The 3-Ingredient Sauce That Will Change the Way You Cook

updated Jan 29, 2020
Brown Butter Vinaigrette Sauce
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(Image credit: Christine Han)

I make vinaigrettes every day — seriously. I change them up with different vinegars and different oils, and add some sweeteners like honey now and again. Sometimes I replace about half of the vinegar with citrus juice. As a corporate caterer who makes a billion lunches, classic oil-vinegar-salt-and-pepper vinaigrettes sometimes just get boring — trust me. Which is why I reach for this sauce when I want to something new and different to add to salads, pastas, and every cooked meat.

Head to the fridge and grab the butter and a small saucepan, and read on for how to make the sauce that might just change how you cook.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Brown Butter + Vinegar + Dijon = A Sauce That Can Do Anything

Three highly flavored ingredients are at the core of this sauce and together can go from salad dressing to a sauce for pasta with no more than a whirl in the blender and a shower of salt. Of course the addition of herbs makes this sauce sing louder, but the mix of brown butter, the vinegar of your choice, and Dijon still makes a sauce to bring into your cooking at every twist and turn.

The core of the sauce, the brown butter, is a kitchen wonder. It’s true that brown butter is most often used in sweet recipes, especially baking, but its nutty richness works like oil in most recipes, including this vinaigrette sauce.

The method: How To Brown Butter

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Brown Butter Vinaigrette Sauce for Salads

This sauce is best at room temperature over green salads and with a sweeter vinegar such as balsamic, white balsamic, or any fruit vinegar. The dressing balances out bitter salad greens like arugula, and is a good match for massaged kale. I usually serve these salads with some cut-up seasonal fresh fruit, such as peaches, pitted cherries, oranges, or grapefruit, and some toasted nuts, like pecans, hazelnuts, or honey-roasted peanuts. The fruits and nuts each bring out a unique note from the brown butter, and the sheer variety of each category really opens up possibilities for a green salad.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Brown Butter Vinaigrette Sauce for Everything Else

The brown butter, vinegar, and mustard combo is actually my favorite when used as a sauce. I stick with the most pungent vinegars for the sauce version, like red or white wine, sherry, cider, or rice vinegar, or I replace all of the vinegar for any tart citrus juice, like lemon and lime, and add in plenty of fresh citrus zest.

I use the sauces in two ways: at room temperature and creamy, on the side with grilled fish to amp up the flavor and richness, or when making grain and pasta dishes from leftovers. I strongly prefer to use the dressing or sauce immediately after making it, but if you want to refrigerate it in a covered container it will last for a day. Just be aware that you will need to re-blend before using. If it doesn’t combine as well, add a few teaspoons of mustard and give it another whirl.

Brown Butter Vinaigrette Sauce

Nutritional Info


  • 3 parts

    brown butter

  • 1 part

    vinegar or citrus juice or a combo

  • 1 part

    strong Dijon mustard

  • A small handful of flat leaf parsley (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon


  • 3/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground pepper


  1. Add everything to a food processor and blitz until just smooth. You can also mix this up with an immersion blender. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to one day. Blend again before using.