Five Cooking Sauces - The 5 Classic Mother Sauces Ingredients

Explaining the Mother Sauces

There are five basic sauces every cook should master. In French, these are referred to as grandes sauces or sayces meres. In the early 1800’s, Antonin Careme, the founding father of French “grande cuisine,” came up with a system of categorizing the hundreds of sauces under the five Mother Sauces. The mother sauces were traditionally prepared in huge quantities, and then separated into smaller portions with additional ingredients added to create a multitude of variations.

A sauce is the crowning glory of any dish. The ability to prepare a sauce sets the average cook at a new level. There are literally hundreds of variations that are used to dress, compliment, enhance and bring out the flavor of the food it is served with. Learn to make the five basic sauces and their most common derivatives and you’ll be cooking like a professional in no time.

Understanding Sauce Basics - BBQ Sauce Recipe, Alfredo Sauce Recipe and More

Cooking Sauces

Sauce Boat
Sauce Boat

The Five Mother Sauces

Bechamel Sauce (white sauce) - (bay-shah-mel)

Bechamel Sauce is the king of all sauces and probably the one that is used the most frequently. Bechamel is a smooth, white sauce made by stirring milk into a butter-flour roux, the thickness of the sauce depends on the proportion of flour and butter to milk. It is usually served with white meats, eggs, and vegetables. It forms the basis of many other sauces.

  • Base: Milk (Usually Whole Milk)
  • Thickening Agent: White Roux
  • Classical Flavorings: White Onion, Clove, Bay Leaf, Salt, White Pepper, Nutmeg
  • Common Secondary Sauces: Cream Sauce, Mornay, Cheddar Cheese Sauce, Mustard Sauce, Nantua and Soubise
  • Classically Served With: Eggs, Fish, Steamed Poultry, Steamed Vegetables, Pastas, veal and excellent with grilled salmon

Veloute Sauce (blond sauce) - (veh-loo-TAY)

Veloute Sauce is a stock-based white sauce that can be made from chicken, veal, or fish stock thickened with white roux. The sauce is often enriched with egg yolks or cream.

  • Base: White Stock (usually veal, but chicken and fish stock can also be used)
  • Thickening Agent: Classically a roux, but sometimes also a liaison is used.
  • Classical Flavorings: None, this sauce is used specifically as a base
  • Common Secondary Sauces: Sauce Vin Blanc (fish veloute with shallots, butter, and herbs), Sauce Supreme (chicken veloute reduced with heavy cream), Sauce Allemande (veal veloute with egg yolk and cream liaison)
  • Classically Served With: Eggs, Fish, Steamed Poultry, Steamed Vegetables, Pastas and Veal

Espagnole Sauce or Brown Sauce (demi-glace)

Espagnole sauce is traditionally made from a rich meat stock, a mirepoix of browned vegetables (most often a mixture of diced onion, carrots and celery), a nicely browned roux, herbs and sometimes tomato paste.

  • Base: Roasted Veal Stock (Roasted chicken stock is sometimes used in modern variations).
  • Thickening Agent: Brown Roux
  • Classical Flavorings: Mirepoix, Sachet (Bay Leaf, Fresh Thyme, Parsely), Tomato Puree
  • Common Secondary Sauces: Demi-Glace, Bordelaise, Sauce Robert, Lyonnaise, Sauce Madeira, Sauce Bercy, Sauce Chasseur
  • Classically Served With: Roasted meats, especially beef, duck, veal or lamb.

Emulsion Sauces – Sauces that are emulsified such as Hollandaise Sauce or Mayonnaise

Hollandaise and Mayonnaise are two sauces that are made with an emulsion of egg yolks and fat. Hollandaise is made with butter, egg yolks and lemon juice, usually in a double boiler to prevent overheating, and served warm. It is generally used to embellish vegetables, fish and egg dishes, such as the classic Eggs Benedict. Mayonnaise is a thick, creamy dressing that's an emulsion of vegetable oil, egg yolks, lemon juice or vinegar and seasonings. It is widely used as a spread, a dressing and as a sauce. It's also used as the base for such mixtures as Tartar Sauce, Thousand Island Dressing, Aïoli, and Remoulade.

Emulsified sauces are the hardest of the mother sauces to master because they require considerable time and effort due to their propensity to “break”.

