Cooking sauces are the essence of gourmet cooking. All the great chefs are known first and foremost for their wonderful sauces. And the great thing is, anyone, even me (and you), can easily create a great sauce.

Yes, I said, “create”. Beyond all the wonderful recipes below, and others available all over the web and in so many cook books, once one gets the hang of what’s going on with cooking sauces, she can start to fiddle with them and create her own, improved versions. There is no limit to the possibilities!

Cooking sauces are comprised of a liquid, plus thickening agents, plus seasonings. A good cook will need to be able to do the following:

  1. Make a good and flavorful stock.
  2. Use thickening agents properly to get the right appearance and texture.
  3. Season properly.

The five Classic mother sauces are Bechamel, Veloute, Espagnole (brown), Tomato and Hollandaise.

The Bechamel Family

Bechamel (bay-shah-mell) is the easiest “mother sauce” to prepare. It is made by thickening scalded milk with a white roux and adding seasonings. It is rich and creamy with absolutely no hint of graininess. It should be the color of heavy cream and have a deep luster. It should be thick enough to coat foods lightly.

Bechamel Recipe

  • Milk, 1/2 gal.
  • Flour, 4 oz.
  • Clarified butter, 4 fl. oz.
  • Salt and white pepper, TT
  • Nutmeg, TT

Yield: 1/2 gal.

Small Bechamel Cooking Sauces

Cream Sauce – Add to bechamel 4-6 oz. of scalded cream and a few drops of lemon juice.

Cheese – Add to bechamel 4 oz. grated Cheddar or American cheese, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and 1/2 tablespoon of dry mustard.

Mornay – Add to bechamel 2 oz. grated Gruyere and 1/2 oz. grated Parmesan. Thin with scalded cream. Remove the sauce from heat and swirl in 1 oz. whole butter.

Nantua – Add to bechamel 2 fluid oz. heavy cream and 3 oz. crayfish butter. Add paprika to achieve the desired color.

Soubise – Sweat 1/2 pound diced onion in 1 ounce whole butter without browning. Add bechamel and simmer until the onion are cooked and then strain.

The Veloute Family

Veloute (veh-loo-TAY) cooking sauces are made by thickening a white stock with roux. A veloute sauce made from veal or chicken stock is usually used to make one of two sauces, allemande and supreme. Allemande sauce is made by adding lemon juice and a mixture of egg yolks and heavy cream to a veal or chicken veloute. Supreme sauce is made by adding cream to a chicken veloute. A properly made veloute should be rich, with an ivory color, smooth and lump-free.

Veloute Recipe

  • Clarified Butter, 4 fl. oz.
  • Flour, 4 oz.
  • Chicken, veal, or fish stock 2 1/2 qts.
  • Salt and white pepper, TT

  1. Make a blond roux by heating the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the flour and cook.
  2. Gradually add the stock to the roux stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil and simmer.
  3. Simmer and reduce.
  4. Strain.
  5. You can add a little melted butter on the surface of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming.

Yield: 1/2 gal.

Small Fish Veloute Cooking Sauces

Bercy – Saute 1 oz. of finely diced shallots in butter. Add 4 oz. of dry white wine and 4 oz. fish stock. Reduce the mixture and add the fish veloute.

Cardinal – Add 4 oz. fish stock to 2 cups fish veloute. Reduce the mixture by half and add 1/2 pint heavy cream and a dash of cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil and swirl in 1 oz. lobster butter.

Normandy – Add 2 oz. mushroom trimmings and 2 oz. fish stock to 2 cups fish veloute. Reduce by one third and finish with an egg yolk and cream liaison. Strain.

Espagnole (Brown Sauce)

Espagnole is made from a brown stock to which brown roux, mirepoix (50% chopped onions, 25% chopped carrots and 25% chopped celery) and tomato puree have been added.

Espagnole Recipe

  • Mirepoix, 1 lb.
  • Clarified butter, 4 fl. oz.
  • Flour, 4 oz.
  • Brown stock, 2 1/2 qts.
  • Tomato puree, 4 oz.
  • Sachet (ingredients tied in a cheesecloth bag – 1 bay leaf, 1/4 tsp. dried thyme, 1/8 tsp. peppercorns (crushed) 4 parsley stems)
  • Salt and pepper, TT

  1. Saute the mirepoix in butter.
  2. Add the flour and cook to make a brown roux.
  3. Add the brown stock and tomato puree. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer.
  4. Add the sachet.
  5. Simmer for 1 hour so the sauce can reduce.
  6. Strain the sauce.


Espagnole sauce can be made into a wonderful demi-glace, that is delicious on steaks. Demi-glace is half brown sauce, half brown stock, reduced by half. A properly made demi-glace is rich, smooth and lump-free.

Demi-Glace Recipe

  • Brown Stock, 2 cups
  • Brown Sauce, 2 cups

  1. Combine the sauce and stock in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Simmer until the mixture is reduced by half.
  3. Strain.

Jus Lie

Jus lie is used like a demi-glace but is lighter and easier to use. It is made in one of two ways:

  1. A brown stock is thickened with cornstarch and seasoned.
  2. A brown stock is simmered and reduced so that it thickens naturally. This is the kind I like.

