How to Brown Butter

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.

brown butter in a pan with a silver spoon

Ok, I’m finally doing it. 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.

Video Tutorial

sliced butter in pan

How to Brown Butter

Here are the items you need:

  1. 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.
  2. Pan: Use a light-colored pan so you can see when the butter has browned.
  3. 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 heat onto 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’s 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 heat-proof 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.

softened butter in pan on stove

brown butter in pan

What Are the Brown Specks in Brown Butter?

Brown specks in brown butter are toasted milk solids. They’re actually where 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

  1. Cut the Butter into Pieces: This promises the butter will cook evenly.
  2. Don’t Stop Stirring: Again, this ensures the butter will cook evenly.
  3. 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.

brown butter in a glass bowl

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

  1. Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
  2. Brown Butter Sugar Cookies
  3. Banana Layer Cake
  4. Brown Butter Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
  5. Peach Bundt Cake
  6. Apple Blondies
  7. Use as a dip for bread, lobster, crab, or shrimp.
  8. Pour over popcorn, pasta, cooked vegetables or potatoes.
  9. Stir a couple Tablespoons into mashed potatoes, sauce, or soup.
  10. Eat it with a spoon. Kidding! (Or am I?)

I hope this tutorial has been helpful for you!

Print
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brown butter in a pan with a silver spoon

How to Brown Butter

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 minute
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1/2 cup
  • Category: Topping
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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.


Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (115g) butter, cut into 1 Tablespoon size pieces*

Instructions

  1. Browning butter is pretty quick, so don’t leave the stove unattended. Have a heat-proof bowl next to the stove ready to go for step 3.
  2. Place the pieces of 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.
  3. Immediately remove the pan from heat and pour the butter into heat-proof bowl to stop the cooking process. If left in the hot pan, the butter will burn.
  4. Use as desired.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. I listed 1/2 cup of butter, but you can use however much butter your recipe calls for. I never recommend browning over 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. All of my baking recipes call for unsalted butter because you add salt in the recipe.

Keywords: butter

30 Comments

  1. I have never made brown butter before, but I’m seeing recipes using it everywhere, and I have a feeling I’m missing out on something as big (or bigger…) than the Gold Rush. So I think I had better try this out soon 🙂 Also…that pan. It must make cooking/frying things 1000,000,000 times more fun!!! 😀

    1. Meaning because it is pink. My friend once asked me why I love Sally’s Baking Addiction so much and I replied, “Fabulous, trustworthy recipes, fun and interesting blog posts, sprinkles, dog and Noelle pictures, gorgeous aprons, and pink pots and pans. What’s not to love?” 😀

      1. Haha – yes pink bakeware makes everything more fun! Thank you so much, Erin!!! <3

  2. Josephine Mullane says:

    I read somewhere that brown butter should only be made with unsalted butter? What do you think? Thank you.

    1. Hmm. I’ve never heard of that before. I’ve browned salted butter plenty of times and it’s no issue!

  3. Stephanie Kurz says:

    Thanks for the tutorial! It’s one of those things that seems fairly easy but has always made me nervous to attempt. Can’t wait to give it a try! Now to do some light colored pan shopping…

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed this tutorial!! 🙂

  4. I would love to make brown butter…everything! You make it sound delicious. However, we have dairy allergies in the family…any way of making brown butter (or getting the taste of) with anything else like coconut oil or margarine?

    1. Hi Rachel, This is a great question and unfortunately I’m not sure! The wonderful nutty taste comes from the milk solids – which are obviously no going to work for you. My google search came up with many different options for browning dairy free butter but I haven’t tested any. Let me know if you do!

  5. Karen Schmidt says:

    Hi Sally,
    Can I cook the browned butter, refrigerate it, then use it within a few days? Can it be frozen too? Thanks much.

    1. Yes and yes! If you need the brown butter in its liquid state for a recipe, just melt it in the microwave before using.

