Béarnaise sauce

Béarnaise sauce

Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery
190 ml

Serve with grilled steak, tournedos or roast beef, also with shellfish and some vegetables (green peas with béarnaise are delicious). Any leftover sauce should be kept for serving on cold roast beef or chicken sandwiches.


Quantity Ingredient
60ml white wine vinegar
1 golden shallot or spring onion, chopped
4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 sprig fresh thyme
or pinch dried thyme
2 egg yolks
125g butter, cut into small pieces
freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped, (optional)
or 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, finely chopped, (optional)


  1. Put vinegar, shallot or spring onion, peppercorns, bay leaf, tarragon and thyme into a small saucepan and boil until reduced to 1 tablespoon liquid. Strain, pressing to extract all flavour. Place reduced flavoured vinegar and egg yolks in the top of a double saucepan or in a heatproof bowl that will fit over a saucepan.
  2. Bring 2.5 cm deep water just to simmering point in bottom of double saucepan or saucepan, place container with egg yolks over water (which must not touch container) and whisk until yolks thicken slightly. This stage is called sabayon and is reached when you begin to see bottom of bowl between strokes and mixture clings to whisk when it is raised from bowl.
  3. Now add butter, a piece at a time, slipping it through your fingers to soften it slightly. Whisk continuously, incorporating each piece of butter thoroughly before adding next piece. When all butter has been added and sauce is thickened and creamy, season lightly with salt and pepper and fold in tarragon or parsley, if using.


  • If the sauce refuses to thicken or curdles (probably because it has got too hot), do not worry; there is a remedy. Rinse out another mixing bowl with hot water, then put in 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the sauce. Beat with a wire whisk until they thicken together, then beat in the rest of the sauce a little at a time, whisking each addition well until quite smooth before adding the next.


  • Paloise sauce: Follow recipe for 1 quantity béarnaise sauce but substitute 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (including stalks) for dried tarragon and thyme for making reduced flavoured vinegar, and 1 teaspoon shredded fresh mint for chopped fresh tarragon or parsley to fold through finished sauce. Serve with roast or grilled lamb.

    Sauce choron: Stir 1–1½ tablespoons tomato paste into 1 quantity béarnaise sauce. Serve with grilled or sautéed veal or lamb.
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