Let me teach you how to brown butter. Brown butter is melted butter with a nutty and bold flavor brought on by gently cooking it on the stove. You can use this one-ingredient wonder as a sauce or as an ingredient in endless sweet or savory recipes.
Here’s a detailed tutorial teaching you how to brown butter!
What Is Brown Butter?
Brown butter (buerre noisette) is a classic French staple in the kitchen. It’s melted butter with an accelerated flavor brought on by gently cooking it. It’s a one-ingredient wonder, vastly improving any dish or recipe where it’s used. In less than 10 minutes, butter sizzles, foams, and gently cooks into a nutty and caramelized flavored ingredient you can use as a sauce over pasta, meat, or vegetables; or in dessert recipes like brown butter sugar cookies, brown butter apple blondies, and brown butter pound cake.
Because of its versatility (and because it’s so delicious!), browning butter is a simple kitchen skill anyone can and should master. Let me show you how.
How to Brown Butter
Here are the items you need:
- Butter: You can use unsalted or salted butter, but make sure it’s cut into pieces so it cooks evenly. If the butter is frozen or too cold, it will splatter and easily burn. Take it out of the refrigerator about 20–30 minutes before starting.
- Pan: Use a light-colored pan so you can see when the butter has browned.
- Something to stir it with: A wooden spoon, silicone whisk, or rubber spatula work.
Browning butter is pretty quick. Place the pieces of butter in your light-colored pan. Turn the stove heat to medium. Medium heat ensures the butter cooks evenly, an important factor in the success of this easy process. Begin stirring to move the butter around as it melts. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam and sizzle around the edges. Keep stirring. In about 5–8 minutes from when you started (depending on the amount of butter you used), the butter will turn golden brown. The foam will slightly subside and the milk solids on the bottom of the pan will toast. It will smell intensely buttery, nutty, and rich.
Brown Butter Can Burn
There are only a few seconds between brown butter and burnt butter, so keep your eye on the stove the entire time. Don’t walk away and don’t stop stirring! Once some foam begins to dissolve and you notice the specks on the bottom of the pan have browned, immediately remove the pan from heat and pour the butter into a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking process. If left in the hot pan, the butter will burn. Burnt butter is bitter and unappetizing, a far cry from decadent browned butter.
What Are the Brown Specks in Brown Butter?
Brown specks in brown butter are toasted milk solids. They’re actually where most of the flavor comes from, so make sure you scrape those out of the pan along with the liquid butter. Don’t strain out the specks. Trust me, you want it all in your recipe!
Is There a Loss of Moisture?
Yes. Some of the liquid evaporates during the cooking process, so always measure the brown butter after you cook it. If a recipe calls for “1/2 cup butter, melted” or “1/2 cup melted butter” and you’re using browned butter instead, make sure you have 1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) of browned butter for the recipe. This may mean that you need to brown 8 and 1/2 or 9 Tablespoons of butter or, depending on the recipe, add a Tablespoon or 2 of milk. See my Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies as an example.
3 Success Tips for Browning Butter
- Cut the Butter Into Pieces: This promises the butter will cook evenly.
- Don’t Stop Stirring: Again, this ensures the butter will cook evenly.
- Use a Light-Colored Pan: We can spot exactly when the butter has browned (and before it burns!) if we use a light-colored pan. You can use a pot, but I prefer a skillet. I’m using a Le Creuset cast iron fry pan in these photos, but a stainless steel pan or any other light-colored pan are excellent too.
Substituting Brown Butter
You can use brown butter in mostly any recipe that calls for melted butter. See Is There a Loss of Moisture? above. If a baking recipe calls for softened butter and you want to substitute brown butter instead, make sure it cools and solidifies first. It’s likely that the baking recipe calls for creaming butter and sugar together and you can’t cream melted brown butter. See Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies as an example.
More Uses for Browned Butter
- Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Brown Butter Sugar Cookies
- Banana Layer Cake
- Brown Butter Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
- Peach Bundt Cake
- Apple Blondies
- Brown Butter Berry Tea Cakes
- Pecan Sugar Cookies
- Use as a dip for soft pretzels, bread, lobster, crab, or shrimp.
