Soften Butter Quickly with this Trick

Soften butter quickly with this trick. If you forget to let your butter come to room temperature ahead of time, use this quick and easy method.

softened butter cut into 10 pieces

If you find yourself baking more these days, take the time to review this helpful post. I’m so excited to republish it because understanding this crucial concept is key in your baking’s success.

Butter is the starting point for an immense amount of baked goods, so it’s important to have it prepped as the recipe suggests. But guess what? We’re all human and we forget to bring butter to room temperature first or we just don’t have the time. We make up for it by trying to heat it in the microwave, but it always ends up slightly melted. At this point, butter and sugar can’t cream properly leading to cookies over-spreading, dense cakes, overflowing cupcakes, and flat muffins.

Let me help.

Soften Butter Quickly with This Trick

Let’s dive into this a little further.

Why Softened Butter?

First, let’s discuss why you actually need softened butter for your recipe. I actually have an in-depth post about room temperature butter if you’d like to read further.

Most recipes calling for butter call for room temperature/softened butter. And there’s legitimate science involved for this particular consistency. Butter, a solid fat, is capable of holding air and the creaming process is when butter traps that air. While baking, that trapped air expands from the heat and produces a fluffy baked good. Not only this, room temperature ingredients bond together very easily since they’re warmer, creating a seamless and evenly textured batter. A smooth batter with trapped air = a uniformly textured and proper tasting baked good. Cold ingredients do not emulsify together. Period. This results in clumpy frosting, chunky cheesecake, dense cake, flat breads, and oily muffins.

  • It’s literally #1 in my top 10 baking tips: if a recipe calls for room temperature butter, use room temperature butter. It can’t properly cream with sugar otherwise.

creamed butter and powdered sugar

Room Temperature Butter is Colder than You Think

Room temperature butter is cool to the touch and about 65°F (18°C). This might be colder than your kitchen. When you press it, your finger will make an indent. Your finger won’t sink down into the butter, nor will your finger slide all around. To get that perfect consistency and temperature, leave butter out on the counter for around 1 hour prior to beginning your recipe.

a stick of softened butter

If your cakes are dense, you’re probably softening the butter too much. And butter that’s too warm causes cookies to overspread. But guess what? You have complete control to prevent these problems.

How to Soften Butter Quickly

The best way to soften butter for a recipe is to set it out on the counter for about 1-2 hours. The amount of time depends on the weather and how cool you keep your kitchen. But we forget and/or we just don’t have time.

There’s a billion tricks to softening butter quickly, but the following is what works best for me. Here’s what you need:

  • water
  • butter, sliced into small pieces
  • microwave

Step 1: Pour 2 cups of water into a microwave-safe cup or bowl. I always use a liquid measuring cup.

glass measuring cup filled with water

Step 2: Microwave it for 2 minutes until extremely hot. Meanwhile, place butter in a heatproof bowl or on a plate.

glass liquid measuring cup filled with hot water

Step 3: Remove water from the microwave. Place butter inside. Quickly close microwave. (Our microwave is one of those models in the kitchen island. I love it!) Remove water from the microwave.

Step 4: The radiant heat will soften the butter in about 10 minutes.

glass bowl with butter inside on an opened drawer microwave

Keep This in Mind

The more butter your recipe calls for, the larger the bowl or plate (holding the butter) should be. In other words, you don’t want a huge pile of butter in a small bowl. Spread it out so the pieces of butter can warm up quickly and evenly.

More Tips to Make YOU a Better Baker

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glass bowl with pieces of butter inside

How to Soften Butter Quickly

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: softened butter
  • Category: Baking
  • Method: Microwave
  • Cuisine: American


Soften butter quickly with this super easy trick.


  • 2 cups water
  • butter (sliced into pieces)*


  1. Pour 2 cups of water into a microwave-safe cup or bowl. I always use a liquid measuring cup.
  2. Microwave it for 2 minutes until very hot. Meanwhile, place pieces of butter into a heatproof bowl or on a plate.
  3. Very carefully remove water from microwave. Place butter in the microwave. Immediately close the microwave door to trap hot air inside.
  4. The radiant heat will soften the butter in about 10 minutes.


