how to make brown butter and how to use it
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Brown butter (or beurre noisette in French) lends a beautiful, nutty depth to any dish, sweet or savory; bakers swear by it for the extra caramelized notes it brings to cookies, cakes, and breads, and cooks love drenching everything from pumpkin gnocchi to seared fish in delicious brown butter sauce. Browned butter is easy to make—it’s what you get when you melt butter down until the water is cooked out and the milk solids separate and turn a golden brown.

While the process is simple, it’s also easy to mess up, chiefly by being impatient, trying to multitask, and leaving the pan on the heat too long and burning the butter. Don’t do those things.

You’ll also want to use a light-colored skillet or saucepan (depending on the amount of butter you’re browning); cast iron or dark nonstick surfaces will disguise the color of the butter, increasing the chances that you’ll burn it. A stainless steel pan or one with a light enameled finish is best. Aluminum is the right color but tends to make the butter stick.

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How to Brown Butter:

1. Place cold or room temperature butter in your pan or skillet over medium heat. Watch it melt. Do not step away at any point during this process.

2. Wait until you hear the butter crackle and pop. That’s the water coming out of the butter. Foam may appear as the butterfat releases the milk solids. Once the popping and snapping abates, the milk solids are forming. They’ll turn into light-brown little specks on the bottom of the pan.

3. Use a heat-proof metal, wooden, or silicone spoon or spatula to stir the browning milk solids. Stir gently; this helps the milk solids brown slowly and uniformly.

4. Remove the pan from the heat once you see the milk solids at the bottom of the pan turn golden-brown and the butter smells toasty and nutty. (If it smells burnt, that’s bad, but don’t automatically throw out butter that looks too dark—taste it first. If it’s not bitter, it’s still good to go; the French call this beurre noir.) The butter will continue to cook off the heat, so pour the butter from the hot pan into a heat-safe dish.

5. You can strain the butter through cheesecloth to remove the sediment if you want, but there’s lots of flavor there, so we prefer not to.

Now go forth and use your beautiful, fragrant, nutty browned butter in a recipe.

What to Do with Brown Butter

You can use brown butter cut with a bit of vinegar or lemon juice as a simple pan sauce on roasted, sauteed, or steamed vegetables, meat, and fish (try adding a few leaves of sage or another herb to the butter to add extra flavor); use it to sauce a simple pasta; use it instead of oil in a vinaigrette; or add it to baked goods that call for melted butter (just replace the plain melted butter with an equal amount of beurre noisette). Brown butter adds a great twist to classic chocolate chip cookies, or French crepes, for instance.

Or try some of these recipes with your browned butter:

Zucchini Brown-Butter Cornbread

Chowhound

This is zucchini bread with a double twist: brown butter and cornmeal. So there’s more sweet nutty flavor in there. Try the browned butter trick in sweet quick breads too (like banana bread or pumpkin bread) for extra nuance. Get our Zucchini Brown-Butter Cornbread recipe.

Brown Butter Walnut Dressing

brown butter walnut stuffing recipe

Alexis deBoschnek

A full stick of browned butter enriches this nutty stuffing lightened up by a bunch of fresh herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme), the perfect Thanksgiving side dish, but too good to reserve only for the holidays. Get the Brown Butter Walnut Dressing recipe.

Brown Butter Hasselback Potatoes

Brown Butter Hasselback Potatoes recipe

Chowhound

This is, in one sense, a lower-maintenance way of making brown butter—it caramelizes on its own while the pan of potatoes bakes in the oven, and you spoon it back over so they absorb all the nutty flavor and get crispy on top; the butter is infused with thyme and garlic for good measure. Get our Brown Butter Hasselback Potatoes recipe.

Orecchiette with Sausage, Brown Butter, and Sage

Chowhound

This simple pasta packs complex flavor with the spicy sausage, nutty brown butter, sweet herby sage, and salty pecorino cheese. Get our Orecchiette with Sausage, Brown Butter, and Sage recipe.

Pan-Fried Trout with Brown Butter and Pecans

Pan-Fried Trout with Brown Butter and Pecans

Amber Wilson

Amber Wilson’s take on trout amandine is simple enough for a weeknight, but elegant enough for company. The brown butter intensifies the nuttiness of the pecans and a bit of lemon juice gives it a spark. Get the Brown Butter Pan-Fried Trout recipe.

Buttermilk and Brown Butter Waffles

Chowhound

Waffles are a great weekend brunch idea that you can make even better with browned butter in the batter. Of course we still love waffles with cold pats of butter that melt into the divots, but this way, you can show off its delightfully dark side too. Get our Buttermilk and Brown Butter Waffles recipe.

Brown Butterscotch Pie

Chowhound

Allowing the butter and sugar to cook longer transforms a classic butterscotch pie into a toasty, nutty dessert that has some gravity to offset the sweetness of the caramel. Get our Brown Butterscotch Pie recipe.

Brown Butter Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adding brown butter to cookies brings a caramel-like flavor; adding bits of toffee amps it up even more, and bringing chocolate chips into the mix is almost always a great idea. Get the Brown Butter Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe.

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

Simple cinnamon-sugar cookies experience another earthy-sweet dimension with browned butter. Get the Brown Butter Snickerdoodles recipe.

Header image courtesy of Westend61 / Getty Images

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