  • Base: Egg Yolks and Butter(Classically Clarified Butter)
  • Thickening Agent: Emulsification
  • Classical Flavorings: Peppercorns (Black), White Wine Vinegar, Salt, Lemon Juice, Cayenne Pepper
  • Common Secondary Sauces: Bearnaise, Maltaise, Mousseline, Foyot, Choron
  • Classically Served With: Eggs (Eggs Benedict), Vegetables (especially Asparagus), Light Poultry Dishes, Fish or Beef

Sauce Tomat (Tomato Sauce)

Tomato sauce is a sauce made with tomatoes, mirepoix, thyme and bay leaves most commonly, though this sauce has, by far, the largest number of variations.

  • Base: Tomatoes (Raw, Tomato Paste, Tomato Puree, Stewed Tomatoes)
  • Thickening Agent: Classically a roux, but modern versions commonly use a reduction.
  • Classical Flavorings: Salt Pork, Mirepoix, Garlic, White Veal Stock, Salt & Pepper, Sugar (Just enough to balance acidity, not enough to make the sweetness perceptible).
  • Common Secondary Sauces: Modern variations concentrate more on seasonings which result in sauces such as Creole, Portuguese and Spanish Sauce Tomat. Marinara sauce is a common Italian variation of this mother sauce, made by adding onions, garlic and oregano. This is the basis of the best bbq sauce recipe as well.
  • Classically Served With: Pasta, Fish, Vegetables (Especially Grilled), Polenta, Veal, Poultry (Especially Chicken), Breads and Dumplings such as Gnocchi.

Bearnaise Sauce

Bearnaise Sauce  This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Author gerard cohen
Bearnaise Sauce This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Author gerard cohen

Mother Sauce vs Small Sauce

A sauce which is derived from one of the mother sauces is sometimes called a small sauce, or secondary sauce. Most sauces used in classical cuisine are small sauces, or derivatives of one of the mother sauces. Mother sauces are not commonly served as they are; instead they are augmented with additional ingredients to make small (derivative) sauces. For example, Bechamel can be made into Mornay by the addition of Gruyère or another cheese of your preference, and Espagnole becomes Bordelaise by adding a reduction of red wine, shallots, and poached beef marrow.

Always remember that when a sauce is used on a food, it is the first thing to touch the tongue. A sauce is only as good as the ingredients you put into it and the care you take while preparing it. On the other hand, a good sauce does little to make inferior food taste better. Always put a good sauce on good food.

The use of sauces has changed dramatically over the years. Today we are influenced by various cuisines, cultures and nutritional information that was not available in the past. This influence has played a role in shaping the food industry and how we look at food. This, combined with the variety of different products that are now available to us, has brought about huge changes in our eating habits and has impacted the way we create and use sauces in our kitchens.

The days of heavy cream sauces and thick, rich gravies are slowly being replaced by lighter versions of highly flavored glazes and sauces. However, to learn the newer ways of making sauces, one must first have a good grasp of the basics of sauce making to understand where the differences lie. Sauce making is definitely an art that, once learned, gives endless possibilities to any dish.

Cooking Recipes

Some other cooking recipes you may enjoy: the healthy benefits of germinated brown rice, the expensive thrill of Kobe beef from Japan or some of our more traditional dishes such as Fruit Crunch Cake which is so delicious and almost no work at all. The best Chicken Pot Pie Recipe and a wonderful Breakfast Pizza straight from a local Bed and Breakfast or kid friendly Chicken Strips.

We also have a step-by-step guide to making your own homemade bread that is easy, delicious and uses no breadmaker! You can do it with our simple guide.

Cooking Techniques - Sauces

Cooking Techniques Sauces - Mother Sauces
Cooking Techniques Sauces - Mother Sauces

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Comments 36 comments

Lamme profile image

Lamme 4 years ago Author

I love pesto, but it is not one of the classic mother sauces. Of course, it certainly has many uses and can be adapted for a variety of different dishes. Delicious. Thanks for mentioning it!

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saverthefood 4 years ago

Good mention of the sauces you can use...but you forgot Pesto Sauce.

cris 5 years ago


Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

moonlake, I bet you're a great cook! Not many people venture into much sauce making, for some reason they find it intimidating, but it really is the base for so many great dishes. Thanks for reading and leaving such nice comments.

moonlake profile image

moonlake 6 years ago from America

Just realized I have always made all of these sauces. Never really thought about it but I married when I was 17.......48 years ago. An Aunt gave me a Better Homes and Garden cookbook that I have used all these years (it's falling apart). I made every sauce in that book (all of the above). Great hub good information.

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Hi Teresa, I haven't read that book ... I'll have to check it out. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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eventsyoudesign 6 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

Bravo! Great article. Have you read the book, "Cooking for Kings" the life of Antonin Careme? Excellent book. I love your articles and cannot get enough. Thanks for sharing. Teresa

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

NS132, welcome to HubPages! I'm glad you liked the article, as a chef, you are probably very familiar with sauces. thanks for reading and commenting.