  1. The more butter your recipe calls for, the larger the bowl or plate (holding the butter) should be. Spread the pieces of butter out so they can warm up quickly and evenly. Thinner pieces will soften faster.

Keywords: butter

And Always Remember

If a recipe calls for room temperature butter, make sure all other ingredients are room temperature as well. This includes eggs, milk, and sour cream. When cold ingredients touch creamed butter, the butter will cool down and solidify again. And, as you now know, this sabotages your recipe. Place eggs in warm water for 10 minutes and/or microwave dairy ingredients (not butter!) for about 10 seconds prior to using. Now go make perfect sugar cookies!

decorated sugar cookies


  1. Good to know that works too! It was perfect the first time. I learn so much from you as well! Wow great post.

  2. Hi Sally, I have been following you since before your engagement but I’ve not commented till now. I love everything you and follow closely… just quiet I guess. …. I wanted to share with you a tip for softening butter that I learned from Mary Berry. She tells us to slice butter, as you have, but then leave it in the bowl and add barely warm water. It all happens very fast… maybe 3-4 mins. Best of all it works beautifully. Maybe this would be helpful for those without microwave ovens. Like me! God’s blessings on you and yours and thanks so very much for years of beautiful baking.

  3. Elizabeth McGann says:

    I have followed this tip dozens of times, and it works 100% of time! Thank you!!

  4. Gloria Gomperts says:

    Hi Sally,
    I put butter out on my counter last night to make cookies but when I got up in this morning, I realized that after a hectic day I forgot that the
    butter was still on the counter. It was still in it’s original shape but VERY soft. So I put it back into the freezer and now I’m wondering if I can still use this butter to make cookies after I defrost & soften it properly.
    Thank you,

    1. It should still be ok, Gloria!

      1. Gloria Gomperts says:

        Thank you so much Sally,
        I appreciate your prompt response and also wish you the best with the arrival of your precious new bay girl!

  5. Sally: I have a convection/microwave oven (an expensive Kitchen Aid appliance that came with my house) that has a setting for softening butter (as opposed to melting which is separate option) which I have used for one kind of cookie I make often and it works well as my cookies do not overspread. I’ve only just discovered your website so I’m wondering if you would think this setting would work for softening butter to room temp. for your other recipes which I hope to try. I do cheat a bit — my recipe calls for 1.25 C butter (2 sticks plus a 1/2 stick) and the microwave accommodates up to 2 sticks so I tend to set it for 2 sticks only – just to be on the safe side and let the butter sit for a short time before I use it. I was so excited to find this capability but I don’t want to assume this setting would work for items beyond my cookies. What do you think?

    1. Hi Kim, If you have this setting then it should work any time you need room temperature butter! My only caution would be to make sure your butter isn’t too warm. Here’s What Room Temperature Butter Really Means.

  6. Was delicious !! Both my sons and their families loved it. I tried NY times recipe which is similar to yours , different in couple ingredients measurement. I was not v. happy.
    My husband likes McDonald’s cookies. What could I do to your recipe to get that effect. I think they are a little chewy.

  7. It may be my microwave, but this didn’t work for me. I tried it again and left the steamy measuring cup of water in there with the butter and it worked like a charm. My two cents!

  8. Worked like a charm on my butter and cream cheese. Thank you so much.

  9. THANK YOU. Never fails, every Thanksgiving I get ready to make pies and I always, always forget to take the butter out the freezer ahead of time. This little trick worked great! Appreciate it!

  10. Billy Williams says:

    Sally GURL! I have learned quite a few tricks when I have a sudden compulsion to bake and need room temperature or even frozen ingredients. This microwave tip is awesome. I have been known to put a heating pad or warm wash cloth on the side of my metal mixing bowl to soften butter while it’s mixing if the butter is still too hard and not the proper consistency. I have also used a couple ice cubes when needing to go the other direction. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that you’re recipes are off the hook. When you say something is the best, it’s the best! And I think you’re my taste bud twin, when you talk about your preferences for flavor, I’m like OMG, me too! I kinda have a lil crush, just don’t tell my hersband! Anyway ty so much for your tips and recipes, they really have me improve my baking game. Billy from Ohio.

  11. Such a wonderful tip. I’ve done this multiple times since I read this. Thank you! I’m making coconut cookies today and my butter is in the microwave as I write this. It was already out on the counter all day but my kitchen is chilly. This makes all the difference.

