The five mother sauces

The first mother sauce Bechamel.

In the french kitchen we are talking about five mother sauces being; Bechamel, Veloute', Espagnole, Sauce tomato and Hollandaise.
Once you master these, a world of sauces stand open for you.

First what is a sauce.
A sauce is a thicken liquid produced to "hang on" to meat or vegetables.
Thickening can be done in various ways, offen done with a roux but can also be done by reducing the liquid, like in a tomato sauce, were the evaporation eventually will thicken the reduced tomato liquid.

Secondly before we are going to list the five mother sauces.
Roux is basically just cooking fat and flour together. Most offen butter is used as the fat but oil, other fat like pork, duck or goose fat can be used as well.

To make a roux normally you will need equal amount of fat and flour (by weight).
Melt the fat (butter) over medium heat then add the flour and stir constantly with either a wooden spoon or a wisk. In 3 - 4 minuttes you will have a light roux good for bechamel sauce.
If you will take it a step further continue stirring the roux for another 3 - 4 minuttes and you will have a brown roux, it should smell a little nutty. Be careful not to over burn it. This roux is good for a brown gravy.

Bechamel sauce
Make a light roux and add milk little by little, stirring continuously until desired thicknes is achieved. Taste with salt and white pepper.

Velouté sauce
Is a savoury sauce very simular to bechamel. Instead of milk use a light stock of chicken, veal, fish or what ever is on the menu. 

Espagnole sauce
Is a classic brown sauce.
Start by roasting a mirapoix (onion, carrot and celery - in the ratio 2:1:1) in 56 g butter.
112 g onion, 56 g carrot and 56 g celery.
Once the mirapoix has browned slightly add 56 g tomato paste and let it simmer for a few minuttes. Then add 56 g of flour and stir constantly for 5minuttes.
Pour in about 2 lt of roasted  veal stock (brown stock) and bring to a simmer. Skim the sauce as needed. Now add 2 bay leaf, 3 stalk of fresh thyme and 5 stalk of fresh parsley. Reduce the sauce to 250 - 300 ml - it should take almost 2 hours. Strain the sauce through your finest strainer and it's ready to serve.
It seems like a lot of work, especially if you make your own brown veal stock. Anyway you should try it atleast once for a delicious sunday roast, it's worth all the effort.

Tomato sauce
This is an original french recipe which takes some effort and ingredient to make. Try it out on a weekend were you have the time. 
You will need:

  • 60 g salted pork
  • 2 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 cloves garlic (add more if you prefer)
  • 1500 g crushed tomatoes
  • 1 lt veal or chicken stock
  • 1 ham bone
  • salt, pepper and sugar
  • bayleaf, thyme and parsley

Preheat your oven to 150 C.
Render the salted pork in a heavy duty dutch-oven over low to medium heat until the fat liquefies.
Add the onions, carrot, celery and garlic and roast for a few minutes.
Now add the tomatoes, stock ham bone and herps. (place the herps in a cheese cloth and tigh so it's easy to remove later). Bring to a boil.
Transfer the duch oven to the preheatet oven and cover partially.
Let the sauce simmer for 2 hours.
Season with salt and pepper. Add just a little sugar to cut the acid of the tomatoes.
Remove the herps and blend the sauce in a blender or food processor.
Serve warm.

Hollandaise sauce
Hollandaise sauce is ulike the other mother sauces were we use thickening agent or liquid evaporation. Hollandaise is a tangy buttery sauce made by emulsify egg yolks with clarified butter. Now a days there are many ways of doing this sauce e.g blender, but i will just stick to the old school way.
You will need:

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 stick of butter 125 g (clarified)
  • a pinch of salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

You can use a water bath to ensure the sauce will not get too warm or you can heat up your sauce pan slowly and remove it from the heat, place it back when too cold. It might seem a little difficult but trust me it's not, just ensure the sauce will not exceed 60 C. (the perfect serving temperatur is 63 C.)
Wisk the 3 egg yolks, salt, pepper and lemon juce in the warm sauce pan to a floffy consistance. Then gentle add the clarified butter little by little, start with a very small amount and make sure it's propper emulsified before you add butter again. When all the butter is used you should end up with a smooth buttery sauce.


  • Espagnole sauce

  • Mornay sauce made from Bechamel

  • Hollandaise sauce


Gastrique is not a "mother sauce" but i will mention it here as a unik french flavoring to many sauces.
A simple gastrique is simply 1 part sugar and 1 part vinegar boiled until a syrup consistency.
Many chefs swears that you have to caramelise the sugar first before adding the vinegar to get the right caramel flavor in the gastrique.
In my opinion it doesn't really matter. 
Depending on the use i substitute the sugar with honey or syrup and the vinegar goes from plain white to balsamico. I add herbs or spices and other flavoring like fruit if needed.

e.g: For a duck ala orange sauce i would use 3 tbsp honey and 3 tbsp white wine vinegar and then add 1 or 2 star anis, a few peel of an lemon and 3 to 5 whole black pepper.

For any other sauce just mix 1 to 1 plain white sugar and vinegar. Boil for about 8 minuttes until you find the consistency right.