Recipes often call for softened butter, which mixes well with other ingredients. The traditional way involves letting your butter stand at room temperature until softened, but we'll also show you how to quickly soften butter in a pinch. If you really need to know how to soften butter fast, skip straight to our instructions for how to soften butter in the microwave.

By Katlyn Moncada
Updated October 19, 2020
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Chocolate chip cookies, buttermilk biscuits, yellow cake. All of these delightful classic baked goods (plus many more) call for softened butter. It mixes much easier with flour and sugar in batters or cookie dough than hard, cold butter or even melted butter. But whether you're a new or experienced baker, it's easy to forget to set out butter sticks to give them enough time to come to room temperature. So if you're trying to get ahead in your holiday cookie baking or are mid-recipe and need to know how to soften butter quickly, you're in the right place. Softened butter should still hold its shape but dent when pressed. No part of it should be melted. Use these butter softening methods for both salted and unsalted butter.

Credit: Jay Wilde

How to Soften Butter at Room Temperature

Not sure how long to soften butter? Keep an eye on it, but the easiest way to soften butter is to remove a cold stick from the refrigerator and let it hang out at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes until it becomes room temperature or until just spreadable. The timing will vary depending on the room temperature and how cold the butter is to start with. If the butter starts getting quite soft but is not yet melted, place it back in the refrigerator for a few minutes to keep it from melting before you are ready to use it.

This is easily our favorite way to soften butter for baking cookies because it guarantees consistency. Plus, when it comes to times like holiday baking, we need that long time to go find our cookie cutters, sprinkles, and other baking tools.

How to Soften Butter Quickly Four Ways

If you're on this page, there's a good chance you probably need a way to soften butter fast. For the baking sessions where the traditional sit-and-wait route isn't an option, these methods for softening butter will speed up the process. Here's how to soften frozen butter or refrigerated butter without melting it.

  1. Cut Up the Butter: If you cut a stick of butter into smaller chunks or slices, it will soften more rapidly at room temperature. If you need a specific measurement of butter, measure it while the butter is whole, using the measurements on the wrapper as a guide.
  2. Pound It: To shorten softening time, place the wrapped stick of butter between two pieces of parchment or waxed paper and pound it several times on each side with a rolling pin ($9, Target) to partially flatten.
  3. Beat It: Some recipes call for softened butter that is then beaten with an electric mixer ($30, Bed Bath & Beyond) along with other ingredients. For these recipes, you can cut the cold butter into small chunks and beat it by itself with the electric mixer until it softens before adding the additional ingredients.
  4. Microwave It: This method works best for softening butter meant to be used as a spread. If using this method for baking, ensure the butter does not start to melt, since this would be too soft for baking recipes that call for softened butter. To soften butter in the microwave, place the butter in a microwave-safe bowl ($13, Target) and microwave on 30 percent power (defrost) for 15 seconds. Check the consistency of the butter and repeat, if necessary. Take note, we're not softening butter at full power here, that too often results in a melted butter mess all over the microwave. The defrost setting is much safer.

Test Kitchen Tip: If the butter you are softening for cookie dough melts, use it for another purpose and soften new butter for your cookies. Once melted, the butter reacts differently with the dough and will give your cookies a different consistency.

Use Softened Butter to Make This Honey-Garlic Spread

Dressed-Up Softened Butter Recipes

Not only is softened butter ideal for baked goods, it's also great for mixing in other flavors to create compound butters or seasoned butter like this lavender butter recipe for later. Try this mouthwatering herb butter, honey and green garlic butter (pictured above), or experiment with adding your own mix-ins.

Softened Butter Tip: These flavored butters are also a great way to use butter that got too soft if you tried something like microwaving butter to soften it, but didn't use our defrost setting tip.

Though softening butter seems like a step that could be easily skipped for the sake of time, it really only takes a bit of thinking ahead. Trust me, those few extra steps of prep work will pay off when you bite into that perfectly-baked chocolate chip cookie.

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