Brown Butter Salad Is My New Fall Superhero

A vegetable-forward side with big main-dish energy.

November  4, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food Stylist: Yossy Arefi. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

There’s something about vegetables drizzled in toasty, golden butter that adds a level of coziness with which oil just can’t compete. Don’t get me wrong; I love olive oil. But I might love brown butter more. Though often reserved for baking—looking at you, brown butter blondies—brown butter complements savory food in a manner that is distinctly delightful. Pour it over meaty tomatoes, stir it into sweet raw corn, toss fat gnocchi with the stuff: The possibilities are endless.

But here I propose that you go one step further with your savory brown butter applications: Instead of drizzling it over ingredients straight, treat brown butter like olive oil in salad dressing.

When done properly (let those milk solids darken, people!), brown butter takes about six to eight minutes over medium heat—this will vary depending on the intensity of your stove, so it’s best to babysit that butter. Toss the warm, nutty, just-browned butter with freshly cracked cumin and fennel seeds to open up their flavor, then get whisking. With lemon juice, honey, and Dijon mustard, to be exact. Plenty of salt and pepper, too.

Since the dressing is served warm, you’ll want to think of this salad less like a crisp and crunchy bowl of greens, and more like a vegetable dish you’d find in a restaurant—the classic French dish leeks vinaigrette, for example. I like rainbow carrots roasted with olive oil, Aleppo pepper, and plenty of salt as a base to this dish, but parsnips, fennel, sweet potatoes, and winter squash work quite well, too. Bake until fork tender and then let them hang out, as this isn’t a dish you need to serve directly from the oven.

Warm dressing also means you’ll need to steer away from delicate greens that wilt easily like arugula, and move to something heartier, like radicchio. Chicories like radicchio, Belgian and red Beligian endive, and escarole are bitter and much firmer than the average lettuce leaf. They stand up to being tossed in warm sauce and the bitterness helps cut through the dressing, which is quite rich.

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Top Comment:
“I love brown butter. Have you ever tried it on popcorn? It's heaven! Happy Holiday to you and the Food 52 team. Love you guys!”
— Diann R.

To tie this salad together, turn to teeny beluga lentils (or slightly less teeny French lentils) for protein and well-toasted almonds for crunch. I’m not saying you need to serve this salad with some good bread to mop up any leftover lemony, brown buttery dressing, but I’m not not saying that either.

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What do you use brown butter for? Let us know in the comments below.
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Rebecca Firkser is the assigning editor at Food52. She used to wear many hats in the food media world: food writer, editor, assistant food stylist, recipe tester (sometimes in the F52 test kitchen!), recipe developer. These days, you can keep your eye out for her monthly budget recipe column, Nickel & Dine. Rebecca tests all recipes with Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Follow her on Instagram @rebeccafirkser.


patricia G. November 8, 2019
Squash or pumpkin ravioli with brown butter and sage...skate awash with brown butter and capers...warm salad of green beans, potatoes, bacon, vinegar and brown butter....fried apples and brown butter...bread, torn, and brown butter, warm...
Diann R. November 7, 2019
Thanks, Rebecca! This looks delicious, and the perfect salad for our vegetarian Thanksgiving. I love brown butter. Have you ever tried it on popcorn? It's heaven! Happy Holiday to you and the Food 52 team. Love you guys!
Rebecca F. November 9, 2019
So glad to hear that! And brown butter on popcorn is wonderful!!
Lan N. November 4, 2019
I’ve seen this story posted with a different title and just wanted to thank you for making that change to the current ‘superhero’ description.