Easy Brown Butter Sage Sauce (3-Ingredient, 5 Minute Recipe!)

5 from 2 votes
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Easy brown butter sage sauce: a beautiful, 5-minute sauce with crispy sage leaves. Only 3 simple ingredients to create absolute MAGIC!

Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Why You’ll Love This Brown Butter Sage Sauce Recipe

Here’s why you’ll absolutely fall in love with this recipe:

  • Rich and nutty taste: The process of browning the butter gives this sauce a rich, nutty flavor that adds depth and complexity to any dish.
  • Goes with everything: It goes beautifully with pasta, gnocchi, steak, pork, ravioli, potatoes, chicken, fish, root vegetables etc. 
  • Mind-Blowingly Simple: This brown butter sage sauce is made with simple ingredients and minimal preparation. It’s basically just butter cooked until it takes on a lovely golden brown color and nutty flavor. It comes together in minutes.
  • Restaurant-quality results at home: This sauce is giving restaurant-quality.

The Nerdy/Awesome Science

Also known as beurre noisette, brown butter is the transformation of ordinary butter into something totally magical with just heat. I find it totally fascinating. Skip ahead if you do not 😆

The science behind brown butter is all about the Maillard reaction, which is like caramelization, but with protein instead of sugars:

  • When you melt butter, it begins to separate into its main components: milk solids and fat.
  • Butter also contains a small amount of water. As the butter continues to heat, the water starts to evaporate, and the milk solids settle at the bottom of the pan.

Here’s what happens next:

  1. Milk Solids Brown: As the heat goes up, the milk solids (mostly proteins and sugars) begin to brown due to the Maillard reaction and caramelization. This reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars gives brown butter its distinctive nutty flavor and golden color.
  2. Fat Clarifies: Meanwhile, the fat becomes clearer as the milk solids separate from it and are no longer suspended within the butter.
  3. Flavor Development: The combination of browned milk solids and the clarified fat results in a complex, nutty, caramelized, slightly sweet flavor that’s simply to die for.

Now Here’s What You Need

Brown Butter Sage Sauce Ingredients

Ingredients for Brown Butter Sage Sauce

You only need a handful of pantry staples:

  • Salted butter: Choose a high-quality salted butter for this recipe. It’s the key ingredient, after all. The salt in the butter adds depth of flavor to the sauce. However, if you prefer to control the saltiness, use unsalted butter and adjust the salt to taste later. In this case, add ¼ tsp kosher salt and add more to taste.
  • Fresh sage leaves: For the best flavor, use bright, fresh sage leaves.  You can add more or less based on your preference for sage flavor.
  • Lemon juice: Freshly balances the richness of the brown butter and brightens the sauce.
  • Black pepper: For the best flavor, use a pepper grinder to grind the peppercorns freshly.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese: This finishes the sauce and simple dish off beautifully. 

Substitutions and Variations 

Here are some useful swaps for this recipe:

  • Unsalted butter: If you prefer to control the sauce’s salt content, you can use unsalted butter instead of salted butter. I totally get that! You’ll need to adjust the amount of salt to taste during the sauce-making. 
  • Herb substitutions: While fresh sage leaves provide a specific flavor direction to the sauce, you can play around with other fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, or parsley. Its a different sauce experience altogether. 
  • Citrus variations: Instead of lemon juice, try other citrus juices like lime or orange to add acidity and brightness to the sauce.
  • Spicy: For some zing, add spices or aromatics such as garlic, shallots, or red pepper flakes. 
  • Cheese options: While Parmesan cheese is traditionally used for serving, explore other cheese options such as Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano, or Asiago.
  • Nuts: Try this sauce with toasted chopped nuts for added toasty nuttiness: hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts are lovely.

Tools to Grab

Set aside these tools to make your brown butter sauce:

  • Saucepan or Large Skillet
  • Spatula or wooden spoon

How to Make Brown Butter Sage Sauce: An Easy Guide

Add butter sage leaves in pan

This is a 2 part process, and honestly, nothing can be simpler: 

1. Brown the Butter with Sage

First, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and watch it carefully.

When it starts to foam, add the sage leaves. Cook the sauce until the butter turns golden brown and smells nutty. This will take about 3-5 minutes.

2. Season the Sauce

Take it off the heat and immediately stir in the lemon juice to stop the browning. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Serve and Finish

Pour the sauce over your pasta, fish, or other dish. Optionally, finish it off with some Parmesan cheese.

Toss with sauce and cheese

Make Ahead and Storage

Here’s what you can do to plan ahead a little:

Advance Prep

  • You can prepare the brown butter sage sauce in advance and store it for later use.
  • Follow the recipe instructions, allowing the sauce to cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container.

Storing Leftovers

  • Store leftover sage butter sauce in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Make sure the container is tightly sealed to prevent any smells from permeating the sauce.

Reheating Tips

  • When ready to use, gently reheat the sauce in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally until warmed through. Be careful not to overheat or boil the sauce, as this can cause it to separate.
  • The sauce can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.
Brown Butter Sage Sauce

How to Serve this Sage Brown Butter Sauce Recipe

If you’d like to garnish your dish with the crispy sage leaves, here’s what do do:

  1. Remove sage leaves from the sauce using tongs or a slotted spoon and transfer them to paper towels.
  2. Toss the sauce with the pasta (or whatever you’re coating)
  3. Top with the sage leaves as a garnish. Petals of parmesan and/or bacon crumbles are gorgeous and delicious, too.

