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The Difference Between Sweet Cream Butter and Butter

Discover the nuances of sweet cream butter vs. regular butter. Uncover flavors, uses & nutritional disparities in this informative guide.

Butter is a beloved ingredient used in cooking cultures around the world. From flaky croissants to rich sauces, butter provides irresistible flavor and texture. 

While the basic process of making butter involves churning cream to separate the milk fats, there are some notable differences between sweet cream butter and butter that impact taste, quality, and best uses.


Overview of Butter

Butter is considered both a fat and a dairy product, being made from the milk of cows or other mammals. It is created by agitating cream to divide the butterfat from the buttermilk. 

This butterfat is then collected, rinsed, and kneaded into the solid stick form known as butter.

Butter contains a high level of saturated fat, but also provides fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Its rich taste comes from butterfat while components like lactose and milk proteins contribute to the nutritional value. 

Due to its versatile flavor and smooth texture, butter is used for cooking, baking, spreading, and eating as-is.

Different forms of butter include sticks, blocks, whipped, and clarified varieties. Flavored compound butter also expands the possibilities. 

From baking staple to decadent finishing touch, quality butter enhances food while also being enjoyed on its own merits. 

Understanding the nuanced differences between types of butter allows cooks to select, store, and use it for superior results.

Sweet Cream Butter vs Butter: What’s the Difference?

Here is comparing the key differences between sweet cream butter and regular cultured butter:

Aspect Sweet Cream Butter Regular Butter
Composition Made from fresh sweet cream Made from cream (cultured or soured)
Flavor Mild, delicate Slightly tangy (if cultured)
Texture Smooth and creamy Creamier (if cultured)
Production Process Churned from pasteurized fresh cream Churned from pasteurized cream (cultured or soured)
Salt Content Usually unsalted or minimal May contain added salt
Nutritional Differences Typically higher in fat content May vary in fat content
Culinary Uses Great for baking and cooking Commonly used in various dishes
Storage Best stored in the refrigerator Best stored in the refrigerator
Allergens Lower in lactose and milk proteins May contain lactose and milk proteins
Popular Brands None Specified Various brands available

What is Sweet Cream Butter?

Sweet cream butter, sometimes labeled as "sweet butter", is made from fresh pasteurized cream that has not been cultured or fermented. 

The term "sweet cream" simply refers to the main ingredient - fresh cream that still tastes sweet, rather than sour.

To make sweet cream butter, the process typically involves:

  • Pasteurizing fresh cream to kill any harmful bacteria.
  • Allowing the cream to rest for a short ripening period.
  • Churning the cream until the butterfat solidifies and separates from the buttermilk. This can be done using a churn or mixer and takes anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.
  • Draining off the leftover buttermilk.
  • Kneading the butter to remove any remaining liquid.

The end result is a concentrated, solid butter with a creamy, smooth texture and a fresh, sweet flavor.

Sweet cream butter has a fat content of at least 80%. It contains butterfat, water, milk solids, and sometimes salt. Varieties include:

  • Unsalted - Contains no added salt, allowing more control over flavor. Often favored by bakers.
  • Salted - Contains added salt as a preservative and for flavor. Often used as a table butter.

What About "Regular" Butter?

The term "regular butter" is somewhat erroneous, as regular butter can refer to a few different types. 

However, when comparing it to sweet cream butter, regular butter typically refers to:

  • Cultured butter - Made from cream that has been fermented with lactic acid bacteria prior to churning. The culturing process produces a tangy, complex flavor.
  • European-style butter - Typically cultured and contains a higher butterfat content of 82-86%. Produces a rich, creamy texture.

So in summary, when comparing sweet cream butter vs. regular butter:

  • Sweet cream = Made from fresh pasteurized cream
  • Regular = Often means cultured/fermented cream.

Cultured Butter Explained

What is often referred to as “regular butter” tends to indicate cultured butter. While similar in production, cultured butter starts with cream that has been fermented with active bacterial cultures for up to 24 hours. This aging process adds tangy, cheesy notes to the butter.

Cultured cream also churns longer to achieve a higher butterfat percentage, usually around 82-86%. The culturing reduces moisture and deepens the golden color. 

