How To Make Brown Butter

4.80 from 10 votes
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Here’s how to make brown butter for any sweet or savory applications. The Maillard Browning cooking technique adds a rich toasted nutty toffee aroma and flavors.

How to make browned butter a step by step guide.

Butter on its own is an excellent ingredient for cooking and baking. However, did you know that a simple technique to melt and toast the butter solids transforms the flavor in just minutes? Making brown butter, or beurre noisette is a method every home cook should have in their repertoire. It adds a lot of toasty, nutty aroma and hazelnut-like flavor to any sweet or savory dish.

If you haven’t taken the opportunity to turn this beautiful ingredient into liquid gold, now is the chance! This step-by-step guide will ensure success. Careful attention ensures that the butter won’t go from browned to burnt. Make a brown butter sauce to add to pasta, vegetables, seafood, or meat. Use it to elevate the caramel flavor of chocolate cookies, frostings, and quick bread. The options are endless!

Unpackaged stick of butter on a table.

What is brown butter?

It all begins with a beautiful hunk of unsalted butter. When heated, the milk solids naturally found in sticks of butter, the proteins casein and whey, and lactose transform in taste. Once melted, the milk solids cook and toast, developing deeper flavors due to the Maillard reaction.

Pleasant nutty hazelnut aromas and flavors emerge as it cooks. Use brown butter in recipes for any sauce, pastry, or culinary application. It takes less than 10-minutes to prepare!

STEP 1: Melt the butter

Butter melting in a hot frying pan.

Use a lightly colored saucepan to make brown butter like an All-Clad stainless steel pan. This way, you can see the color of the butter change from yellow to lightly browned, then golden. The butter can be used cold or at room temperature. You can slice them into smaller pieces for faster melting. Apply medium-high heat to start the melting process quickly.

STEP 2: Allow solids to separate

Whisking melted butter in a pan.

Once the butter melts, reduce to medium heat, so it doesn’t burn. See the white foam on top of the melted butter? That’s the milk solids. When butter melts, it separates into milk solids, butterfat (which can be collected for clarified butter), and water.

The temperatures rise as you heat the melted butter over the heat source, and the milk solids change to a golden brown color. Continuously stir or swirl the butter during this process to get consistent cooking. Keep a close eye on the color change. You don’t want burnt bits on the bottom of the pan.

STEP 3: Brown the butter solids

Brown butter solids forming in a pan.

See those golden-browned solids on the bottom of the pan? Quickly transfer the brown butter to a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking process. Make sure you scrape those bits into the bowl to get all of that great nutty flavor.

This process can take between 3 to 10 minutes, depending on how much butter you’re using (a few tablespoons to 1 cup). In the picture above, 10 tablespoons of butter took 3 to 4 minutes for the process to finish.

Storing

If not using the browned butter immediately, you can cool it down, then transfer it to an airtight container. I like to store it in a glass jar, and then grab some when a recipe calls for it. It will last for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator. You can also freeze the brown butter for up to 3 months.

Way to use brown butter

Now you can use this magical brown butter in any dish you like. I love to add sliced fresh sage leaves and nutmeg to use as a sauce for pasta or fish. In baking, it adds rich toffee and caramel flavors to cookies.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between brown butter and regular butter?

Brown butter is regular butter melted down on the stovetop and heated until the milk solids turn golden brown. This process toasts the flavorful solids, creating a nutty, butterscotch-like flavor. Heating causes some of the water to evaporate.

Is brown butter just ghee?

Brown butter is the first step to making ghee without removing milk solids. It’s used as a butter sauce or flavor-boosted ingredient for baked goods. Ghee is a type of clarified butter that removes the foamy milk solids and evaporates the water in the butter. After straining, what’s left is golden brown milkfat with a caramel flavor used for cooking or baking.

Do you have to refrigerate browned butter?

If not using the browned butter right away, refrigerate it. This will prolong the shelf life of the butter for about 2 weeks or 3 months in the freezer.

Don’t burn the browned butter!

