This easy-to-learn French cooking technique adds a complex and nutty flavor to all kinds of sweet and savory recipes. Here's what it is, how to make it, and how to use it.

What Is Brown Butter?

Brown butter, also known as beurre noisette, is made by cooking unsalted butter long enough to turn the milk solids brown while cooking out any water present in the butter. Often described as tasting nutty or toasty, it has a deeper, richer, more intense flavor than melted or clarified butter. Brown butter is traditionally served with fish, but it makes a delicious topping for vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Desserts get a flavor boost from brown butter, too, whether it's baked into cookies and cakes, or whipped into frostings.

How to Brown Butter

1. Cut unsalted butter into small, evenly-sized pieces and place it in a pot or pan. Cutting the butter into pieces helps it melt and cook evenly. Always use a light-colored pot or pan so you can see how dark the butter gets as it cooks.

Melting Butter for Brown Butter
Melting butter over medium heat.

2. Turn on the heat to medium and let the butter melt. Tip: The temperature you use can vary from high to medium; either way, the butter will go from melted to brown in mere minutes. High heat will brown the butter very quickly, but if you don't keep a close eye on it, the milk solids could sink to the bottom of the pan and burn before you know it. Until you get really good at this, it's safer to use moderate heat to slow things down just a bit so you can keep a careful eye on the process.

Melted Butter
The butter has melted and the milk solids have separated from the liquid fat.

3. Stir or swirl the pan constantly, until the butter becomes a light tan color as the milk solids toast in the hot fat. At this point, you can take the pan off the burner because the butter will continue cooking even after you remove it from the heat. Notice the dramatic change in color: It should be nut-brown and have a toasty aroma. Pour the brown butter into a separate bowl to keep it from cooking further. If the butter gets overcooked, the milk solids will scorch and turn black, and the butter will have a very bitter taste.

Stirring the butter as it browns.
Stirring the butter as it browns.

How to Brown Butter in an Instant Pot

If three steps seems like a lot, how about one step? Add cold butter to an Instant Pot and let it go to town on high pressure for 2 minutes! "This pressure cooker method is gonna give you rock-star status when friends and family just can't figure out how to make cookies taste as delectable as yours," says chefcatie. Here's the one-ingredient recipe for Instant Pot® Brown Butter.

How to Brown Butter in the Microwave

This easy 2-step method lands between brown butter made on the stovetop and brown butter made in an Instant Pot. You simply place butter in a microwave-safe bowl, cover it, and microwave for 4 to 5 minutes until the butter is golden brown. Your total time will depend on how powerful your microwave is. Home cook lutzflcat says, "Certainly is easy...and fast! My butter was perfectly browned at 4 minutes on high power. We enjoyed it on some egg noodles for a dinner side dish." Here's the recipe for Brown Butter in the Microwave.

brown butter in a small yellow saucepan
Credit: Meredith

How to Use Brown Butter in Recipes

You can use brown butter in its liquid state or cool it into a solid and substitute it in recipes for regular butter. Note: The brown butter will reduce in volume as the water content cooks off. One cup (2 sticks or ½ pound butter) will yield ¾ cup brown butter.

  • Lightly browned butter is excellent with vegetables.
  • Medium browned butter is what you want for pasta and fish dishes, and in baked goods and frostings.
  • Dark (but not blackened) butter has a more bitter taste, yet it's still used in some traditional French dishes; in this very dark state, it's called black butter, or beurre noir.

Often, when brown butter is made into a savory sauce, you'll add ingredients such as herbs and/or garlic to further enhance the flavor.

Watch as Chef John demos this super easy recipe for Tarragon Walnut Brown Butter Sauce.

More Savory Recipes with Brown Butter

plate of butternut squash ravioli with sage-brown butter sauce
Credit: AERO

Sweet Recipes with Brown Butter

Brown Butter Cookies topped with pecans
Credit: lutzflcat
By Vanessa Greaves and Allrecipes Editors