This European-style butter provides richer flavor and denser texture. It shines in applications like laminated pastries, savory sauces, and compound butter blends.

9 Key Differences Between Sweet Cream Butter and Butter

While subtle, the differences between sweet cream and regular cultured butter can impact flavor and texture. Here are some of the main contrasts:

1. Ingredients

  • Sweet cream - pasteurized fresh cream, sometimes salt
  • Regular - cultured fermented cream, sometimes salt

2. Fat Content

  • Sweet cream - 80% minimum fat
  • Regular - 82-86% fat typically

3. Production Process

  • Sweet cream - Made from fresh pasteurized cream. Churned immediately.
  • Regular - Cream is cultured for 12-24 hours before churning.

4. Flavor and Texture

  • Sweet cream - Fresh, subtle, mildly sweet flavor. Smooth, creamy texture.
  • Regular - Tangy, complex flavor. Firmer texture.

5. Nutrition

  • Sweet cream - Slightly higher vitamins from fresh cream.
  • Regular - Contains live cultures. Increased bioavailability of nutrients.

6. Price

  • Sweet cream - Typically more affordable
  • Regular - Often costs more due to production

7. Smoke Point

  • Sweet cream - 350-375°F
  • Regular - 375-400°F typically

8. Uses

  • Sweet cream - Best for spreading, flavor balance, buttercream
  • Regular - Ideal for baking pastries, bread, and compound butter

9. Shelf Life

  • Sweet cream - 1 month refrigerated, 6 months frozen
  • Regular - 1-2 weeks refrigerated due to ongoing fermentation

Nutrition and Health Factors

Both styles of butter provide a rich source of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Their saturated fat content is also similar, though the culturing process may alter fatty acid ratios in regular butter. 

When cultured, some lactose converts to lactic acid reducing lactose intolerance concerns.

Butter contains moderate levels of cholesterol. Recent studies indicate saturated fat concerns may be overstated, but moderation is still advised. As with any food, butter is best consumed in balance with lifestyle factors.

Pricing Differences

The increased production time, fat content, and import costs mean cultured butter usually costs more than local sweet cream varieties. 

High-end sweet cream butter can also carry premium pricing. In general, basic American sweet cream styles offer the most economical choice while European cultured butter falls on the high end.

Best Uses for Each Variety

  • Sweet cream – Spreading, melting, baking, and balance for savory
  • Cultured – Compound butter, baking pastries, enriched sauces
  • Both – Adding richness, browning, and sautéing
  • Clarified – High heat cooking, uniform texture
  • Whipped – Easy spreading when cold

Storing and Handling Butter

Proper storage and handling help extend butter's shelf life and maintain quality. 

Here are some tips:

  • Store butter tightly wrapped in the fridge for 1-3 months. Freezer extends to 6-12 months.
  • Minimize air exposure. Use an airtight container if not using the original wrapper.
  • Allow refrigerated butter to soften at room temperature before spreading. Do not melt or leave in heat.
  • Use cultured butter within 1-2 weeks of purchase. Consume sweet cream butter within 2-3 months.
  • When baking, cut cold butter into small pieces for the easiest incorporation. Avoid melting.
  • Clarified butter has a higher smoke point so is better for sautéing at higher heat.

How to Make Sweet Cream Butter at Home

Making homemade sweet cream butter is a fun and satisfying cooking project. 

Here is a simple method:


  • Heavy cream, 2 cups
  • Salt, 1/2 to 3/4 tsp (optional)


  • Food processor or blender
  • Fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth


  1. Pour cream into the food processor and add salt if using.
  2. Process on high speed until cream thickens and separates into butterfat lumps and buttermilk, 2-5 minutes.
  3. Strain butterfat through a strainer or cheesecloth to remove buttermilk.
  4. Rinse butterfat under cool water to remove buttermilk residue.
  5. Gather butterfat into a ball and knead gently with a wooden spoon to press out any remaining liquid.
  6. Shape butter into a log or block, wrap tightly and refrigerate until ready to use. Will keep 1-2 weeks refrigerated.


While sweet cream butter and regular cultured butter share similarities, their differences in ingredients, texture, and taste make each better suited for certain culinary uses. 

