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Which type of butter should be used in cookies?

Cookies are the most incredible dessert. They are soft, chewy, chunky, sticky, buttery, and irresistible. There are numerous cookies, including chocolate chip cookies, cut-out cookies, sandwich cookies, and everything else. Yet they all share a common characteristic. The butter gives cookies their buttery, soft, and chewy texture. In addition to having a great mixer, your cookies will benefit significantly from using the proper butter. 

Butteris a dairy product that has become a household staple. You can cook with it, bake cakes with it, or spread it on toast. Butter is typically produced from high-fat cow’s milk because it is easier to churn. After the milk or cream has been stirred, it is cooled until it forms a solid block of butter. 

It significantly impacts the flavor and texture of cookies, so altering or substituting it will change the composition of your baked good. But with so many ways to use butter and alternatives, you may wonder which type of butter to use for cookies. 

Melted Butter vs. Room Temperature 

Some cookie recipes call for melted butter, while others call for butter at room temperature. Which should you choose? 

That depends entirely on the texture you desire for your cookies. Because butter melts in the oven, cookies spread and become flattered. If the butter has already been dissolved and incorporated into the cookie dough, then the butter will expand even more during baking. This will produce a toffee-like cookie with a chewy to crisp bite (depending on how long you bake them for). 

In contrast, cookies made with butter at room temperature have a completely different texture. With butter at room temperature, the butter is typically creamed with sugar. This method of creaming allows air bubbles to form within the mixture. These air pockets expand in the oven, resulting in a cookie that is light, cake-like, and fluffy. Since the butter is more solid than its melted counterpart, it maintains its shape and spreads out less in the oven. So, you will get a nice fluffy biscuit. 

Tips: If you enjoy cake-like cookies as much as I do, use self-rising flour instead of plain. It will increase the cookie’s height and make it softer and fluffier. 

Salted Butter vs. Unsalted Butter 

Salted butter is produced in the same manner as unsalted butter, except that salt is added to salted butter (okay, that was probably obvious.) 

You have likely observed that many baking recipes call for unsalted butter, and there is a reason for this. Since salted butter contains salt, it isn’t easy to regulate the amount of salt in baked goods. Additionally, the salt content varies between brands, so it is impossible to determine how much salt is added to your desserts. By using unsalted butter, you have complete flavor control. 

Nevertheless, you can use salted and unsalted butter interchangeably if you choose. However, salted butter may alter the flavor of your cookies. 

Tips: Since salt is a preservative, salted butter has a longer shelf life than unsalted butter. Unsalted butter is the only way to guarantee freshness. 

Are there alternatives to butter for cookies? 

Margarine Butter is comprised of a high-fat content; consequently, it has a vibrant flavor and texture. There are no alternatives to butter that can compete with its richness, but you can still use other fats in your cookie recipe. Margarine, typically made from vegetable oil and water, is the closest substitute for butter. 

Depending on the type, cookies and margarine can work well together. To have the same effect as butter in cookies, margarine must have a high-fat content, preferably greater than 80%. Otherwise, the cookies will be extremely flat and texture less and burn in the oven. Margarine will not impart a buttery flavor, but it is an excellent substitute for butter in cookies and can be melted or softened similarly to butter. 


Shortening is a solid block of fat typically made from vegetable oil and contains no dairy. It is favored by bakers, who tend to have a flaky, crumbly texture in their baked goods. In comparison to butter, shortening imparts an entirely different texture to cookies. Since shortening contains no water, no steam is produced in the oven, resulting in an incredibly soft and tender cookie. Shortening has a higher melting point than butter, so your cookies will maintain a tall structure in the oven without much spreading. 

Using half shortening and half butter at room temperature in your cookie recipe will ensure a flaky, soft texture with a robust buttery flavor. Yum! 

Olive Oil 

Olive oil is another popular substitute for butter, primarily because it produces healthier cookies (if cookies can be considered healthy…). You must be careful with how much oil you use to replace butter. You should use approximately 3/4 cup of oil per cup of butter. If you use excessive oil, your cookies will appear greasy and flat. Olive oil has a robust flavor and works best with savory rather than sweet baked goods. Too much oil in a cookie will produce a flavor unlike what your friends and family expect. 

Since oil is already a liquid, one might assume it would behave similarly to melted butter in the oven, resulting in a flat, chewy cookie. However, because olive oil is already liquid at room temperature and does not need to be heated or melted, it will maintain its shape in the oven, and your cookies will have a soft, cake-like texture. 

Coconut Oil 

Coconut oil is a healthy substitute for butter. Comparable to butter, coconut oil is solid at room temperature and liquefies when heated. Therefore, it has the same effect on cookies as melted butter or butter at room temperature. If you want cookies that maintain their shape in the oven and are soft and fluffy, cream room-temperature coconut oil with sugar. If you want your cookies to be flat and chewy, melt the coconut oil before incorporating it with the other ingredients. 

Use the same amount of coconut oil in place of butter in baking recipes. 


You should know better understand what type of butter to use for cookies and the available alternatives. Whether you use margarine, coconut oil, or shortening as an alternative depends on your preference for cookies. Do you prefer them crunchy and chewy or tender and soft? You decide. 

A warm, buttery cookie fresh from the oven is irresistible due to its luscious flavor and buttery aroma, which cannot be replicated by any other method. 


Butter also plays a critical role in cookie structure; the fat and moisture can enhance or inhibit gluten development, which directly impacts the shape, spread, and texture in your cookies. In short, the temperature of your butter for cookies directly impacts how cakey, crispy, or flaky your cookies will be.

You may end up with a slightly saltier taste, but it’s usually not going to ruin a batch. Secondly, if you’re not wanting to throw your baking caution to the wind but do want to use salted butter, simply decrease the amount of extra salt you add by about 1/4 of a teaspoon.

The job of butter in baking (besides being delicious) is to give richness, tenderness and structure to cookies, cakes, pies and pastries. We alter the way butter works in a recipe by changing its temperature and choosing when to combine it with the other ingredients.

Baking recipes typically call for unsalted butter because the amount of salt in salted butter varies depending on the brand – there is no “industry standard.” For example, if you use one brand of salted butter in a recipe, and we use another, our baked goods could end up tasting very different from one other.

The biggest difference in butter is the amount of salt. For baking purposes, the Test Kitchen recommends using unsalted butter so you can better control the amount of salt that goes into the recipe. Salted butter is best for serving at the table with bread or to flavor a dish, like mashed potatoes.

But when choosing butter for baking, I always use unsalted, and we recommend you do, too. Salt acts as a preservative and masks any potentially funky flavors, so salted butter often sits on grocery store shelves longer than unsalted does. To ensure you’re using fresh butter, choose unsalted.

Now, if you’re wondering if one butter is better than the other, the answer is no. Both salted and unsalted versions are useful in cooking and baking. They are both equally delicious and make for rich, delectable recipes.

The website suggests that salted butter usually contains a higher percentage of water than unsalted butter — somewhere between 10 to 18% — and that can mess with your bakes, too. Because water does not react well while baking, the higher water percentage of salted butter can make your bakes turn out soft and mushy

Both salted butter and unsalted butter can be used interchangeably in any recipe, but if the recipe calls specifically for unsalted butter, it’s probably because the recipe has been tested with it and it’s the preferred butter for that particular recipe.

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