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

You may have noticed the labels on butter in the grocery say different things. Some are marked as sweet cream butter, or simply butter. Both have unsalted and salted options, but what is the difference between sweet cream butter and just… butter?

To put it plainly, sweet cream butter is made from pasteurized cream, either with or without salt. Alternatively, regular butter is made from cow’s milk that has been cultured or fermented – either naturally or with added cultured bacteria and can also be either salted or unsalted. 

What is Sweet Cream Butter?

The title of sweet cream butter can mislead people into thinking there is added sugar, when in reality there is none. The sweet cream butter you find in America, must contain at least 80% butter fat and is most often what you buy for your everyday cooking and baking.

Sweet cream butter is made from pasteurized cow’s milk or cream. Because the milk is not fermented, it will have a naturally sweet and creamy flavor unlike cultured butter which can have a tang. Sweet cream butter comes both salted and unsalted.

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What is Regular Butter?

Regular butter is also known as cultured butter. While all butters are made by a similar churning process, regular butter churns for longer and uses a cultured or fermented cow’s milk. This produces a slightly sour or tangier end product. 

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Regular butter also has a higher fat content than sweet cream butter and therefore makes the butter a richer yellow color. Just as with sweet cream butter, regular butter can be either salted or unsalted. 

What’s the Difference Between Sweet Cream and Regular Butter?

While both types of butter are delicious and fairly similar, there are some key differences between sweet cream, or American butter, and regular, or cultured butter. Let’s compare the two.

  1. Flavor – the flavor or regular butter is richer and slightly tangier than sweet cream butter due to the type of milk product used. Think of a cultured buttermilk compared to regular milk – buttermilk is soured milk and tangy in flavor. A similar flavor profile can be found in regular butter. On the flip side, a sweet cream butter is naturally sweet from having just the flavor of pasteurized cream. 
  2. Fat content – Sweet cream butters, typically found in America, must contain 80% fat from the cow’s milk. Regular butter is creamier because it has a higher fat content. 
  3. Ingredients – the ingredients and their ratios vary slightly between sweet cream butter and regular butter. Sweet cream contains the pasteurized cream, water, milk solids, and sometimes salt. Regular butter uses a fermented milk (not cream) or, added cultures to the milk. The amount of water is also less in regular butter and it can contain salt as well. 
  4. Churning process – regular butter churns for a longer time than sweet cream butter. The longer churning process gives the regular butter a higher fat content, yellow color, and creamier texture than sweet cream butter.
  5. Smoke point – the smoke point in sweet cream butter is lower than regular butter. This means regular butter can be used at a higher heat without the risk of burning. This is great if using butter to cook on the stove. 
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Related Questions

While sweet cream butter and regular butter are similar, they have slight differences and can be confusing to some. Let’s find out more about these creamy spreads. 

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Does sweet cream butter need to be refrigerated?

Sweet cream butter can be left out while cooking or to soften for baking recipes. You can even store sweet cream butter, covered, at room temperature for 1-2 days. 

Does butter go bad after the expiration date?

Good news! If you realize your butter is out of date, it may still be good. If the butter is unopened and refrigerated, it can generally last up to 1 month past the expiration date.

If the butter has already been opened, that time shrinks to about 2 weeks past the expiration date. To help prolong your unopened butter, store it in the freezer for up to a year!

Why does my butter smell like cheese?

Butter has the tendency to take on other odors. However, if you notice that your butter has started to smell like cheese that is a good indicator it is bad. Spoiled butter may also be soft and stringy. 

How long will butter keep in the refrigerator?

If wrapped and stored properly, butter can last about 2 months in the refrigerator. If it is salted butter, it will last longer because the salt also acts as a preservative. 

Can you use salted sweet cream butter for cookies? 

You can absolutely use salted sweet cream butters in your cookie recipe. Generally, bakers prefer unsalted butter so they can then choose to add salt or not – but using salted sweet cream butter is just fine. It is a good idea to omit any additional salt in your recipe. 

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

Using salted butter instead of unsalted will just provide a slightly saltier flavor profile. This can be a good thing, but you should be mindful of the salt content and either reduce or leave out any additional salt from the recipe.

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Conclusion 

While sweet cream butter and regular butter can be used interchangeably, they are slightly different and will give slightly different results depending on what you are cooking. 

Sweet cream butter has a naturally sweeter flavor and is not as creamy as regular butter, which has a higher fat content and slightly tangy flavor. 

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