I come from a house of bakers- my mom, sister, and myself. We even started our own business out of our home. We bake all the time and go through butter like it's water. Butter is such a popular ingredient in recipes that makes everything better. Most of the recipes you bake with will specify if you should use salted or unsalted butter. But is there really a difference? I'm here to tell you a few reasons why it matters when to use salted vs. unsalted butter in your recipes.

Salt Content in Butter 

salt, flour
Bobbi Lin

Believe it or not, the difference between these two types of butter is salt. Salted butter has salt added, while unsalted butter contains no added salt. However, not all brands of butter are created equal and vary in salt content. Chowhound breaks down sodium content from the most popular brands of butter.

Land O'Lakes contains 95 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon of butter, while Horizon contains 115 milligrams. So when baking, you'll often see recipes specify using unsalted butter, with added salt. According to Sally's Baking Addiction, using salted butter can compromise the flavor in popular recipes like sugar cookies, pie crust, etc. so it is best to control the amount of salt in baking. 

Water Content in Butter

milk, cheese, butter, dairy product, sweet, dairy, margarine
Caty Schnack

Salted butter typically contains a higher water content than unsalted butter. Salted butter will impact the way gluten develops in recipes, creating a tougher dough. 

Which is fresher? 

butter, milk, dairy product, margarine, cheese, cream
Antonia Drummond

Salted butter typically has a longer shelf life than unsalted butter because salt is a preservative. Salted butter is typically good up to five months, while unsalted is good up to three months. So for fresher butter, you'll want to use the unsalted kind. 

Which Should I Be Baking With?

bread, flour, wheat, dough
Rica Beltran

Most recipes in baking ask for unsalted butter with added salt. The recipe is asking for a specific amount of salt, so what do you do if you don't have any unsalted butter on hand? Sally goes by the general rule: reduce or add 1/4 teaspoon of salt per 1/2 cup of butter.

Which Should I Cook With? 

spaghetti, pasta, macaroni
Alex Frank

Cooking is definitely more flexible than baking. You can add a pinch of this, or a dash of that. You have complete control over the recipe here. So if you want to use salted butter vs. unsalted, go right ahead! Just be careful about adding extra salt because it will impact the flavor of your dish. 

In the end it really depends on the type of dish you are trying to make when deciding between salted vs. unsalted butter. Butter is great all around so whatever you use, your recipe will still turn out great.