Brown butter is one of my favorite magic tricks in the kitchen. It’s so easy to make and lends a warm, sweet nuttiness to any dish, savory or sweet. Here’s how to brown butter and all of the delicious ways you can use it.


There’s something magical that happens when you cook butter beyond the melting point. It sputters and foams as the milk and butter separate and the milk solids float to the top of the mixture, then fall to the bottom of the pan. That’s where the wizardry happens—as the solids brown and caramelize—taking on a rich, sweet, nutty aroma that envelopes the entire kitchen. The scent alone is reason enough to make it, and I would go so far as to say I would dab browned butter on my pulse points like a perfume if I could.

The best thing about brown butter is that it’s totally versatile, so you can use it in a myriad of ways. When I’m feeling savory, I’ll add it to pasta, like my recipe for ravioli with browned butter and crispy sage, or my recipe for roasted asparagus with browned butter. When I’m making something sweet, I’ll swap it into brownies and banana bread. Bottom line: If you’ve never browned your butter, you have to try it. You’ll be hooked for life.


What is Brown Butter?

The French have a beautiful name for browned butter: Beurre noisette, which translates to hazelnut butter (as it’s the color of hazelnuts and has a nutty flavor).

Browned butter is melted butter taken a step further and cooked until the milk solids separate and begin to brown on the bottom of the pan. It’s so simple to make and takes no time at all, and I’m convinced it is one of the most intoxicating smells that will ever come out of your kitchen.


How to Brown Butter

Browning butter is a breeze. You can use either unsalted or salted butter and it comes together fast. Once you start smelling a sweet, fragrant nuttiness, and once you stop hearing the butter sizzle, the butter is beginning to brown. Let your senses be your guide.

Melt and stir. Heat a medium skillet over medium and add the butter. Cook for about 3 minutes or until browned and fragrant (it will smell nutty), swirling the butter and stirring occasionally.

Scrape it up. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan—that’s where all the amazing flavor is.


How Long Does It Take to Brown Butter?

It only takes about 3-5 minutes or so to brown butter. Some recipes have you cook the butter over medium-low heat, but I prefer cooking it over medium. The darker your butter, the more flavorful it will be, but take care because there’s a fine line between browning or burning. Watch your butter carefully.


How to Use Browned Butter

Browned butter is my secret weapon in sweet and savory dishes. You can use it in just about any recipe that calls for melted butter to add richness and nuttiness. The inspiration is endless, but here are some of my favorite ways to incorporate it in cooking and baking:

  • Drizzle over squash or other veggies, like green beans with almonds or asparagus with marconas
  • Crisp sage in the browned butter and toss with ravioli or pasta
  • Use in brownies or blondies
  • Stir into banana bread or other quick breads
  • Fold into cakes or muffins
  • Whisk with powdered sugar to make a glaze for cakes and scones
  • Add to pancakes and waffle batter
  • Stir into puddings, pastry cream, and custard pies
  • Mix with softened butter (once cooled) to make the best butter ever for spreading on biscuits, toast, French toast, etc.
  • Whisk with maple syrup for an all-in-one, ultimate pancake, waffle, and French toast topping
  • Stir into cookie dough
  • Whisk into a vinaigrette (especially great in salads with nuts and goat cheese)
  • Mix with fresh lemon juice and spoon over fish or scallops
  • Cut with a balsamic vinegar and spoon over seared meats like chicken or beef.

Recipes to Try With Browned Butter

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