished dish.

  • Vegetable shortening—Replace measure for measure. For baking, this would be preferred as it's likely to best preserve the consistency of the finished product.
  • Vegetable oil—Use 7/8 cup for each cup of unsalted butter called for. This is not a good choice for baking; since it will change the consistency of the baked goods.
  • Lard (animal product)—Use 7/8 cup for each cup of unsalted butter. This substitute is suitable for both baked and cooked dishes.

Replacing Half of the Butter

If you're trying to reduce the fat (or saturated fat) in a baked good recipe, you can replace half of the unsalted butter called for with avocado, applesauce, or full-fat Greek yogurt. Just know that your baked goods are likely to come out denser and moister than intended.