The 9 Most Common Types of Butter—Plus the Best Ways to Use Them

We cut through the fat to answer your every burning butter question.

Types of butter guide - different kinds of butter (cut butter)
Photo: Getty Images

If you think there's just salted and unsalted butter to choose between, think again. From ghee to clarified butter to delicious plant-based options, here's a handy glossary of your best options for butters for cooking and baking. We'll even teach you all about Irish butter and Amish butter, if you're interested.

RELATED: I Tried Making Homemade Butter—Here's What Happened

Common types of butter

Types of butter - different butters chart with names and pictures of butter
Yeji Kim
01 of 09

Unsalted Butter

Types of butter - Unsalted Butter illustrated picture
Yeji Kim

Sometimes called "sweet cream butter," this is the most versatile type of butter. It will see you through every cooking job, from baking to sautéing. Made from only milk or cream (or sometimes both), it contains at least 80 percent milk fat—the fatty particles in milk that are separated out to make cream.

02 of 09

Salted Butter

Types of butter - Salted Butter illustrated picture
Yeji Kim

Just like the original, but with (surprise) the addition of salt. Many people reach for this when buttering bread, but use caution when you're cooking or baking, since most recipes call for unsalted butter.

03 of 09

Clarified Butter

Types of butter - Clarified Butter illustrated picture
Yeji Kim

Butter is an emulsion made from fat, water, and milk solids. When you heat butter slowly, you'll notice that it starts to separate into these three components: white milk solids, foam (which is the water evaporating), and bright yellow clarified butter fat. Basically, clarified butter is pure fat without the milk solids or water—it's richer and more shelf-stable than traditional butter. It has its own deliciously toasty flavor and a higher smoke point, too, which make it ideal for high-heat searing and roasting, or for finishing dishes. Ghee is one well-known type of clarified butter.

RELATED: Ghee vs Butter

04 of 09

Organic Butter

Types of butter - Organic Butter illustrated picture
Yeji Kim

Comes from cattle raised without antibiotics or growth hormones and given 100 percent organic feed grown without toxic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. It is available unsalted and salted and can be used like conventional butter.

05 of 09

Whipped Butter

Types of butter - Whipped Butter illustrated picture
Yeji Kim

This variety has air or some other gas, such as nitrogen, added to it to make it less dense than standard butter, so a little goes a long way. The increased volume results in fewer calories per tablespoon (often half) and a lighter texture. Best for spreading on toast and finishing dishes, whipped butter is not recommended for baking or cooking.

06 of 09

European-Style Butter

Types of butter - European-Style Butter illustrated picture
Yeji Kim

This is the reason French croissants are so utterly irresistible: Loaded with extra milk fat—82 to 85 percent for most brands—European-style butter has less moisture than standard butter and so produces extra-flaky pastries and tender, fluffy cakes. Because it is made with fermented (also called cultured) cream, it has a slight tang. European-style butter can be used for all cooking tasks.

07 of 09

Plant-Based Butter

Types of butter - Plant-Based Butter illustrated picture
Yeji Kim

These are a game changer for those with dairy allergies or anyone practicing a vegan diet. Plant-based butters, made with ingredients like avocado, almond, or olive oil, taste like butter and can be swapped one-for-one for dairy butter in all your favorite recipes. You can find them in both tubs and sticks, so it's just as easy to bake and cook with as well as spread on toast or bagels.

08 of 09

Spreadable Butter

Types of butter - Spreadable Butter illustrated picture
Yeji Kim

A combination of regular butter and vegetable oil (and sometimes other flavorings and fillers), this product maintains a soft texture even when refrigerated. It is not recommended for baking or cooking.

09 of 09

Light Butter

Types of butter - Light Butter illustrated picture
Yeji Kim

This option has half the calories of standard butter because it contains less milk fat—40 percent at most. The rest is made up of water, lactic acid, and other fillers. It is not recommended for baking or cooking.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles