Some call it liquid gold; we say this one-ingredient wonder is a secret weapon for cooking and baking.

By Peggy Kieran
Updated August 28, 2020
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It feels like a magic trick every time. Brown butter is a simple one-ingredient sauce, a chef trick that can transform all kinds of recipes, savory and sweet. In mere minutes, a stick of unsalted butter melts, then simmers and sputters, transformed into an intoxicatingly fragrant and impossibly silky brown sauce. As soon as the foam subsides, the milk solids darken and fall to the bottom of the pan, that's the key that you've hit the sweet spot. It's no surprise the French call it beurre noisette, or "hazelnut butter," as that is what your kitchen will smell like when you make it. An unmistakable nutty aroma fills the air, and you're well on your way to better, bolder-flavored food.

Ahead, learn how to make brown butter and get inspired by the many delicious ways to use it on meat, fish, vegetables, pastas, and in desserts.

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Credit: Stephen Kent Johnson

How to Make Brown Butter

Follow this method, using the amount of butter needed for the recipe, to make delicious brown butter every single time: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high. When it boils, reduce heat to medium; simmer until foamy. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally and scraping bottom of pan, until foam subsides, butter turns golden brown with a nutty aroma, and milk solids separate into brown specks that sink to bottom, 2 to 7 minutes (depending on amount). Remove from heat; immediately transfer to a heatproof bowl unless otherwise noted in recipe (butter may burn if left in the hot pan).

How to Use Brown Butter

Now you know how easy it is to make brown butter, you'll be using it on the regular. Here are a few of our favorite recipes that use brown butter, but know that you don't need a recipe to use it in your cooking.Try drizzling brown butter over just-cooked chicken or fish or still-warm polenta, risotto, or mashed potatoes.

Pro Tip: To guarantee you always have brown butter on hand to enhance pastries, sauces, and more, make a big batch and freeze it in ice-cube trays

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Credit: Stephen Kent Johnson

Poached Salmon, Spinach, and Potato Salad

Poached fish is no stranger to a drizzle of brown butter, but in this recipe it's the secret ingredient in the salad dressing: Dijon, shallot, and sherry vinegar emulsify with the sauce, turning it into a velvety, tangy counterpoint that ties the whole dish together.

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Credit: Courtesy of Stephen Kent Johnson

Chicken Potpie with Brown-Butter Crust

Just when you thought you couldn't improve on potpie, brown butter comes along and raises the bar with more flavor, more flakiness, and more nuttiness than a crust has ever offered.

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Credit: Stephen Kent Johnson

Apple-Cardamom Brown-Butter Dutch Baby

Nutty brown butter is the best companion to one of the most impressive breakfast foods you can make at home, the Dutch baby. Also called a German pancake, this delight puffs up to great heights while cooking, with the sides climbing and then reaching out over the edges of the pan. The butter carries the spicy flavor of the cardamom through to each bite, warming up each wedge of cooked apple, totally next-level brunch!

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Credit: Stephen Kent Johnson

Lemony Brown-Butter Crinkle Cookies

Buttery baked goods become even more flavorful when that butter is browned. These treats are simple to prepare, and the richness of the butter shines a light on a complementary ingredient—lemon.

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