How to Brown Butter + How to Use It

Ah, browned butter. How I love thee. Years ago when I first heard of the novelty of browned butter (yes, I know it’s been around forever but I’m often late to the party), I was skeptical it could really do much for me. Plus I didn’t want to run the risk of burning it which seems to happen to a lot of people. Wasted, burnt butter is a very, very sad thing.

Finally, after suspecting I might be missing out on something big and wonderful, I put on my big girl apron and tried browning some butter. That was ages ago and I can report that browning butter has made me an infinitely better person. In some of my recipes, I refer to browning butter or offer in the notes that if you choose to brown the butter first, your life may not be the same. I get a lot of questions about how to brown butter and so I thought I’d show you how it’s done.

It’s easy. It’s fast. It’s incredible.

Basically what happens: butter is melted and simmered until the solids in the butter separate from the melted butter and it’s those little bits of buttery solids that give browned butter its uniquely flavorful taste. Once it’s finished browning, you can use the nutty, caramelly stuff in everything from cookies to French toast to cakes to savory chicken dishes. I say this a lot but truly, the options are endless.

How to Brown Butter + How to Use It

First off, let’s talk about pans. If at all possible, you don’t want to use a dark-coated and/or nonstick pan. Simply because it’s very difficult to tell when those butter solids have turned perfectly brown (versus perfectly burned). Instead, use a stainless steel or light-coated pan or pot.

How to Brown Butter + How to Use It

To brown that butter, simply add slabs of butter to your skillet or pan and set it over medium-low to medium heat. It’ll get nice and melty.
How to Brown Butter + How to Use It

Then, it begins to simmer and will get a little foamy on top.
How to Brown Butter + How to Use It

Moderate the heat so it’s not cooking at too high of a temperature. It’s waaaay better to work with low heat versus heat that’s going to kill the whole process.
How to Brown Butter + How to Use It

You’ll notice the butter solids starting to change color on the bottom of the pan. Use a heatproof spatula to slowly scrape the bottom of the skillet or pan so the butter browns evenly. At this point, watch very carefully since the butter will often brown quite quickly. This is not the time to go paint your toenails.
How to Brown Butter + How to Use It

Right about the time the little bits turn evenly golden, pull the pan off the heat so the solids don’t continue to cook and turn black. Black butter = icky. Browned butter = divine.
How to Brown Butter + How to Use It

And now.

Use it. Slather it. Eat it. Love it.

How to Use Browned Butter

You can use browned butter in just about anything but the distinctive flavor really comes through in baked goods and dishes that aren’t overpowered by more dominant ingredients. For instance, I, personally, don’t waste browned butter in a brownie or chocolate cake recipe. You can barely tell it’s there with all the chocolate. But in a chocolate chip cookie? Banana bread loaf? Frosting? Sauces? It’s tremendous.

In recipes that call for softened, unmelted butter, I brown the butter, pour it into a bowl or jar and pop it into the fridge until it’s cooled and firmed up a bit, similar to the consistency of butter you’d soften for cookies.

For recipes that call for melted butter – well, that’s easy. Use right after making or according to the recipe you are using it in, or simply store in the refrigerator until ready to use and melt again over low heat.

Here are a few recipes that are happier with browned butter:
Magical Layered Brownies with Browned Butter Frosting
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
Green Lentil Soup with Curried Browned Butter
Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Sage Browned Butter
Oatmeal Butterscotch Bars
Buttermilk Banana Bread
Sour Cream Muffins (replacing the coconut oil with butter)

If I’m being totally honest, I keep a tub of browned butter in my fridge nearly at all times to use anytime I get a hankering for browned butter which happens more often than one would think. Also, if you are a rice krispie treat fan, you must try making them sometime with browned butter and a splash of vanilla. Gourmet reinvented.

Prepare yourself. I’ll be sharing two recipes in the next few weeks that call for browned butter and without {too much} exaggeration I’m telling you: your life will be changed.

How to Brown Butter + How to Use It

34 Responses to Kitchen Tip: How to Brown Butter {+ How to Use It}

  1. Thanks for this step by step guide to browning butter. Browned butter is a great companion for gourmet cooking. It gives me my mashed potatoes a new flavour.

  2. lori says:

    I went out and bought a white skillet just for this!!

  3. I used browned butter last time I made your thick and chewy chocolate chip bars… So, so yummy! I also had to make a pan with plain old’ melted butter as a control. I seriously couldn’t believe the difference it made. Truly life changing! Thanks for the tutorial.

  4. Mickie says:

    I made Rice Krispie treats last night and my husband told me that mine always taste just better than his, shhh i browned the butter!

    Good luck this weekend! You can do it! Godspeed!

  5. brooke says:

    You need to try and make the recipe from the spagetti factory……Mizithra cheese and browned butter. Make your spaghetti noodles as normal, put some browned butter on them, and then put mizithra cheese. Costco actually sells the mizithra mixture right now in the refrigerated section. Try it. I promise that it is life changing! So yummy.

