Here’s How to Use Brown Butter in Any Baking Recipe

updated Feb 18, 2021
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Brown butter stirred in skillet.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Rich, nutty brown butter is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Watching a stick of butter slowly transform into a golden amber color and perfume your kitchen with the alluring scent of toasted nuts is a form of kitchen alchemy I’ll never get over. If you’ve never tried baking with brown butter before, you’re seriously missing out. It lends cookies and cakes a wonderful toasty flavor that elevates them into something seriously special. Brown butter blondies? Sign me up.

But baking with brown butter isn’t as easy as simply swapping it out for traditional melted butter. Doing so often results in baked goods that are dry and brittle. Sure, the flavor will be nice, but the texture would be compromised. Luckily there’s an easy workaround for adding brown butter to just about any baked good while still retaining its texture — and it won’t cost you a thing. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Lauren Volo

The Secret to Using Brown Butter in Almost Any Baked Good? Just Add Water.

When butter browns, the water within it evaporates. This is why baked goods made with brown butter often turn out dry — they simply don’t take into account the water lost during browning. Butter is about 15% water, which doesn’t sound like a lot but can amount to quite a bit of water being omitted from recipes when brown butter is used instead of traditional butter. This is why it’s important to take into account the water loss from browning to make sure your baked goods have enough moisture in them.

As a general rule of thumb, for every stick of butter called for in a recipe, you need to add 1 tablespoon of water back to the butter after you brown it. The easiest way to do this is to wait for the brown butter to cool slightly, and simply add the tablespoon of water to the melted butter. You can also add the water directly to the dough itself. (This comes in handy if you need to chill the brown butter before using it.)

Keep in mind that recipes online that are specifically made with brown butter already take water loss into account, so there’s nothing you need to do if the recipe already calls for brown butter. But if you want to elevate a recipe that uses regular butter (like a classic chocolate chip cookie) you’ll want to use this method and add the water to the browned butter. Also keep in mind that although this trick works for most recipes, it’s not foolproof — so you might need to play around with just how much water you add depending on the recipe.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Our Favorite Recipes to Use Brown Butter In

Feeling inspired to use brown butter in your next baked good? Check out these recipes.

What are your favorite baked goods to use brown butter in? Let us know in the comments!