- Pour over popcorn, pasta, cooked vegetables, or potatoes.
- Stir a couple Tablespoons into mashed potatoes, sauce, or soup.
- Eat it with a spoon. Kidding! (Or am I?)
I hope this tutorial has been helpful for you!Print
How to Brown Butter
- Prep Time: 1 minute
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 1/2 cup
- Category: Topping
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: American
Brown butter is melted butter with a nutty and bold flavor brought on by gently cooking it. You can use this one-ingredient wonder as a sauce or as an ingredient in endless sweet or savory recipes. Read success tips above and recipe Notes below before beginning.
- 1/2 cup (115g) butter, cut into 1-Tablespoon-size pieces*
- light-colored pan or skillet
- Preliminary note: Browning butter is pretty quick, so don’t leave the stove unattended. Have a heatproof bowl next to the stove ready to go for step 3.
- Place the butter in a light-colored pan over medium heat. Medium heat ensures the butter cooks evenly, an important factor in this process. Stir the butter the entire time to keep it moving. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam and sizzle around the edges. Keep stirring. In about 5–8 minutes from when you started (depending on the amount of butter you used), the butter will turn golden brown. Some foam will subside and the milk solids at the bottom of the pan will be toasty brown. It will smell intensely buttery and nutty.
- Immediately remove the pan from heat and pour the butter into heatproof bowl to stop the cooking process. If left in the hot pan, the butter will burn.
- Use as desired.
- Make-Ahead & Freezing Instructions: You can prepare brown butter ahead of time. Since butter is solid at room temperature, the browned butter will solidify. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Melt or bring to room temperature before using in your recipe.
- I listed 1/2 cup (115g) of butter, but you can use however much butter your recipe calls for. I never recommend browning more than 1 cup of butter at a time unless you have a very large pan. Use salted or unsalted butter, whichever your recipe calls for. If you’re using the brown butter as a sauce or dip, I recommend salted butter. Other than that, use the kind of butter that the recipe calls for. Most of my baking recipes call for unsalted butter because you add salt in the recipe.
Keywords: brown butter
Reader Comments & Reviews
I tried this yesterday and made cupcakes. The measurement decreased, so I added a bit more butter. Do you use the amount before or after browning?
Hi Kate, you want to add the additional butter before browning it. See section titled “Is There a Loss of Moisture?” for more information.
Thank you! Going to make brown sugar maple cookies with the browned butter!
I have been using browned butter for years. It is so good on shell pasta and also gnocchi.
Can the Brown Butter Sugar Cookie recipe be doubled or tripled successfully?
Hi Judy, you can double the brown butter sugar cookies recipe, although tripling it may be a bit too much added volume for your mixer. Hope you enjoy the cookies!
That was a great tip and worked really well. Please add a Jump to Link tan on your recipes!! Thank you
Good morning! I have seen articles that mention adding water if you want to sub brown butter for reg butter in recipes. Do you recommend this for yours? I was planning to sub brown butter in the chocolate chip cookie cake. On that same note…thoughts of subbing brown for regular in the frosting?Thank you!
Hi Carolyn, yes! You can swap butter for brown butter in most recipes. Note that if the recipe calls for butter softened to room temperature, you must place the browned butter back into the refrigerator to solidify it once again. It will be delicious in the chocolate chip cookie cake, and yes, you can do so with frosting as well. We do that in the frosting for this banana cake, if you’re interested in seeing how we do that. Happy baking!
Thank you so much…I read through the “how to brown butter” in detail and just have one more question…for the chocolate chip cookie cake should I add any milk due to the loss of moisture? If so, how much?
Hi Carolyn, You can actually use this brown butter chocolate chip cookie dough to make a brown butter cookie cake (follow the baking directions for the cookie cake recipe).
It’s so much quicker, and safer, to brown butter in the microwave. I use my Kitchen Aid clear glass mixing bowl , cover it w/ Stretch ‘n Seal, and poke a few holes in it to let the steam escape. It only takes a few minutes and there’s no saucepan to stir or spitting butter to burn you or make a mess. It’s also very easy to see how brown the butter is getting through the side of the glass bowl. Epicurious has an article on how to brown butter in a microwave.