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Browning butter is one of life’s great magic tricks. When melted into frothy oblivion, ordinary butter transforms into liquid gold for just a few precious seconds. Brown butter sauce is perfect for drizzling over sweet or savory dishes in need of a flavor boost.

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What Is Brown Butter?

Brown butter, or beurre noisette, is the result of natural separation through heat of butter into butterfat and milk solids. The milk solids sink to the bottom of the pan, where they continue to toast, developing a warm, nutty flavor and a golden-brown hue.

Beurre noisette, the French term for brown butter, translates to hazelnut butter—a nod to the sauce’s color, which resembles toasted pecans or hazelnuts. In French cuisine, beurre noisette is a basic butter sauce for everything, from vegetables to fish and omelets. Browned butter can also incorporate into many pastries and baked goods.

5 Ways to Use Brown Butter

Brown butter is a flexible, flavorful sauce that can take various dishes to the next level.

  1. Pasta. Brown butter, combined with an optional squeeze of lemon juice for added brightness and fried sage for texture and aroma, is the ideal simple, minimalist sauce for pasta like butternut squash ravioli.
  2. Baked goods. Swap brown butter in any recipes that call for melted butter, like chocolate chip cookie recipes, pancakes, madeleines, financiers, or add to frostings and glazes.
  3. Side dishes. Dress crisp, caramelized vegetables with brown butter, or fold the warm sauce into mashed potatoes for additional flavor.
  4. Roasts. Pour brown butter over a fillet of fish before a low-and-slow roast in the oven.
  5. Snacks. Drizzle brown butter over popcorn for a warm, sophisticated complement to sweet or salty toppings.

Brown Butter vs. Regular Butter: What Is the Difference?

Brown butter is simply regular butter—a stable emulsion of the butterfat and milk solids in milk and cream—that has been cooked past its melting point. Clarified butter, also known as ghee, is also a byproduct of this process, with the milk solids strained out instead of being allowed to caramelize and reincorporated.

How to Make Brown Butter

Browning butter is an easy process that takes only minutes to complete. You’ll need a stick of unsalted butter, a small saucepan, and a utensil to stir the butter as it browns.

  • Melt butter in pan. Melt one stick of unsalted butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir. Once the butter is melted and begins to bubble and foam, stir continuously to ensure none of the milk solids—those little brown bits that appear as the butter melts—burn as they settle on the bottom of the pan.
  • Wait for the color change. Lower heat if necessary, and wait for the butter to become a warm shade of golden brown, with an undeniably nutty aroma. Remove from heat immediately.
  • Transfer and cool. Transfer the brown butter to a heatproof bowl. Allow the butter sauce to reach room temperature before using.