8 Types of Butter You Should Know and How to Use Them

Learn about the delicious varieties of butter available and how to use them in your kitchen.

Four types of butter
Photo: Dotdash Meredith / Tyrel Stendahl

Using butter is the simplest way to make everything taste better. Want to take a dish from basic to brilliant? Add butter. On the hunt for an easy but impressive recipe that wins applause at the potluck? Incorporate everyone's favorite ingredient — lusciously creamy butter — and elevate your next meal into wow you can really cook territory.

But how do you choose the right type of butter for what you're making? It can be hard to wade through the countless brands and styles available in stores. That's why we're breaking it all down for you with this easy cheat sheet for the best types of butter for every kitchen project — from biscuits and croissants to sauces and grilled meats. Learn what kind of creamy, dreamy butter serves you best.

An infographic showing the different kinds of butter and what they're best used for
Dotdash Meredith / Tyrel Stendahl

Unsalted Butter

Unsalted butter is the most commonly used variety and takes the top spot for being multipurpose. Also known as sweet cream, this sort of butter does the heavy lifting in some of the most beloved bakes — casseroles, cookies, and, a host of sautéed dishes get their deep flavor from this grocery store staple.

Salted Butter

Add an instant flavor bomb to whatever you're making with the power of salted butter. Much like sweet cream (with added salt), this decadent buy can be used in a number of ways. Spread it across toast, toss with sautéed vegetables, or add a pat to your favorite pasta for a luscious finish. The added salt acts as a preservative, so this butter lasts longer than its unsalted counterpart.

Clarified Butter or Ghee

Butterfat contains both water and milk solids, but clarifying butter removes these particles for a higher smoke point and more decadent taste. Use clarified butter for dipping seafood, sautéeing proteins and veggies, or even frying — you'll love the rich color and versatility.

Ghee is similar to clarified butter but takes things a step further. Once the milk solids separate, continue to heat the mixture until the proteins are golden-brown and emit a nutty aroma. Finish by straining to remove any solids.

Whipped Butter

This sumptuous take on traditional butter involves incorporating air into a softened stick to create an easily spreadable ingredient. Using a hand or stand mixer, make a creamy whipped butter that maintains its delicate texture even after being chilled. Add milk for a softer consistency. Slather your whipped butter on a crusty piece of bread and enjoy a restaurant-worthy bite.

Compound Butter

Flex your creativity and customize your meals with unique flavor by adding a pat of compound butter. Herbs, spices, or other seasonings are creamed with softened, unsalted butter for a one-of-a-kind result. Usually chilled then cut into rounds, compound butter can act as a deeply savory accompaniment to steak, amp up baked goods, or add a creamy richness to pasta sauces.

Cultured Butter

Cultured butter is the secret to the some of the best baked goods out there. It's made by adding bacterial cultures to cream and fermenting the mixture for at least 24 hours. The fermentation process creates a thick, tangy product with prominent flavor that bolsters the taste of butter-forward recipes like pancakes, pound cake, or mashed potatoes.

European Butter

While American butters usually contain 80 percent butterfat, European butter boasts a higher amount, ranging from 82 to 90 percent. This increase in fat, along with a longer churn time and live cultures, give European butter a bright yellow color and luxurious taste. Try using it in place of unsalted butter to give your baked goods a delightfully flaky texture and higher rise.

Brown Butter

Brown butter is an ultra-luxe ingredient that adds an irresistibly rich boost to everything from quick breads and cakes to Brussels sprouts. Heating up cubed, unsalted butter until the milk solids begin to brown creates a toasty, fragrant, and totally delicious butter that's incredibly flavorful in liquid and solid form.

Add brown butter to chocolate chip cookies for a bakery-style bite or use it to sauce seafood and roasted veggies. You'll love the distinctly nutty flavor and versatility of this chef favorite.

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