How to Make Brown Butter

As I mentioned in my recipe for Maple Brown Butter Mashed Sweet Potatoes, using brown butter is like taking a magic wand to your recipe and adding that special je ne sais quoi that takes it from good to spectacular. And the best part is that it doesn’t require any fancy tools or special ingredients. Just the regular butter you have in your fridge plus a few minutes in a skillet and you have a deliciously deep, nutty butter that you won’t be able to get enough of. 

How to Make Brown Butter

Brown Butter in a skillet, with "brown butter" text overlay

I wanted to do a separate tutorial on how to make brown butter so that you can get all the details and see just how easy it is. Plus, I’ve got a few suggestions on how to use your brown butter to get your creative wheels spinning. Seriously, you can add it to just about anything. Since I’m just getting started on my brown butter journey, here are a few excellent examples of how to use brown butter from other bloggers:

Now read back over that list but skip the “brown butter” in the description. Not nearly as amazing sounding, right? I’m telling you, brown butter makes a recipe.

The process is incredibly simple, so let’s go!

Step by Step Photos

Pats of Butter in the skillet, beginning to melt

Start by adding several pats of butter to a light-colored skillet. Avoid dark surfaces, like cast iron or teflon because it’s hard to see the butter change color. Try to cut the butter into equal sized pieces so they melt at an equal rate. Heat the butter over medium-low heat. You can use salted or unsalted butter, depending on your need. Just be aware that salted butter will taste slightly more salty once finished. And it’s never a bad idea to brown a little extra, ‘cuz you can totally store it in the fridge and use it on other things.

Foamy melted butter in the skillet

As the butter begins to heat and sizzle it will become foamy. Stir the butter often as it cooks.

Melted butter in the skillet, an arrow pointing at butter solids beginning to turn golden brown

You’ll notice the butter solids (proteins) begin to settle to the bottom of the skillet and after a couple minutes the solids will just begin to get a hint of color. Once you see this slightly golden color, it’s time to pay close attention because they’ll begin to brown quickly. Cooking the butter at a lower temperature slows the browning process down, so I suggest brown butter newbies to go low and slow. If you’re an old pro you can do this over medium heat or maybe even slightly higher and have your brown butter in the blink of an eye.

Golden brown butter solids in the skillet full of melted butter, foam is subsiding.

Because the color develops quickly, you’ll want to stir very often to prevent hot spots from browning the butter unevenly. The foam will also begin to subside as it cooks.

Deep Golden Butter solids, no more foam on melted butter

There are different levels of brown butter. Some people like it light, some like it almost black (The French actually have a name for that–beurre noir). Once it gets to this medium brown color you’ll begin to smell the wonderful nuttiness. It smells like a mix between caramel and toasted nuts. YUM! But I want to go a bit further…

Fully Browned Butter in the skillet, caramel color

This deep golden color is where I like to stop. Deep, nutty, and rich. The amount of time it takes your butter to get to this point depends entirely on the heat level, but on medium-low it took me about 4-5 minutes. It’s relatively quick either way. Once browned you’ll want to transfer it to another container immediately to prevent the residual heat from the skillet browning it any further.

Brown Butter in the skillet Close Up

As you pour the brown butter into a different container, try to leave those solids in the skillet. If you end up cooking with the butter, the solids will brown further and may easily burn. The golden liquid that is poured off the top is what you want, and it can be stored in the refrigerator and used as needed, just as you would ghee. 

What is your favorite way to use brown butter? Let us know in the comments below so we can all hop on the brown butter train!