Understanding the nuances between them allows cooks to make informed choices for recipes. 

In the end, both deliver creamy richness and versatile flavor for enhancing many foods when used properly. 

With some guidelines for handling and storage, butter can elevate dishes for months to come.

Additional Information

Butter Varieties

In addition to sweet cream and cultured butter, some other common varieties include:

  • Clarified butter - Butterfat without the milk solids, offering a higher smoke point.
  • Whipped butter - Incorporates air for spreadable texture. Not ideal for baking.
  • European-style - Higher fat content, rich flavor. Includes brands like Kerrygold.
  • Ghee - Clarified butter cooked longer until nutty brown. Popular in Indian cuisine.

Butter Brand Comparison

Some popular butter brands to try:

  • Kerrygold – Rich-tasting Irish butter from grass-fed cows
  • Plugrá – European-style with 82% butterfat
  • Cabot – Famous Vermont-churned creamery butter
  • Tillamook – Oregon Cooperative sweet cream butter
  • Challenge – Quality sweet cream butter since 1911
  • Amish Country Roll – Sweet cream butter hand rolled in kraft paper

Handling Butter for Baking

When baking, handle butter properly for best results:

  • Allow refrigerated butter to soften slightly before creaming/mixing - but not to the point of melting.
  • Cut chilled butter into small cubes for faster incorporation without heat.
  • Avoid over-softening butter which can lead to greasy baked goods.
  • Cream butter thoroughly with sugar to achieve a light, fluffy texture.

Butter Nutrition Facts

Butter contains:

  • Vitamins: A, D, E, K
  • Fat Profile: Primarily saturated fat, provides fatty acids and CLA
  • Other: Contains lactose. The level depends on manufacturing.
  • Calories: 102 per tablespoon (14g)
  • Cholesterol: 31mg per tablespoon

Culinary Uses

  • Baking – Provides tenderness, flakiness, moisture, and richer flavor
  • Sauces – Adds body, sheen, and velvety smoothness
  • Sautéing – Ideal fat for frying eggs, veggies, meats, and more
  • Spread – Satisfying solo topping for bread
  • Pan-frying – Buttered aromatics build flavor foundation
  • Roasting – Basting meats or vegetables adds richness
  • Finishing – Dollop on pasta, soups, vegetables

Butter Substitutes

  • Margarine – Made from vegetable oils with added fats and emulsifiers
  • Ghee – Clarified butter from Indian cuisine
  • Shortening – 100% fat with no water or milk solids
  • Oil – Does not replicate the full flavor and creamy texture

Worldwide Butter Variations

  • Ghee – Clarified butter of Indian cuisine, simmered longer for nutty quality
  • Beurre blanc – French “white butter” thickened into a velvety emulsified sauce
  • Beurre monté – French flavored butter melted into sauces
  • Smen – Moroccan clarified butter aged for months to develop a strong flavor

Incorporate Butter Smoothly

To incorporate butter smoothly into batter or dough:

  • Cut cold butter into small cubes
  • Distribute evenly and work quickly
  • Avoid over-mixing once incorporated
  • Work fast so the butter does not melt
  • Drizzle melted butter in slowly once other ingredients blended

Clarifying Butter

To clarify butter:

  • Melt butter slowly
  • Skim off foamy milk solids
  • Carefully pour off clear golden liquid fat
  • Ghee is clarified butter browned for a richer flavor

Forms of Butter

Butter comes in various forms:

  • Sticks - Long rectangular sticks for easy measuring/cutting
  • Blocks - Square butter blocks or cubes
  • Tubs - Round plastic tubs, ideal for spreading
  • Whipped - Airy, smooth whipped butter for spreading
  • Rolls - Cylindrical butter rolls, often artisanal

Butter in History

Butter has symbolized prosperity across many cultures:

  • Early Romans used butter as skin lotion and cooking fat
  • Hindus considered butter sacred with religious roles
  • Ancient Greeks offered butter to gods and athletes
  • Tibetans molded intricate yak butter sculptures
  • American pioneers heavily relied on butter for sustenance

Today butter remains a revered ingredient around the world.