You can otherwise just toss everything together but the sage leaves are fragile once fried and will crumble into the sauce. Delicious, but less dramatic presentation.

Pouring browned butter over fresh homemade ravioli.

What types of pasta are best with Brown Butter Sage Sauce?

For the brown butter sage sauce, you’ll want pasta that really catches and holds onto the sauce. Here are some top picks:

  • Fettuccine, Tagliatelle or Pappardelle: The wide, flat shape is perfect for clinging onto the rich sauce.
  • Gnocchi: These pillowy dumplings are amazing with brown butter and sage. They soak up the sauce in all the right ways. Perfect over classic potato gnocchi or pumpkin gnocchi!
  • Ravioli: Especially if it’s filled with cheese or pumpkin, ravioli works wonderfully. The sauce complements the filling beautifully. It’s luscious over mushroom-stuffed or butternut squash ravioli
  • Tortellini: This nutty brown butter sauce is perfect over store-bought cheese or chicken tortellini for a delicious weeknight dinner that couldn’t be quicker.

You can also skip the noods and drizzle it over roast turkey, chicken or pretty fall vegetables. 

2 Common Mistakes When Making Brown Butter Sauce Recipe

Here’s how not to trip up with this sauce:

  1. Using too high heat: When the pan is super hot, the browning is much harder to control. Too high and the milk solids can butter can go from golden to burnt very quickly. When the heat is lower, it stops cooking more quickly when you take the pan off the stove.
  2. Not watching closely: Browning butter can happen quickly once it begins to melt, and the transition from brown to burned can happen in seconds. This gives a bitter flavor to the butter. Don’t walk away!
Cooking brown butter and sage sauce  in a pan.

FAQs About Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Skimming through this recipe? Here are my key takeouts: 

What does brown butter sauce taste like? 

Brown butter sauce has a rich, nutty flavor with hints of caramelization. The addition of sage adds an earthy and herbaceous note, while a touch of lemon juice provides brightness and acidity.

Can I use dried sage instead of fresh sage for the sauce? 

Yes, you can substitute dried sage if fresh sage is not available. Use about half the amount of dried sage called for in the recipe, as dried herbs tend to have a more concentrated flavor.

Can I make brown butter sage sauce ahead of time?

 Yes, brown butter sage sauce can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. Simply reheat gently on the stovetop before serving.

How do I prevent the butter from burning when browning it? 

To prevent the butter from burning, use low to medium heat and keep a close eye on it as it melts. Swirl the pan frequently to ensure even browning, and remove it from the heat as soon as it turns a golden brown color and emits a nutty aroma.

Is brown butter sauce gluten-free? 

Yes, brown butter sauce is naturally gluten-free as it contains zero wheat or gluten-containing ingredients. However, always check the labels of any additional ingredients you add to ensure they are gluten-free.

Can I use salted butter instead of unsalted butter for the sauce?

Yes, you can use salted butter for the sauce, but be mindful of the salt content. Adjust the amount of added salt accordingly to prevent the sauce from becoming too salty.

How do I reheat leftover brown butter sage sauce?

To reheat leftover sauce, gently warm it in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally until heated. Add a splash of water or broth if needed to adjust the consistency.

Can I freeze brown butter sage sauce?

Yes, brown butter sage sauce can be frozen for longer-term storage. Transfer the cooled sauce to a freezer-safe container or resealable freezer bag, removing as much air as possible before sealing. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating and serving.

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5 from 2 votes

Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Easy brown butter sage sauce: a beautiful, 5-minute sauce with crispy sage leaves. Only 3 simple ingredients to create absolute MAGIC!
Prep Time: 0 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 
 

  • ½ cup salted butter
  • cup fresh sage leaves packed
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
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Instructions 

  • Start by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Keep an eye on it.
  • When it starts foaming, add the sage leaves. Cook until the butter turns a golden brown color and smells nutty. This should take about 3-5 minutes.
  • Then, remove it from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and season with black pepper. Taste and add salt if need (but usually the salted butter provides enough.)

Video

Notes

This sauce is enough for 8 oz of pasta or 16 oz of gnocchi or ravioli (which are denser so the same number of servings weighs more).
Serving: Serve your finished dish with grated parmesan cheese to take it to the next level.
Butter: If you prefer to use unsalted butter, add ¼ tsp kosher salt and then add more to taste.

Nutrition

Calories: 209kcal | Carbohydrates: 0.5g | Protein: 0.3g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 185mg | Potassium: 16mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 720IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 0.1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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10 Comments

  1. Eliza_Do_Little says:

    So yummy!

  2. Sammy_T says:

    made this for a dinner party and it was a hit!

  3. Nicole says:

    5 stars
    I loved this brown butter sage sauce on gnocchi with chicken.

  4. Jenny beans says:

    omg, tried it with ravioli and it was delish. thx for the recipe!

  5. Ron says:

    The science behind browning the butter and its impact on flavor is fascinating. It’s these details that take a recipe from good to great. Appreciate the insight.

  6. Becky Sharp says:

    i’m all for trying out this recipe but kinda scared of burning the butter. got any tips to avoid that?

  7. Tara_luvs2cook says:

    hey, can I use dried sage instead of fresh? fresh stuff is hard to find where I live. also, does it freeze well? thanks!

    1. Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD says:

      You can, but it’s much more intense so I’d use no more than a teaspoon.

      1. Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD says:

        And yes, it does freeze well!

  8. Mike S. says:

    I’ve tried making brown butter sauce before but never with sage. This addition sounds intriguing, and I can’t wait to test it out. Thanks Jenn, for sharing.