Abstract Wheat bread and sour rye bread, with and without butter, and with different NaCl concentrations, were rated for pleasantness by a panel of Polish consumers (N = 31). Sensory quality of the samples was characterized by conducting time-intensity measurements of overall flavour, saltiness and sourness using a laboratory panel (N = 4). Butter (unsalted or salted) had a compensatory effect, improving the pleasantness of low-salt breads. A wheat bread sandwich (0·63% NaCl in bread) with unsalted butter and a rye bread sandwich (0·75% NaCl in bread) with salted butter were rated as pleasant as samples containing more NaCl (1·06% in wheat bread, 0·98–1·55% in rye bread). When the total NaCl concentrations of the sandwich samples were similar, sandwiches with salted butter were rated more salty than samples with unsalted butter.