Browned butter is a secret weapon in the kitchen. It’s all the best flavors of barreled vanilla, caramel, toasted nuttiness, and melted brown sugar in one powerful, easy-to-make punch.
Browning butter is easy. In a skillet or saucepan (preferably a steel one with a heavy bottom, as it’s easier to see the color of the butter developing), melt your butter over medium heat, stirring to ensure it melts evenly. Don’t stop there, though. Your butter will begin to foam. Allow this to happen. Don’t be afraid. As the foaming subsides, the milk solids that make butter creamy will begin to separate and fall to the bottom. At this point, do not walk away from your butter. Do not take your eyes off the butter. If you do, it will burn just to spite you. When the solids begin to brown, give them a little stir to help them brown evenly. Once they’re a light brown color and the whole kitchen starts to smell wonderful, remove the pan from the heat and use a rubber spatula to remove the butter and all the browned bits from the pan. Butter left in the pan will continue to cook, and this carryover cooking will burn your brown butter. For directions accompanied by photos, see this recipe by Simply Recipes.
Now, go forth, brown some butter, and make these six recipes.
1. Cherry Brown Butter Bars
This recipe from Smitten Kitchen requires you to pit cherries, though the effort is well rewarded. A cherry pitter like OXO’s, available from Amazon for under $13, is an easy way to pit cherries and even olives. To forgo another tool you’ll hardly ever use, though, there are DIY solutions: You can use a pastry bag tip, a beer bottle and a chopstick, or a drinking straw to leave the cherries whole while forcing the pits out.
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
- 1 pound sweet cherries, which will yield 12 ounces of pitted cherries — possibly enough for some leftover cherries once the dish is assembled
Preheat over to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8-by-8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet.
Using a rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to your prepared pan, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes (it will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.
Brown the butter in a heavy, small saucepan. Immediately remove butter from pan to small, heatproof bowl or glass measuring cup.
Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well-blended.
Arrange pitted cherries in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit. Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool bars completely in pan on rack.
Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove cooled bars from pan and place them on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife. Use a very sharp or serrated knife to avoid bursting the cherries and making a mess.
2. Brown Butter Banana Cranberry Bread
Eat your brown butter for breakfast. Or brunch. Or elevensies, or afternoon tea, or a midnight snack. This Brown Butter Cranberry Banana Bread from Joy the Baker takes casual, comforting, plain-Jane banana bread and makes it just the right amount of festive and fancy. Beyond the browned butter for toasted nuttiness, this bread features a little yogurt for added moisture because no one likes dry, crumbly banana bread. Rather than topping it with crumbled walnuts or something standard or nothing at all, Joy dumps some crumble topping over the bread. It’s gently spiced to let the browned butter and cranberries shine.
- 6 ounces unsalted butter, melted and browned to just over ½ cup of butter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 1¼ cup mashed banana (from about 3 medium bananas)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup plain yogurt
- 1½ cups whole fresh cranberries
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons lightly packed brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Directions: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving about two inches of parchment paper to hang over two sides of the loaf pan. Parchment paper helps you remove the bread from the pan without the fear that you’re going to leave the bottom of it behind.
Brown the butter. Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, mashed bananas, vanilla extract, and yogurt. When butter has cooled, whisk in the browned butter. Add the wet ingredients, all at once, to the dry ingredients. Fold together, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to reveal any hidden pockets of flour. Fold together ingredients, but don’t over stir. Fold in the cranberries.
To make the crumble, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until crumbly.
Spoon batter into prepared pan. The pan will be very full. Leave out a spoonful of batter if you’re worried about the bread baking over. Joy suggests making a few muffins with the scooped out batter. Bake the loaf for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan for 15 minutes, before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
3. Spicy Shrimp with Orange Brown Butter Sauce
Don’t let baked goods have all the fun! If there’s one thing that makes shrimp extra delicious, it’s butter. Now elevate that to new heights and brown that butter. Even though it’s in the name, Lindsay from Pinch of Yum swears that this shrimp is only barely spicy. Just enough to meld the orange with the butter with the shrimp. It’s the thread that ties the whole thing together. Best part? This recipe couldn’t possibly get any easier.
- ½ cup butter
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- zest of one orange
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 pounds raw shrimp
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- salt and pepper to taste
Directions: Heat the butter in a medium skillet over low heat. When the butter is melted, add the thyme leaves. Stir and simmer, keeping the heat low, for 5 minutes or until the butter reaches a golden brown color. Remove from heat and stir in the zest. Pour the butter into a small bowl and let it rest for a few minutes.
