You tie on an apron (or, more likely, throw on an old T-shirt you don’t care about), cue up some Otis Redding on Spotify and settle in to bake. You scroll through the ingredient list, begin to assemble your mise en place and realize—uh-oh—the recipe calls for unsalted butter and you have only salted. Treat emergency! Or is it?
The short answer: Swapping salted for unsalted butter is not ideal. That’s because there’s really no way of knowing how much salt has been added, and levels vary from brand to brand.
But, there are exceptions. If you’re baking something simple, like cookies (where precision isn’t paramount), it should turn out just fine with either type of butter. If you’re trying your hand at a fancier recipe—say, a three-layer chocolate cake (where exact measurements are key to delicious results), don’t risk it.
In the long run, a quick trip to the supermarket is more than worth it if it means averting a kitchen crisis.