  6. Do you keep the nutty solids on the bottom or strain? Thanks – you are our go to site and my kids are developing a love for baking (with me!)

    1. Keep them in the butter! That’s where a lot of flavor is hiding.

  7. I made browned butter for the first time yesterday – it sounded complicated and I was so nervous to do it, but in truth it was really easy! I flavoured it with a whole star-anise and added it to your Deep Dish Apple Pie filling – delicious! Thank you for a great tutorial Sally!

  8. My brown bits on the bottom look black. Is that how they should look? It was hard to see the color of the butter through the foam. Do you use those brown/black bits in the frosting or do you strain them out?

    1. Hi Mira, does the butter smell burnt? If so, it could have been cooked too long. You’re looking for brown bits, not black. Don’t strain out the brown bits before using the brown butter– they hold all the flavor!

  9. Once again, Sally, you’ve done it! Your step-by-step instructions, as well as the photographs, made this super easy. It’s absolutely delicious on butternut squash ravioli, pasta, and popcorn.
    Question: I make cut-out sugar cookies decorated with royal icing. I’m tempted to use browned butter to see if I like the taste. If my recipe calls for two sticks of butter, would I need to melt additional butter prior to refrigerating and returning it to a solid state to ensure I have two sticks? Do you know if the butter behaves the same way as unbrowned butter at room temperature?
    Thank you, in advance, for any advice that you might have!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mary, You should be able to use brown butter in place of regular butter in most cookie recipes. If it calls for room temperature butter just be sure your browned butter is cooled back to a solid state. Yes you should brown a little more than the recipe calls for to ensure you have enough. See the paragraph above called “Is there a loss of moisture?”

  10. Juan Carlo Jamlang says:

    Hi. Thank you for this. I tried browning butter for the first time. The recipe called for 280g melted butter. I used the same amount of butter to brown, and ended up with lesser butter (because of the moisture loss). The cookies I made came out dry. So I tried it a second time, now using 400g of butter (just to make sure I had enough) and used 280g, as the recipe required. But the cookie still felt crumbly. Do I just add the 2 tbsp of milk to the 280g of browned butter (which I started with 400g) or do I use the same quantity of melted butter and add the 2 tbsp to what’s left after browning? Thank you so much.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Juan, It’s hard to say without knowing which cookie recipe you are using. Are you using a recipe from this site? If the cookies are dry and you are using the correct amount, and the correct temperature, butter it’s likely something else happening. Be sure you measuring your ingredients properly, i.e. spoon and level (don’t scoop) your flour.

  11. Hi Sally,

    In India, we have been making ghee from butter using the same process for ages. For making ghee from butter, the butter is simmered on low, the milk solids are not stirred, totally browned and strained and only clarified white ghee remains. I am guessing browning butter means only going half way into that process, while stirring?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sam, Yes that’s a good way to describe it! You will keep stirring and not strain the butter.

  12. Browned butter is life changing! Just added to my favorite pecan pie recipe and it took to next level of nuttiness. I now have a jar in the fridge ready to use.

  13. I do not have a light coloured pan. Is that essential?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      It is not essential, it just makes it easier to see the color of the butter.

  14. Chanelle McLeod says:

    Holy, the brown butter is life changing. Never thought it could change the cream cheese flavour so much. I’ve also added in chocolate chips to make it more banana breadie 🙂

  15. hello! how do i substitute brown butter for 1/2 cup of softened butter in a recipe? any tips? thank you so much!!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rozel, You can simply follow the directions for browning the butter and if it has been refrigerated let it sit at room temperature to soften up just like you would for for regular butter before using it in your recipe.

  16. I browned two sucks this morning in preparation for cookies tomorrow morning. When they finally cooled it looks as though it separated into two layers, thin clearly brown and a thicker, darker than it started with yellow. Do I need to cook this further or is it done?

    1. Hi Nick, that sounds perfectly normal for solidified brown butter. I wouldn’t cook it any more.

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