Free Range Butter

3 Easy Ways to Soften Butter

By Nellie's Kindness Crew

Three methods to soften butter featuring Nellie's Free Range Butter. Nellie's package with two sticks of butter next to three example of butter softening. Grater used to soften butter in corner. Three methods to soften butter featuring Nellie's Free Range Butter. Nellie's package with two sticks of butter next to three example of butter softening. Grater used to soften butter in corner.

Having room temperature butter on hand is a must when you're baking. Properly creaming butter and sugar for treats like cookies and cakes requires that soft, spreadable texture that only softened butter can bring to your mixing bowl. Whipping up some buttercream? Unless you like butter chunks in your frosting (we don't judge!), you'll need to soften your butter. And really, who wants to scrape a cold, unspreadable pat across a piece of toast in the morning? Whether you're in a time crunch or planning ahead for a big day of baking, here are three easy ways to soften butter:

1. Let the butter sit out at room temperature

If you're not in a race against the clock, letting your butter sit out at room temperature is a great (and the most obvious) way to achieve uniformly softened butter. And there's no need to leave your butter out all night; at the very most, softening butter with this method takes about 2.5 hours of hands-off time. Cutting your butter into chunks will also speed up the process. Here are a few ways to soften butter by letting it sit out:

  • Cut butter into 1/2" cubes by slicing the stick in half lengthwise twice, then cutting into 8 pieces using the tablespoon markings on the wrapper. Place cubes in a single layer on a plate and let sit out at room temperature for 45 minutes.
  • Let a full stick of butter (still in its wrapper) sit out at room temperature for 1.5-2 hours.
  • Let a full, closed box of butter (2 sticks) sit out at room temperature for 2-2.5 hours.

While you might encounter recipes that recommend less softening time, in our testing, we found that waiting until butter is completely softened (according to the suggested timing above) yields the best results, especially for baking.

2. Grate the butter

When cut into smaller pieces, butter will always come up to room temperature faster than it would in stick form. That's where your cheese grater comes in. By grating a stick of butter, you can quickly turn it into tiny ribbons that will come up to temperature in just 20 minutes; the perfect amount of time to get out your other ingredients. To soften butter by grating it, follow these simple steps:

  • Using the side with the larger holes on your box grater, grate your butter onto a plate (just like you would a block of cheddar cheese).
  • When you're done grating, knock all the butter out of the grater (a few little pieces left behind is fine) and spread out the butter ribbons on the plate.
  • Let grated butter sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes, or until fully softened.

3. Microwave the butter

When the midnight munchies and baking bug strike and you find yourself preheating the oven while the rest of the house snoozes, planning ahead goes out the window. Luckily, there's a solution for all your last-minute baking needs: softening your butter in the microwave. One caveat: because microwaving tends to melt at least part of the butter stick, it's only recommended in a pinch. Here's how to do it:

  • Begin by microwaving a stick (or more, depending on the recipe) of butter at 10% power.
  • After 15 seconds, flip the butter over and microwave at 10% power for another 5 seconds.
  • Flip the butter again and microwave at 10% power for another 5 seconds. Repeat until softened, flipping the butter between each round.

This may take 4-5 rounds, but don't be tempted to increase the time for each round, as this is more likely to melt the butter rather than soften it.


JeanDecember 26, 2022

Thank you! I have never before seen an explanation for creaming (that the water in the butter dissolves the sugar), estimated times for softening the butter, or how soft it should be. No wonder my butter and sugar never got fluffy! If you are just having breakfast, a lemon zester easily grates a small amount of cold butter to melt on your toast.


Hi Jean, thanks for sharing all this with us! We love hearing about people's baking experiences!

JeannieDecember 17, 2021

I also think the tip of grating the butter is great! I will be using that method for those times I forget to take butter out of the fridge ahead of time. Good one!


Hi Jeannie, glad we could help! :)

Joan LaChapelleDecember 25, 2020

My choice for softening butter would be to grate it. Never thought of that.


Hi Joan, we are so happy that you are enjoying our butter! Grating is a great method!

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