FAQ: Difference Between Sweet Cream Butter and Butter

Does sweet cream butter need to be refrigerated?

Yes, both sweet cream and regular butter should be refrigerated to maintain freshness and avoid spoilage from heat and exposure. Tightly wrap sticks or store them in airtight containers.

Does butter go bad after the expiration date?

Properly stored butter can last 1 month beyond its expiration date if unopened in the refrigerator. Opened butter lasts about 2 weeks beyond the date. Freezing extends shelf life significantly to 6-12 months. Discard butter if moldy, rancid odor, or is very soft.

Why does my butter smell like cheese?

A cheesy or sour smell means your butter has likely spoiled. This can occur from excessive heat, moisture, or duration beyond its use-by date. Unsalted sweet cream butter has a shorter shelf life than salt. Discard funky-smelling butter.

How long will butter keep in the refrigerator?

Refrigerated butter lasts about 1 month for sweet cream varieties and 1-2 weeks for cultured butter. Salted butter may exceed these timeframes slightly if well-wrapped. Discard butter if mold appears or rancid odors develop.

Can you use salted sweet cream butter for cookies?

Yes, you can use salted sweet cream butter for baking cookies, though it may alter flavor and texture slightly. For sweeter cookies, unsalted brings more control over saltiness. Reduce added salt if using salted butter in any cookie recipe.

What will happen if I use salted butter instead of unsalted?

Substituting salted for unsalted butter adds extra saltiness. This can enhance savory foods but may overpower sweets. When using salted butter, reduce or omit other salt in the recipe.

Is sweet cream butter the same as butter?

Sweet cream butter is regular American-style butter. Regular butter in Europe is often cultured for its tangy flavor. Both are butter but differ slightly in taste.

Can you substitute butter for sweet cream butter?

Yes, cultured butter can generally replace sweet cream butter, though the flavors will differ. Reduce salt if using salted cultured butter.

How is sweet cream butter different?

Sweet cream butter has a sweeter, milder flavor with a creamy texture versus a tangy, complex flavor and denser texture of cultured butter. Sweet cream also has a lower fat ratio.

Is sweet cream regular butter?

Yes, in the United States sweet cream butter is considered regular butter. But in Europe, regular means cultured style with higher fat content and tangier flavor.

Can I use regular butter instead of sweet cream butter?

Yes, you can substitute regular cultured butter in most recipes calling for sweet cream. The tangy, cheesy notes will come through but can enhance certain baked goods. Reduce other salts with salted cultured butter.

What is sweet cream butter used for?

Sweet cream butter works well in baking, spreading on bread, melting over vegetables or pasta, making sauces like beurre blanc, roasting meats, and whipping into sweet frostings.

Is sweet cream butter good for baking?

Sweet cream butter is excellent for baking cakes, cookies, pie crusts, pastries, and other delicacies. Its creamy texture and mild flavor let other ingredients shine while providing moisture and richness.

Does sweet cream butter taste different?

Yes, sweet cream has a sweeter, purer cream flavor versus cultured butter which is tangy from fermentation. The textures also differ slightly.

Are there any Sweet cream butter substitutes?

To substitute sweet cream butter, use unsalted butter or cultured butter. Margarine or oil work in a pinch but alter the texture. Reduce salt if subbing salted butter.

Is sweet cream butter healthy?

Butter contains beneficial vitamins but is high in saturated fat, so moderation is key. Compared to cultured butter, sweet cream may have slightly higher vitamin content without the fermentation that reduces lactose.

What is unsalted sweet cream butter?

Unsalted sweet cream butter contains just pasteurized fresh cream with salt omitted. This allows control over flavor in cooking and baking. It has a shorter shelf life than salted but sweeter flavor.

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Hello, I am Muhiuddin Alam founder of TheBestNTop.com. The main mission of 'TheBestNTop.com' is to empower all people on the planet to learn to do anything. We want to help people learn, first and foremost about Best Product Reviews, and Buying Advice. We review the best tech, appliances, gear, and more, and other values guide how we pursue that mission. We also talk about the Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects. Thanks for being here. Follow Me: Linkedin & Google Knowledge Panel