  12. Can’t believe how well this works!

  13. Werra Watson says:

    Genius! It worked like a charm. Now I am looking forward to looking at more of your site. Thank you for this great tip. Do you think this would work for Cream Cheese?

  14. Thank you. But sooooo much unnecessary commentary and nonsense just to soften butter.

  15. Hi Sally,
    I’ve tried this tip a few times, and i don’t feel like it works. I mean, I see all the great reviews, but I really don’t see how it works. I followed your instructions and you said the butter would soften in about ten minutes. So at ten minutes, I opend the microwave door and saw that the butter pieces were still very hard (like just taken out of the fridge or something). So then I closed the door and waited another ten minutes. It still wasn’t ready. Not sure what I did wrong, but it was ready in 30 minutes. Could you point out my mistake? Thank you!

  16. Hey Sally! I absolutely love your recipes and always follow then from word to word. You have certainly made me a “butter” baker Had a doubt about this softening Butter trick though; the butter that we need to soften in the microwave, can it be straight from the refrigerator/freezer?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Anusha! It can be straight from the refrigerator, but we don’t recommend using frozen butter for this trick.

  17. I recently saw an article on some recipe site where they tested various softening methods and their #1 was to place the butter between 2 pieces of plastic wrap, punching it flat and it softens while you are getting everything else ready. Works great, just turn bottom sheet upside down over bowl and it falls off. I also warm my eggs in the bowl I’ll beat them in with hot tap water while getting all the other ingredients ready.

  18. If I’ve forgotten to take out the butter. I’ve always cut the butter into pats like it shows at the beginning of this technique. After placing it into a microwave safe glass bowl or dish. I will turn the microwave on for 20-30 seconds at 20% power. Then I let it sit for about 5-10 minutes. It’s not exactly perfect but it works quite well for me.

  19. You actually CAN microwave water in the microwave! Put a toothpick in the water for the molecules to hang onto and that will make it safe. This is one of those things that has two sides…the people who read these articles that they find somewhere and begin to panic, and the people who have done this for years and will continue to do it! Similar to, “don’t eat eggs!” and other trends that come and go.

  20. I love your recipe for sugar cookies. I use vanilla and almond extract and love it. I’d like to use a pumpkin extract but not sure how much to use or should I omit just the almond extract or should I omit the vanilla extract too.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cathy! We would omit the almond extract, still use the vanilla and add some pumpkin extract (unsure of how much you will need). You may also love the pumpkin cookie dough from our pumpkin spice roll cookies for a naturally flavored pumpkin sugar cookie – see the section of the blog post titled “Can I Use This Dough for Pumpkin Cookie Cutter Cookies?” for details.

  21. Janelle Valdes says:

    Hi Sally! Can we do this trick with cream cheese too?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Janelle, we would think so – though cream cheese may soften more quickly.

  22. This completely melted my butter.

  23. Did not work at all, used a 2 cup glass measuring cup, cooked on high in the microwave for 2 1/2 minutes. Took out and placed butter cut into small pieces back in microwave and waited. Did not soften one bit.

  24. I want to remove a stick of butter from the refrigerator and soften it just enough that we can spread it on bread without tearing the bread. I don’t want to cut it into squares. Thanks!

    1. If that is all you want to do, you could microwave it very briefly, and then leave it sit for five minutes or so to let some of the heat even out in the stick. (experiment if your microwave does not have a “soften” program)
      My experience with this method is that I get a soft area near the middle of the outside of the stick, but the ends are still hard and there is sometimes a liquid spot in the very center (internal) of the stick! (Stick on a plate, set so the stick is near the outside of the turntable)

  25. It is fine to tell people to remove the water “very carefully”, but, what does “very carefully” mean? Obviously one does not want to spill boiling hot water on their hands, and that bowl is probably going to be hot. However, that is not all of it. A new perfectly smooth bowl may have no place for steam bubbles to grow, allowing “superheating” of the water, resulting in an explosion when the bowl is moved. When heating water by itself in a bowl that is not obviously scratched, putting a wooden spoon or other rough microwave safe object in the bowl will prevent superheating by giving a place for steam bubbles to grow.

  26. You saved my Banana Bread, Thank You!

1 2

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