Small Brown Cooking Sauces

Bordelaise – Combine 1 cup dry red wine, 1 oz. chopped shallots, 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig thyme and a pinch of black pepper in a saucepan. Reduce by 3/4, then add demi-glace and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain and finish with a little butter.

Chasseur – Saute 2 oz. sliced mushrooms and 1/2 tablespoon diced shallots in whole butter. Add 4 fl. oz. white wine and reduce by 3/4. Then add demi-glace and 3 oz. diced tomatoes: simmer for 5 minutes. Do not strain.

Chateaubriand – Combine 1 cup dry white wine and 1 oz. diced shallots. Reduce the mixture by 2/3. Add demi-glace and reduce by half. Season to taste with lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Do not strain. Swirl in a little butter to finish.

Madeira or Port – Bring demi-glace to a boil, reduce slightly. Then add 2 fl. oz. madeira wine or ruby port.

Mushroom – Blanch (cook very briefly) 4 oz. of mushroom caps in 8 fluid oz. boiling water seasoned with salt and lemon juice. Drain the mushrooms, saving the liquid. Reduce this liquid to 2 tablespoons and add it to the demi-glace. Just before serving, stir in 1 oz. whole butter and the mushroom caps.

Piquant – Combine 1/2 oz. shallots, 2 oz. white wine and 2 oz. white wine vinegar. Reduce the mixture by two-thirds. Then add demi-glace and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1 oz. diced cornichons, 1/2 tablespoon fresh tarragon, 1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley and 1/2 tablespoon fresh chervil. Do not strain.

The Tomato Sauce Family

Classic tomato sauce is made from tomatoes, vegetables, seasonings, and white stock and thickened with a roux. Tomato sauce texture should be grainier than other cooking sauces but still smooth.

Tomato Sauce Recipe

  • Mirepoix (50% diced onions, 25% diced carrots, 25% diced celery), 12 oz.
  • Tomato, fresh or canned, 1 1/2 qts.
  • Tomato puree, 1 qt.
  • Sachet (ingredients tied in a piece of cheesecloth – 1/2 tsp. dried thyme, 2 bay leaves, 2 garlic cloves, 5 parsley stems, 1/4 tsp. peppercorns, crushed)
  • Salt, 3/4 oz.
  • Granulated sugar, 1/2 oz.
  • White stock, 1 1/2 qt.
  • Salt pork, small dice, 2 oz.
  • Pork bones, 1 lb.

Render the salt pork over medium heat. Add the mirepoix and saute. Add the tomatoes and tomato puree, sachet, salt and sugar. Then add the white stock and bones. Simmer slowly for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Remove the sachet and bones and pass the sauce through a food mill.

Small Tomato Cooking Sauces

Creole – Saute 3 oz. finely diced onion, 2 oz. thinly sliced celery and 1/2 teaspoon garlic in 1 oz. oil. Add tomato sauce, a bay leaf and a pinch of thyme; simmer for 15 minutes. Then add 2 oz. finely diced green pepper and a dash of hot pepper sauce; simmer for 15 minutes longer. Remove the bay leaf.

Spanish – Prepare creole sauce as directed, adding 2 oz. sliced mushrooms to the sauteed onions. Garnish with sliced black or green olives.

The Hollandaise Family

Hollandaise sauce is an emulsified sauce. Emulsification simply means the process by which generally unmixable liquids are forced into a uniform distribution. A properly made hollandaise is smooth, buttery, pale lemon-yellow-colored and very rich.

Hollandaise Recipe

  • White or black peppercorns, crushed, 1/4 tsp.
  • White wine vinegar, 3 fl. oz.
  • Water, 2 fl. oz.
  • Egg Yolks, 5
  • Lemon Juice, 1 1/4 oz.
  • Clarified butter, warm, 2 cups
  • Salt and white pepper, TT
  • Cayenne pepper, TT

Yield: 3/4 qt.

  1. Combine the peppercorns, vinegar and water in a small saucepan and reduce by one-half.
  2. Place the egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl. Strain the vinegar and pepper reduction through a chinois,
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    into the yolks.
  3. Place the bowl over a double boiler,
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    whipping the mixture continuously with a wire whip. As the yolks cook, the mixture will thicken. When the mixture is thick enough to leave a trail across the surface when the whip is drawn away, remove the bowl from the double boiler. Do not overcook the egg yolks.
  4. Whip in 1/2 fl. oz. lemon juice to stop the yolks from cooking.
  5. Slowly add the warm clarified butter to the egg yolk mixture a drop at a time, while whipping the mixture to form an emulsion. Once the emulsion is started, the butter may be added more quickly. Continue until all the butter is added.
  6. Whip in the remaining lemon juice. Adjust the seasonings with salt, white pepper and cayenne pepper.
  7. Strain the sauce.

Small Hollandaise Sauce

Bearnaise – (bair-NAYZ) Combine 1 oz. chopped shallots, 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh chervil and 1/2 teaspoon crushed peppercorns with 4 oz. white wine vinegar. Reduce to 2 oz. Add this reduction to the egg yolks and proceed with the hollandaise recipe. strain the finished sauce and season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper.

I hope you will try most of the wonderful cooking sauces you see on this page. Ultimately, I hope you will begin to create your very own sauces, sauces to knock the pants off friends and family alike.