Updated: May 10
When you think of sauces, what comes to mind? perhaps simple condiments you use every day. Or maybe its your favourite gravy from the best Sunday roast in town. All sauces in classical cookery come from the same 5 sauce that we chefs call "the mother sauces". In this article we will explore the 5 types of mother sauce, what defines them & how to use them.
Types of Mother Sauces and how to use them
Sauce 1 - Béchamel Sauce
Let's start with the first one you learn in catering college. The Béchamel or white sauce is roux based so has a rich creamy texture and with a mild flavour profile.
Béchamel is most commonly used as a base for great pasta dish, white meat dishes & vegetable bakes. If you have ever sampled a homemade macaroni cheese, lasagne or cauliflower, bake then you most probably all ready experienced the majesty of basic Béchamel enhanced with cheese.
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
55g plain flour
Bring the milk just to the boil with the onion pierced with the bay leaf and cloves, and the peppercorns.
Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes before straining.
Then melt the butter in a non-stick pan, stir in the flour, and cook over a low heat for five minutes.
When smooth, start adding some of the strained milk. Stir until smooth, and then add more milk until the sauce is thickened.
Cook for 10-15 minutes to ensure the flour is cooked through.
Sauce 2 - Velouté Sauce
Velouté sauce is very similar to a béchamel in that it is roux based with a creamy texture. However there are two main differences. Firstly, the roux is cooked a little longer before adding liquid. This is known as a blond roux. Secondly, the liquid added is a white stock such as vegetable, chicken or fish.
Velouté is great for finishing white meats & fish dishes. Again the flavour isn't overpowered so while it can be used to as a stand alone hero, a quick addition ingredients like a good wild mushroom can take a simple roast chicken to new heights.
1L white stock
50g plain flour
Melt the butter over a medium heat.
Stir in the flour and constantly stir to form a roux.
Cook the roux for 3-5 minutes to turn blond.
Warm the stock.
A little at a time, stir stock into the roux and combine well. Keep adding until all the stock is combined.
Simmer the sauce 20 minutes.
Sauce 3 - Espagnole Sauce
Espagnole Sauce is fantastic sauce to learn. Full of rich flavour and the building blocks of an incredible gravy. Again this is a roux based sauce. However the roux is cooked even further to make a brown roux. The liquid added is brown stock such as beef or lamb and simmered for added intensity.
Espagnole, often known as brown sauce, is the perfect pairing with steaks, braised or casseroles. Or combine with reduced res wine to form a rich Demi glacé.
750ml brown stock
25g smoked pork belly
25g diced carrot
150g fresh tomatoes or 100 g tinned chopped tomatoes
20g tomato paste
1 garlic clove
1 bouquet garni (made with a twig of thyme, 4 parsley stalks and a few celery leaves)
20g butter to cook the bacon
Salt and pepper to season
50g plain flour
Make the roux by melting the butter and combining with the flour.
Cook the roux on a low heat until it reaches a brown roux stage.
Remove from the pan and set aside.
Saute the pork belly, carrot, onion, mushroom, garlic & bouquet garni in a little butter.
Tomatoes, tomato paste & stock and simmer for 2 hours.
Strain the sauce to remove the solids and place back on the heat.
whisk in the precooked roux a little at a time to thicken the sauce
Sauce 4 - Hollandaise Sauce
Think of Hollandaise as a fancy mayonnaise. It uses clarified butter and Instead of using a roux or a reduction, Hollandaise uses the method of emulsification. That is the act of using a binding agent, in this case egg yolk, to force two ingredients that don't mix well together in to a wonderful thick sauce.
Use liberally over poached eggs, asparagus, spinach or flavour with herbs to create a wonderful sauce for fish & chicken.
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 dried bay leaf
2 egg yolks
125g butter, melted
lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste
Put the vinegar in a small pan with the peppercorns and bay leaf. Reduce the vinegar over a high heat until there is only 1 tbsp left. Strain the peppercorns and the bay leaf from this reduction. Allow to cool.
Whisk together two fresh egg yolks with the white wine vinegar in a large heat-proof bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not to let the bowl touch the water) and whisk until lukewarm.
Add the melted butter to the egg yolks very, very slowly, beating continuously. Once the mixture has thickened, remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and a little lemon juice.
Sauce 5 - Tomato Sauce
probably the first mother sauce you ever tasted over spaghetti. Tomato sauce is often a mixture of just onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Although traditionally starts with a roux, some tomato sauces use reduction to build flavor and create thickness.
Used in thousands of pasta dishes but also pairs great with chicken and vegetable dishes such as a ratatouille.
50g bacon lardons
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 diced carrot carrot
1 diced white onion
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
3 tbsp Plain flour
1kg chopped fresh tomatoes or 800g tinned
1 clove garlic
pinches of sugar
Salt and ground black pepper
In large pan, brown the lardons in butter over a medium heat.
Add the carrots, onion, bay leaf, and thyme, and cook, stirring regularly.
Stir in the flour and continue cooking. stirring frequently, until the flour lightly browns.
Stir in the tomatoes and stock, then bring to a boil.
Add the garlic and sugar.
Season lightly with salt and black pepper.
Simmer for 90 minutes.
Strain the vegetables and allow to cool.
So that's the 5 types of mother sauces and how to use them. Knowledge of the five French mother sauces will prove essential. They may seem intimidating, but mother sauces will nurture your kitchen confidence. With a few simple ingredients and a couple easy techniques, these five sauces, all equally important to your cooking repertoire, serve as the starting point for an endless collection of other classics.