Know Your French Mother Sauces

A chef prepares gourmet food with an artistic flair.
A chef prepares gourmet food with an artistic flair. Photo credit to @ninjason on Unsplash.

French meals are never complete without adding rich, flavorful, and colorful sauces. While there are a variety of sauces that make up the country’s wonderful cuisine, all of them are derived from five mother sauces.

The five French mother sauces, Bechamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, Tomato, and Veloute, are all great additions to your culinary skills. They all feature simple ingredients, such as butter, liquid, and flour, and simple techniques.

The five French mother sauces were invented by French cook Auguste Escoffier in the 1800s. These sauces were based on Escoffier’s book, Le guide culinaire, and consisted of four sauces at the start. The four sauces included  Espagnole, Velouté, Béchamel, and Tomate. He also listed mayonnaise as a cold mother sauce and Hollandaise as a daughter sauce.

Later on, Escoffier unveiled the English version of Le guide culinaire, translated as A Guide to Modern Cookery. This version listed the five mother sauces, including the four, listed as well as Hollandaise. Mayonnaise did not appear anywhere in this English version.

Since these sauces were listed as the “original mother sauce,” many chefs and kitchen enthusiasts have considered them essential in their cooking. While all the other sauces are loved for their sweet and savory nature, they’re all considered unofficial.

From these mother sauces, you can invent any secondary sauces you need to have with your meals. In fact, chefs across the world have invented several daughter sauces, also called “petite” sauces, all derived from these mother sauces.


Bechamel tops the list of French mother sauces for all the right reasons. This is simply white sauce, though its taste and texture may not be as simple.

Only three primary ingredients make Bechamel, and they include butter, flour, and whole milk. The sauce is then flavored with salt, nutmeg, onion, and thyme. The result is a rich, creamy sauce that will leave everyone asking for more.

If you’ve tasted some creamy Croque Monsieur and Lasagna, you’ve probably had the chance to taste Bechamel. You can also use Bechamel to make many other dishes, including pasta, Mac and Cheese, casseroles, and creamy soups. The secret to making Bechamel is starting simple and getting more creative as you master the art.


Espagnole is also known as brown sauce and is perfect for serving dinner. The main ingredients for making this sauce are roux and beef stock. Additional ingredients are puréed tomatoes and mirepoix (onions, celery, and sautéed carrots).

Unlike Bechamel, which uses white roux, Espagnole uses brown roux, which you can achieve by heating the ingredients until the butter browns. You can also achieve brown stock by roasting or simmering beef or veal stock.

The brown roux and veal stock contribute to this sauce’s robust and nuanced flavor. Serve your Espagnole with beef or duck.

However, it’s also important to learn that Espagnole is rarely used alone. The sauce is mostly accompanied by daughter sauces such as Bordelaise and Demi-Glace. The daughter sauces are common in steakhouses and bistros.

It’s worth noting that Espagnole is the most challenging to prepare among the five, making it a rare sauce. This means it’s a unique sauce for special meals, perfect for a chef looking to stand out.


One of the most incomparable mother sauces is Hollandaise, which is made using egg yolk and clarified butter. Additional ingredients that give this wonderful sauce its unique taste are lemon juice, ground pepper, and vinegar.

Unlike other sauces that use roux and reduction methods, Hollandaise relies on the emulsification method. The method is effective in forcing the egg and butter to combine. As many already know, this is an unusually challenging task, but one that undoubtedly gets better with good practice.

Hollandaise pairs well with a variety of foods. You can serve it over eggs, poultry, fish, or vegetables. You can serve it alone or with other sauces such as Rouille, Tartar, Maltaise, Dijon, Choron, and Béarnaise.


Who isn’t familiar with tomato sauce? The sauce isn’t just made from tomatoes, as the name suggests. Most tomato sauces rely mainly on simple ingredients such as onions, garlic, and tomatoes.

The typical tomato sauce is thickened with roux and includes seasoned pork, herbs, and vegetables. The sauce relies on tomato reduction to give it the flavor and thickness it needs. Modern tomato sauce is slightly different as it uses pureed tomato seasoned with herbs.

If you want to make the most delicious tomato sauce, try vine-ripened tomatoes. Unlike other sauces, tomato is highly versatile, and you can use it for various meals, including meat, eggs, and vegetables.


Veloute is a light colored (or “blonde”) sauce that consists of white roux mixed with white stock from chicken, veal, and fish. The name Veloute is derived from the French word, “velvety.” The main ingredients for making this simple sauce are stock, butter, and flour.

The sauce is almost identical to Bechamel, except that it uses stock instead of milk. Many people prefer using chicken stock, but you can also use veal or fish.

Veloute sauce is used to dress chicken, fish, or turkey. Its daughter sauces include Aurora, Normande, Bercy, Allemande, and Poulettes. Once you understand how to make Veloute, you can use it to expand your culinary skills.

Whether you’re an experienced chef or a novice, these French mother sauces are sure to add some kitchen confidence. They all act as a starting point for other delicious sauces, and you can use them to serve countless dishes.


Written by Editorial Team

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