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Learning how to soften butter is one of the most important baking steps. When recipes call for softened butter they don’t want cold or melted so it’s important to understand what softened butter is and how to do it quickly when you forget to leave it out. These 5 tips for how to soften butter quickly will help you in the kitchen!

softened butter on wrapper with finger print.

What is softened butter?

Most baking recipes call for softened butter so it’s important to know what that means. Softened butter is not cold and it’s not melted: it’s somewhere in the middle, the juuuuust right, as Goldilocks would say.

Softened butter, also called room temperature butter, is when the butter is soft but not melted. My rule of thumb for softened butter is when I can make a finger indent into the stick of butter, the butter is soft enough. Note, however, that your finger should press into the butter but not fall into it (there is such a thing as over-softened butter!)

Softened butter makes your cookies, cakes and all your baking recipes turn out perfectly (when softened butter is called for in the recipe). While some of my favorite cookie recipes call for melted butter, softened butter is a baking standard, so knowing how to do it is important.

How long does it take to soften butter?

At room temperature it will take about 45 minutes for a stick of butter to soften, longer if your house is cold.

Soften Butter Quickly

The problem with using softened butter in recipes is that I’m forgetful: I never (EVER) remember to take the cold butter out of the refrigerator ahead of time. I bake 3-5 times a week and I still forget! That’s why it’s important to know a few ways you can soften your butter quickly and easily in case you forget!

sliced butter on wrapper.

1. Slice your butter

Slicing your butter into tablespoons or even smaller pieces will help it to soften quicker. You’ll still have to wait, but not as long. Be sure to measure your butter before slicing it (by using the guidelines on the wrapper).

2. Pound your butter

This is a great method if you need to get out some aggression!

  • Simply place your cold stick of butter between two sheets of parchment paper.
  • Use a rolling pin to pound (or roll) the butter into a flat rectangle.

The stick will be thinner, thus it will soften faster.

3. The Double-Boiler Method

  • Place your butter in a heat-proof bowl.
  • Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes.
  • Watch the butter carefully to make sure it doesn’t start to melt.

4. The Glass Method

Be sure to use a heat-safe glass (like a coffee mug or measuring cup) for this method! You also need to make sure that the circumference of your glass will fit your butter.

  • Heat water in a heat-proof glass in the microwave until boiling. (Alternatively, boil water and add it to the glass.) Let it sit until the glass is hot.
  • Place your butter (slicing it will make it work better) on a plate.
  • Invert the cup over the butter on the plate. Let it sit for a minute or so, watching to make sure the butter doesn’t melt. 

This method is a cool science-y way to do it – especially with kids – but it’s not that much faster than just slicing and waiting…you have to wait for the water to boil, after all.

5. The Microwave

I know, this is the most frowned upon method but it really is the method I use most often. I think the microwave gets a bad wrap, but if you watch it, it can work just fine.

  • Place your butter to one side of the microwave (do not place it directly in the center).
  • Be sure that, if your butter is wrapped in foil, that you unwrap it and place it on a plate first.
  • Heat at 50% power in 5 second increments, flipping the stick of butter after each.
  • Just check it each time to make sure that it’s not starting to melt!


Does softened butter mean melted?

NO! Melted butter is melted – softened means it’s soft to the touch.

Can butter soften overnight?

Yes you can leave butter out overnight but just make sure it’s not too soft (your finger should leave an indent but not press straight through the stick of butter).

Why won’t my butter soften?

In a cold house – especially during winter – your butter might feel like it’s not softening. It will take an extra long time, so use one of my quick tips to make it go faster.

softened butter on wrapper with finger print.

How to Soften Butter Quickly

5 from 3 votes
Learn how to easily soften butter for all your baking needs.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Yield 1 stick butter
Serving Size 1 serving


  • ½ cup butter (1 stick – unsalted or salted)
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  • Butter is softened when you can press your finger into it to make an indent but your finger doesn't push all the way through the stick.
  • Leave the butter on the counter for at least 45 minutes before baking to allow it to soften.

Quick Ways to soften butter

  • Slice your butter and allow it to sit at room temperature – it will take less time.
  • Place butter in a gallon size ziploc bag or between sheets of wax paper and pound it with a rolling pin to flatten.
  • Heat on 50% power in 5 second increments in the microwave, rotating the stick every time.
  • Place hot water in a glass then remove the water and invert it over the stick of butter and allow it to sit for 5 minutes.

Recipe Notes

The best way to soften butter is to let it sit at room temperature. My favorite quick way is the microwave method.

Recipe Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 814kcal | Carbohydrates: 0.1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 92g | Saturated Fat: 58g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 24g | Trans Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 244mg | Sodium: 730mg | Potassium: 27mg | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 2836IU | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 0.02mg
Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate
Course Dessert
Cuisine American

Other Baking Tips

Dorothy Kern

Welcome to Crazy for Crust, where I share recipes that are sometimes crazy, often with a crust, and always served with a slice of life.

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