Elevate humble strawberries by sauteing them briefly in a hot pan. The heat softens the berries, intensifies their natural flavor and imparts a slightly nutty, caramelized flavor that pairs well with any dish you use them in. Although nothing can beat the taste of summer-ripened berries, these warm delicacies certainly rival it. Use the basic method to create your own recipes using sauteed strawberries as the star of the dish.

For optimal flavor and quality, select bright, evenly red berries with a fresh smell and a healthy stem. Avoid any berries that look wilted or damaged. If you aren’t using your berries right away, store them unwashed in the drawer of your refrigerator. Place the strawberries in a strainer and rinse them under cold water, gently shaking the colander as you rinse the berries.

Prep the berries by hulling them — or remove the leaves, stem and core located right beneath the cap of the berry. Cut the strawberries into uniform slices so that they cook evenly.

Grab a heavy-bottomed pan and heat it over high or medium-high heat. Once the pan is warm enough for you to feel the heat when you place your hand above it, add your butter or oil to the pan. Melt the butter or heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the sliced berries to the pan and saute for 1 to 3 minutes or until the strawberries just begin to soften.

The bright, fresh flavor of ripe strawberries pairs equally well with sweet and savory seasonings. Build a memorable dish by experimenting with flavor pairings to find the ones you enjoy most. Some ideas to get you started include the following:

  • A hint of sweetness: While the berries are sauteing, add a small amount of maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, brown sugar or granulated sugar to play up the natural sweetness of the strawberries and add even more of a caramelized flavor. Allow the berries to continue cooking for about 30 to 60 seconds after adding the sweetener. 
  • A touch of acidity: A small touch of fresh citrus zest or juice, vinegar or even wine can add complexity to the strawberries and wake up the flavor in a new, fresh way.

  • An accent of herbs and seasonings: Fresh herbs such as mint, basil, lemon verbena and lavender all infuse the strawberries with additional freshness and flavor. Black pepper, cinnamon, all spice or vanilla add a touch of heat or cozy warmth.

How you intend to serve the berries should inform your seasoning choices. For example, if you intend to use them in a sweet dish, you may want to add a little extra sweetness and warm spices such as cinnamon and vanilla. If you’re using them in a savory dish, saute the berries in olive oil and pair them with bolder flavors such as basil, vinegar and freshly cracked black pepper. Additional serving ideas include the following:

  • Use the warm, slightly softened and sweetened sauteed strawberries to top French toast, crepes or pancakes instead of using syrup.
  • Top crispy fish tacos with sauteed strawberries, onions and a citrusy slaw for a fruity finishing touch.
  • Add sauteed berries to a bowl and eat them on their own for dessert, topped simply with whipped cream and a sprinkle of chopped fresh mint.

  • Spoon the still-warm sauteed strawberries over vanilla ice cream or yogurt.

  • Before sauteing the strawberries, use the pan to saute shallots with a
    little white wine. Then add the strawberries and some fresh herbs. Usethis mixture to top pasta, along with a sprinkling of walnuts, Parmesanand finely chopped fresh parsley.