    • Jen says:

      Our entire family orders The Mizithra Cheese and Browned Butter Spaghetti at The Spaghetti Factory! My kids…my parents…
      It is the only thing I ever order there!!

  6. Joy says:

    Easiest lunch ever? Brown butter, pour over noodles, add salt and Parmesan or cheddar or feta or whatever. WAY, way, way better than anything in a box and just as easy.

  7. Lisa says:

    One of the local restaurants makes a Brown Butter Rosemary Popcorn – I’ve been wondering how easy it was to make brown butter – thanks for sharing your recipe!

  8. Heidi says:

    I love your website. Your’s is my go to site for recipes. One question, how long can you store the browned butter in the fridge? I am thinking I have to make this and keep some always ready, lol!

    • Mel says:

      Hey Heidi – it keeps as long as regular butter. I mean, to be honest, it doesn’t last long in my fridge, if you know what I mean, but it should be ok for a couple of weeks.

  9. Browned butter is the best!! Great post. Love all the pictures, you can really see the change. Drool 🙂

  10. Haha, I totally waited WAY too long to try browning butter too, thinking it couldn’t really be all that different and what if I burned it and wasted it. Oh my goodness, is it ever good. In fact, I kind of wish I had never tried it, because now I can’t stop. Popcorn is the worst, I can’t make it in a normal amount of time anymore, because it simply NEEDS browned butter, not regular! 🙂

  11. Loretta says:

    I wish I could fly you to Mike’s American Grill (just outside the beltway in DC) so you could taste their basil mashed potatoes and decode the recipe for the browned butter sauce they serve over the top. That browned butter sauce is nothing short of divine. No wonder they keep it a closely guarded secret!

    • Mel says:

      Oh my goodness, Loretta, those mashed potatoes and sauce sound incredible. HOW WILL I EVER TRY ALL THE DELICIOUS FOOD IN THIS WORLD??

  12. Cassidy says:

    Thank you, thank you!!! I’ve always been curious about brown butter! I love your food.

  13. Lissa says:

    Rice Krispie treats with browned butter are the bomb!!! Just saying 🙂

  14. Heather bell says:

    I love the browned butter too and since I know your an Americas test kitchen lover, you have to like right now make the chocolate chip cookies from them. Best ever, ever

  15. Nicole H says:

    I’m pretty new to using browned butter, so thank you for posting about the right way to make it. We LOVE your Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter and have made it many times. Those have been only times that I’ve purposefully made brown butter. Until this morning. I made your sour cream muffins with browned butter and buttermilk instead of oil and sour cream. Very fluffy and delicious!

  16. Michelle says:

    I first browned butter when making your Magical Layered Brownies. That stuff is heavenly!!! Thanks for the awesome tutorial!

  17. Teresa R. says:

    I love browned butter in icings and cookies. This is a great tutorial, and I learned a few things! Thanks!

  18. Laurel says:

    I always said, I could never do this. I have burned butter on too many occasions when making roux. After this, you’re virtually holding my hand, I think I’ll give it a try! Eek.

  19. Louise E. says:

    I like to use brown butter to make mashed potatoes. The brown butter adds a really nice taste.

  20. Laura from the Land of Aus says:

    I have a question that may sound a bit strange but is niggling me just the same! When you use the browned butter, do you scrape everything in together-browned bits & all? Or do you just use the liquid part? But then that would basically be ghee, now wouldn’t it… o_O
    Now I’m more confused. Please help!!

    • Mel says:

      Great question, Laura! Yes, when using the browned butter, use everything – the liquid and the browned bits. It all contributes to the awesome flavor. If you were to strain off the solids – the liquid would be ghee, like you said, which is amazing to use in Indian (and lots of other cooking). Also, ghee (and clarified butter which is butter that’s been slowly simmered to evaporate the water but the heat is kept low so the solids, which are strained out, don’t brown), has a much higher smoke point which means it won’t burn easily like regular butter.

  21. Charlotte Moore says:

    I just tried a recipe that had brown butter in it for the very first time. I wasn’t fond of that taste. I had sen lots of recipes but just never tried one. Probably won’t again. We all have different taste.

  22. Jen T says:

    This is so helpful! Thanks!!!!

  23. Thank you for this informative tip! I too am late to the brown butter party! Time to get on board!

  24. Sheila says:

    This above teaching showed me my many errors in trying to brown butter. Think coated pan, no stirring, and too high of heat. Your picture tutorials are such “recipe life savers” for me. Thank you for all you hard work and the joy of reading your posts. I laughed out loud when I read this:”and without {too much} exaggeration I’m telling you: your life will be changed.” 🙂

  25. Alisha says:

    So funny. I was just looking for a tutorial last night on this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *