Butter is a ubiquitous food. The U.S. went through a phase where consumption of too much butter was frowned upon, but much to Paula Deen's delight it has been making a comeback lately.

Butter actually has mostly saturated fats that raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Butter also contains butyrate, an anti-inflammatory fatty acid. You might also know that there are several different types of butter. But what's the big deal? How different could they possibly be? 

It turns out that the differences between types of butter can actually affect the outcome of your dishes as well as the nutritional value you get. Knowing the right butter to use for all occasions can make a huge difference in your food.  

Salted Butter

sweet, candy, dairy product, chocolate, milk
Haley Abram

Salted butter is the most commonly used type of butter out there, in the United States at least. This is a super versatile butter, it can be used like oil for pan-frying, sautéing, or adding richness to a sauce. 

Unsalted Butter

Haley Abram

Unsalted butter is exactly the same as the ever-so-popular salted butter, without salt. This butter is most commonly used for baking so you can control the amount of salt. However, it can be used in any instance when you want to know exactly how much salt you're using. 

Cultured Butter

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

This butter is probably one you don't know by name. Cultured butter has a higher fat content and less moisture because it is churned longer than ordinary butters. It's also fermented with cultures that give it a tanginess.

Since it's less moist and contains more fat, it's the perfect butter for flaky baked goods like croissants and pastry crusts. 

Grass-fed Butter

dairy product
Haley Abram

This butter is the perfect butter for those who are concerned about keeping added hormones and antibiotics out of their diets. Just like grass-fed beef, the cows that the milk for the butter spend their days eating grass from their pastures as opposed to grain. 

Spreadable Butter

tea, coffee
Haley Abram

Spreadable butter is still butter, but less pure. Vegetable oil is added to make it smoother and softer. So, it should not be used in recipes calling for sticks of butter. However, this butter is ideal for spreading on things like toast, pancakes, waffles, and muffins. 

"Butter" Spreads

dairy product, butter, margarine, sweet, milk, cheese
Haley Abram

Imitation butters should not be used for recipes calling for butter. They are essentially a combination of vegetable oils, and some contain very little real butter. These spreads have fewer calories and fat, but should generally be avoided in baking and cooking. Baked items will become tough and food will be excessively oily.

The Verdict 

The next time you go to cook or bake something, think about this list. Choosing the right butter for what you're making could make a huge difference in the outcome.

It might seem silly, but you'll definitely impress your friends and family when you explain why they should use cultured butter for their pastries instead the normal unsalted. Knowledge is power, but knowledge of butter is powerful and delicious.