Sage Brown Butter Sauce

Ravioli with sage brown butter sauce on a white plate with a bowl of sauce on the side

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 4 mins
Cook: 6 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 1/2 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
27 Calories
3g Fat
0g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 27
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 4%
Saturated Fat 2g 9%
Cholesterol 8mg 3%
Sodium 79mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 0g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 1mg 3%
Calcium 5mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 9mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Brown butter is a traditional French sauce made simply of heated, unsalted butter. Called beurre noisette in French, which translates to hazelnut butter, it is thusly named for its rich, nutty flavor. It’s often used in pastry making, and is classically paired with pasta in northern Italy. It can be used as a sauce for ravioli, gnocchi, and tortellini—you really don't need to add anything else to it, but you can dress it up further with Italian sausage, shaved Parmesan, or breadcrumbs, if you prefer.

Brown butter does especially well when paired with autumnal ingredients like chanterelle mushroom, pumpkin, and butternut squash. As such, butternut squash ravioli and sweet potato ravioli would make excellent pairings. You can also serve it simply with fettuccine. This sauce would also be lovely dribbled over a firm baked white fish like cod, or simple roast chicken.

If you have never made any type of brown butter sauce before, this detailed step-by-step recipe is an excellent starting point with helpful photos.


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"This is a delicious sauce to serve with pasta, and it is super easy. I used it to coat about 9 ounces of bucatini pasta, and it should be more than enough for 1 pound of ravioli. Watch the butter sediment closely—it can go from light brown to burnt very quickly." —Diana Rattray

Sage Brown Butter Sauce Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped

  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • Kosher salt, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for sage brown butter sauce recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan set over low-medium heat. When the butter begins to get just slightly bubbly, add the chopped garlic clove.

    Melted butter slightly bubbling in a saucepan being stirred with a wooden spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  3. Stir the garlic in the butter for 1 minute. Add the chopped sage to the garlic butter and continue stirring and cooking the mixture for 2 to 4 additional minutes, until the butter has turned very light brown and has a rich, nutty aroma.

    Chopped garlic and sage added to lightly browned butter in saucepan

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  4. Season the sage brown butter sauce with ground black pepper and salt.

    Lightly browned butter in saucepan seasoned with salt and pepper

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  5. Serve and enjoy.

    Sage brown butter sauce in a saucepan

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga


  • Brown butter sauce is extremely easy to burn. Make sure to constantly stir the butter once the solids start to form. Although it's tempting, be sure not to step away from the pan, even for a moment. Once the butter starts to smell caramelized and nutty, take the pan off the heat and transfer the butter to a separate bowl. This will ensure that it doesn't burn due to residual heat.
  • When buying fresh sage, keep in mind that the leaves should be aromatic and have no soft spots or dry edges.
  • To store fresh sage, simply wrap the sage leaves in paper towels and put them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Make sure to use the leaves within four to five days. Fresh leaves that are covered in olive oil can be stored for much longer in the refrigerator, about three weeks.
  • If you're looking to cultivate your own sage at home, note that it is drought tolerant and does not like sitting in wet soil. The leaves will get mildew on them if they are allowed to sit damp, so water infrequently.

Can Brown Butter Sauce Be Made Ahead?

Yes, definitely. It's recommended you let the butter completely cool before transferring it to a glass container—a Mason jar works well. It should keep in the fridge for seven to 10 days.

Can I Use Salted or Unsalted Butter?

Unsalted butter is preferable for several reasons. Salted butter tends to foam up more, which makes it harder to discern its true color as it's browning. In addition to being able to control the salt content precisely with unsalted butter, it's also fresher. Unsalted butter has a shorter shelf life because salt acts as a preservative.

Why Is My Butter Not Browning?

Butter can appear to take a long time to brown if it's thrown in as a whole stick. It's highly recommended that you cut it up into five or six pieces so that the butter can brown evenly. Otherwise, if thrown in whole, some of the butter can start to burn while the solid part is still warming up.

What Is the Difference Between Brown Butter and Regular Butter?

Brown butter is differentiated by its markedly different color and flavor. It also is devoid of the water content that regular butter has. Brown butter should be a deep golden color with mahogany-colored milk solids at the bottom. It also has a toasted, nutty aroma that is distinctly different from regular butter's creamy flavor profile.

Butter is made of water, milk solids, and fats. Brown butter, however, is missing the water content of regular butter. This is because when butter is heated, the water in it ultimately evaporates. The butter becomes clear instead of opaque, and milk solids start to appear. (They look like the crumbs that might remain in a pot of oil if you'd fried chicken in it, for example.) If you were to strain out the milk solids at this point, and not heat the butter further, you would have ghee, or clarified butter.

Can I Substitute Dried Sage for Fresh Sage?

Yes, however, it's not ideal. If at all possible, splurge on fresh sage for this recipe. Its earthy and delicate quality is a defining feature of this dish. However, if necessary, you can substitute 4 teaspoons of dried sage for 1/4 cup of fresh sage. (It may be counterintuitive to use less dried sage, since dried herbs are generally less flavorful than fresh herbs. When dried, sage does indeed lose some of its brightness. However, this can accentuate its bitterness, which is why it's recommended to use less.)

Do You Throw Away the Brown Solids at the Bottom?

The browned milk solids are actually where most of the flavor in browned butter comes from, so you definitely want to leave those in and scrape them all from the pan. On the other hand, these can burn quickly, so if your butter is tasting at all burnt (very easy to do), you can strain these out to try and minimize that aroma.