Butter can turn from perfectly browned to charred if the heat is not monitored. The butter is heated above 266°F (130ºC) so the lactose and proteins brown. To prevent burning, ensure the temperature stays below the butter smoke point of 350°F (177ºC). Use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature. Watching the color change is as crucial as stopping the cooking before it burns.

Brown Butter

Guide on how to make brown butter for any sweet or savory application using the Maillard Browning technique to add toasted nutty toffee aroma and flavors.
4.80 from 10 votes
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Servings 16 servings
Course Condiment
Cuisine French

Ingredients 
 

  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, 1 cup

Instructions 

  • Melt Butter – Add butter to a lightly colored medium skillet. Melt over medium-high heat.
  • Brown the Butter – Once the butter is melted completely, turn the heat down to medium. Occasionally swirl the pan to ensure that the milk solids are being evenly browned.
    The browned butter is ready when the milk solids become golden brown, oil slightly darkens in color, and has a nutty aroma, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Stop Browning – Immediately transfer browned butter to a bowl, scraping down the pan to transfer the solids. Alternatively, use it immediately as a sauce. If desired, strain the browned solids. However, the milk solids add a lot of flavor to baked goods and sauces.

Recipe Video

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: About 1 cup 
  • Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
  • Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container or jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Freeze for up to 3 months. 
  • Slice the Butter: For quicker melting, slice the butter stick into even-sized pieces and place them in a single layer in the pan. 
  • Larger Batch: If making a larger batch, use a large pan. A few more minutes may be needed to brown the butter. 
 

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 16 servings
Calories 100kcal (5%)Fat 11g (17%)Saturated Fat 7g (35%)Cholesterol 30mg (10%)Vitamin A 400IU (8%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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16 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Judy Caywood says

    Hi Jessica, these cookies look crisp vs soft. Am I right about that? No one in my family likes the soft baked type but they do love a crisp cookie with a little snap to it.

  2. Brian says

    From white foam…to clear…to clear bubbles…to Heaven! I accidentally made brown butter once when trying to learn how to make ghee – I’d never heard of brown butter before that. I can think of few things as amazing-smelling as brown butter. I literally open the jar on a regular basis just to sniff it. Seriously.

    Thank you for the instructions. 🙂

  3. Robin says

    Can I put in an icebox and make it so I can use for a cookie recipe? Like the snowball cookie .. measure like shortening

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I think you can give that a try and they soften it before you make the cookies. Let me know how it turns out!

      • Mike Govette says

        I made a cookie recipe with brown butter. I let it cool and get solid in the refrigerator, then used it like butter in the recipe. Had to let it soften to use it, but it worked GREAT! What a flavor!

  4. DZDC says

    Hello Jessica~

    Amature baker here…I was wondering if there is a conversion chart for turning solid butter to brown butter. I’m trying to make (the perfect) chocolate chip cookie and the recipe I’m developing calls for 1 1/4 C of butter, but when I used 1 1/4 C of solid butter, it only produced slightly more than a cup. Another recipe noted to add water until the level came up to a cup to compensate for the evaporation of water. AND since it is now a liquid, do I use a measuring cup designed for liquid instead of one used for dry like I would use when it’s a solid?

    Thanks

  5. Jill Ruben says

    I’m dying to properly make browned butter for gnocchi. Your directions are perfect. However, I’m a bit confused. When you say it Alita and use only the brown butter, exactly what will I be doing? Sorry I sound so stupid. And I’m a home gourmet cook! Anyone that could help before 7pm I will be so grateful. Wish me luck.

    • Melissa says

      It says in the recipe to use a light-colored skillet so that you can see the butter change color.

  6. De Ratcliffe says

    I have used BrownButter before and now I have done it while making a Béchamel sauce with rice flour for Moussaka recipe. It smells amazing but I am wondering if I should start again?
    It looks like light brown rice and I was going to use 1/2 & 1/2 with Mozzarella cheese so will still get a creamy sauce just not a white sauce.
    Your advice is much appreciated.
    Cheers Dee