NS132 profile image

NS132 6 years ago from UK

Hi! I'm new in here and am just getting the feel of things in here before I publish my Hub page! I just wanted to say your hub page is very interesting and good! I am a chef in the Airforce and have been cooking for 9 years.

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Thanks Ranjith, glad you stopped by!

Ranjith 6 years ago

Its interesting

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Thanks Vaughan31, I agree ... sauces make the meal!

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Vaughan31 6 years ago

Great hub, sauces are such a great addition to a meal. I'll be testing some out for sure!!!

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Hi Juliette, I guess times are changing :) Those delicious sauces are often being replaced with newer, lighter versions to reflect our more health conscious attitudes. I still like to indulge on occasion, but you're right ... they can be so fattening!

Juliette Morgan profile image

Juliette Morgan 6 years ago

Great hub I love making sauces - my fav is bearnaise with steak but oh so so fattening - why can't someone come up with a low fat bearnaise recipe...

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Hi Mpages, sauces are a wonderful addition to most dishes. Be creative, you'll love it!

Mpages profile image

Mpages 6 years ago from USA

Thank you very much Lamme, I'm gonna try those sauces.

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Thanks dinkan53, Most sauces really are fairly easy to make once you learn how. A good cook masters the sauce ;) Enjoy your dinner ... sounds delicious! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

dinkan53 profile image

dinkan53 6 years ago from India

It seems to be so easy to make sauces home. Today I'm going to make Espagnole Sauce or Brown Sauce and bread(home) as per your recipe. thanks Lamme for sharing useful recipes. rating it up and useful.

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Angela, you're very lucky! ;) Sounds delicious.

Angela_1973 profile image

Angela_1973 6 years ago

Very good work Lamme, my father cooks Bechamel sauce to perfection, pours it over ground meat and potatoes casserole and bakes it for 10-15 min. It's absolutely delicious.

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Thanks MaryRenee, I know what you mean, sauces really finish a dish. Enjoy a nice meal :)

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MaryRenee 6 years ago

Lamme: What an awesome hub! Sauces add so much to our dishes. Now, I really feel like making something tasty! lol :) Thanks for sharing, Lamme :)

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Hi Betty, I think sauces add a lot to a meal. Try some one of the basic sauces and then adapt it to what you like. Even mac & cheese has to start with a bechamel sauce and that's something fairly easy to master. Thanks for reading!

Betty Reid profile image

Betty Reid 6 years ago from Texas

Another great hub! I don't make a lot of sauces, but maybe it will seem easier after this.

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Thanks Chloe! I always considered myself an Italian at heart. I think Italian food is on the top of my list for comfort foods. There's something so homey and nurturing about it ... it feeds the soul as well as your stomach. A bottle of wine and some great Italian food, what could be better? Oh, now you've got me thinking of food! :) Thanks for stopping by.

Chloe Comfort profile image

Chloe Comfort 6 years ago from Long Island

A fabulous hub Lamme! I have just begun experimenting with sauces and this is a great reference. Being Italian, I already have experience with "sauce tomat" but the others, with the exception of the classic beschamel, will be a tasty experiment for me. Thanks for the info - a definite bookmark :D

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Absolutely! Now you have me thinking about biscuits and gravy ;)

esatchel profile image

esatchel 6 years ago from Kentucky

I know! Even biscuits and gravy -- every Southern grandma worth her salt knows how to make a basic Bechamel! :^}

esatchel profile image

esatchel 6 years ago from Kentucky

I know! Even biscuits and gravy -- every Southern grandma worth her salt knows how to make a basic Bechamel! :^}

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Thanks esatchel. Even something as simple as macaroni and cheese starts with one of the fundamental mother sauces ...bechamel.

esatchel profile image

esatchel 6 years ago from Kentucky

Very thorough hub on the sauces. You can make even the simplest ingredients super special with these sauces!

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Hi drbj, too modest, LOL Perhaps it's a Mother sauce because it gives birth to the secondary sauces, hard for father to do it. Just a guess ;)

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Hi Robbie, thanks for reading! Very saucy indeed! LOL

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

Hi, Lamme - this is fascinating stuff and mostly new to me but I have a question. If Careme was the founding father of French cuisine why didn't he just call them the 5 Father Sauces?

Too modest, I guess.

Robbie 6 years ago

A very saucy article, if I do say so....but extremely informative. I'm printing this one out an sticking it in my cookbook. Keep up the good work.

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