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

Here, we answer all your burning butter questions.

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

From ghee and clarified butter to delicious plant-based options, there's more to "real butter" than simply diary or non-dairy. We've created a handy glossary of your best butter options for cooking and baking. Plus, we'll teach you all about Irish butter and Amish butter.

Common Types of Butter

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

Unsalted Butter

Three sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature, one open

Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

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 milkfat—the fatty particles in milk that are separated out to make cream.

02 of 09

Salted Butter

Four sticks of salted butter isolated on white, one open
Tomas_Mina/Getty Images

Just like the original, but with added salt. Many people reach for this when buttering bread, but use caution when you're cooking or baking—most recipes call for unsalted butter.

03 of 09

Clarified Butter

Pouring clarified butter from pot through cheesecloth into plastic container
Kritsada Panichgul

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 milk solids or water—it's richer and more shelf-stable than traditional butter. It has its own delicious 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.

04 of 09

Organic Butter

Sesame bread and organic butter on a rustic wooden table.
Aleksandr Zubkov/Getty

This type comes from cream that's 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

Homemade Whipped Butter in a White Bowl

The Spruce / Tracy Wilk

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

Plugrá European-Style Unsalted Butter

Fresh Direct

This is the reason French croissants are so utterly irresistible: Loaded with extra milkfat—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

Container of Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread
Earth Balance

These are a game changer for those with dairy allergies or anyone following 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

Close up of hand spreading butter on rustic bread
surreal studios/Getty Images

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

Box of Land O Lakes Light Butter

This option has half the calories of standard butter because it contains less milkfat—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