In the same skillet, with a light coating of the butter remaining, add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the raw shrimp and the chili powder; shake or toss in the pan for 3 to 5 minutes or until the shrimp is no longer translucent. Serve with the butter and pasta, grains, rice, or a salad.
4. Spinach Salad with Warm Brown Butter Dressing
Are you a vegetarian who sees your friends eating amazing looking salads covered in warm bacon vinaigrette and thinks, man, I miss bacon? Don’t stray from your path. Instead, make this brown butter dressing from The Kitchn and laugh gleefully that in reality, you won.
Though baby spinach is particularly good for this recipe because it’s mild and holds up to the warm dressing well, this would also work with hardier greens like kale or chard, or spinach’s cousin tat soi. For a little extra tang that balances the dressing, this salad uses pickled red onions. To make your own in just a few minutes, check out this recipe. They’re also great for tacos!
- ½ pound baby spinach (about 5 cups)
- ¼ cup shaved Pecorino Romano
- ¼ cup toasted pecans
- ⅛ cup pickled red onions
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Directions: In a large bowl, toss the spinach with the cheese, pecans, and pickled onion.
Heat the butter in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, begin whisking and continue cooking until it becomes light brown and smells nutty, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the mustard, honey, and vinegar until emulsified.
Drizzle the warm dressing over the salad, toss to combine, and serve immediately.
5. Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter
Coming in from Giada de Laurentiis via the Food Network, this recipe for Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter is easier than a red or cream sauce but incredibly decadent. The best ravioli to use for this dish would be cheese, mushroom, or squash — they’ll pair best with the brown butter sauce. Easy, elegant — if you’re looking for a dish to impress a dinner guest, this is it.
- 18 to 20 ounces ravioli
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup toasted, chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan
Directions: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the ravioli and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain ravioli.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan cook the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the foam subsides, and the butter begins to turn a golden brown, about 3 minutes, turn off the heat. Let cool for about 1 minute. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
Transfer the ravioli to the saucepan with the balsamic brown butter. Sprinkle walnuts and Parmesan over the top. Serve immediately.
6. Brown Butter Spiced Ale
Whether you’re thinking Harry Potter style “Butter Beer” or hot buttered rum, this beer drink from Food52 gives mulled wine a real run for its money. Rich and creamy and warming, this is definitely a libation that you’re going to feel guilty about after your resolutions come into effect. It’s perfect for the holidays, though, spreading plenty of cheer. This recipe is designed to serve two people — and it’s perfect for a warm, post-holiday cuddle.
- 12 ounces ale of your choice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- Splashes brandy (about 1 tablespoon) per glass
- 1 cinnamon stick per glass for garnish
Directions: Brown the butter in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and add brown sugar and spices — cook until brown sugar is dissolved and the mixture is paste-like. Scrape into small bowl or ramekin and cover with foil to keep warm.
Add the ale to the same saucepan and heat on medium until hot. Spoon two tablespoons of the spiced butter mixture in serving glass, pour hot ale into glass and add a splash of brandy and stir. Garnish with cinnamon stick.
7. Brown Butter Popsicles
Not everyone is bracing for snow right now. As a nod to those in warmer climes who can still enjoy a frosty popsicle, these Brown Butter Popsicles from A Beautiful Mess are creamy and the perfect backdrop for a bit of browned butter. This recipe isn’t even as bad as you think — it actually uses only the browned milk solids at the bottom of the pan, not the liquid butter. They even use Greek yogurt as a base. For creamy, buttery popsicles, these are really not so bad for you. You could even add raspberries for a little extra something.
- 2 cups milk
- 4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
- 1½ cups butter
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
Directions: Brown the butter. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Remove the browned butter from the pan, leaving behind the small dark brown bits at the bottom. You can store the browned butter in the refrigerator and use for another purpose. You’re only using the browned milk solids.
Add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Stir over medium-low heat so the sugar fully dissolves, 3 to 4 minutes. Allow to cool.
Pour the mixture into popsicle molds. To add a small white stripe to the bottom of your popsicles, Remove the popsicles from the freezer after an hour, then drizzle a little cream over the top. Fully freeze overnight.
When you remove the popsicles from the mold to serve them, roll the top or edges of the popsicle in crushed Heath bar to add a little crunch.