The baby of the Hallandaise Sauce

Béarnaise sauce

is a sauce made of clarified butter emulsified in egg yolks and white wine vinegar that is flavored with herbs. It is considered to be a “child” of the mother Hollandaise sauce (recipe in the video below), one of the five mother sauces in the French haute cuisine repertoire. The difference is only in the flavoring: Béarnaise uses shallot, chervil, peppercorn, and tarragon, while Hollandaise uses lemon juice or white wine. Its name is related to the province of Béarn, France.

In appearance, it is light yellow and opaque, smooth and creamy. Béarnaise is a traditional sauce for steak.

The sauce was likely first created by the chef Collinet, the inventor of puffed potatoes (pommes de terre soufflées), and served at the 1836 opening of Le Pavillon Henri IV, a restaurant at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, not far from Paris. This assumption is supported by the fact that the restaurant was named for Henry IV of France, a gourmet himself, who was born in the Béarn region, a former province now in the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in southwestern France.

Like the Hollandaise sauce, there are several methods for preparing a Béarnaise sauce. The most common preparation is a bain-marie method where a reduction of vinegar is used to acidulate the yolks. Escoffier calls for a reduction of wine, vinegar, shallots, fresh chervil, fresh tarragon and crushed peppercorns (later strained out), with fresh tarragon and chervil to finish instead of lemon juice. Others are similar. Alternatively, the flavorings may be added to a finished Hollandaise (sans lemon juice).

Joy of Cooking describes a blender preparation with the same ingredients. A faux Béarnaise can be produced by adding capers and tarragon to a Hollandaise.

Derivatives of Béarnaise sauce

  • Sauce Choron or Sauce Béarnaise Tomatée is a variation of Béarnaise without tarragon or chervil, plus added tomato purée. It is named after Alexandre Étienne Choron.
  • Sauce Foyot (a.k.a. Valois) is Béarnaise with meat glaze (Glace de Viande) added.
  • Sauce Colbert is Sauce Foyot with the addition of reduced white wine.
  • Sauce Paloise is a version of béarnaise with mint substituted for tarragon.


  • 1 medium brown shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 150 g butter, cut into small cubes
  • Salt & Black pepper to taste

Boil some water in the bottom part of your double boiler (making sure the water won’t touch the top part of the double boiler).

Meanwhile, In a small saucepan, mix together the vinegar, chopped shallot, the sprig of thyme, the bay leave, salt and black pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer to reduce by half. Strain the vinegar mixture into the top part of your double boiler and discard the shallot and herbs.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. In a thin steady stream, while continuously whisking, pour the egg yolks into the vinegar until combined. Set the pot over the steaming simmering water and continue to whisk.

Add the butter a cube at a time, whisking until fully incorporated before adding the next cube. Continue until all butter had been added. The mixture should be smooth, with no lumps and emulsified (not separated).

Remove from heat and stir in the tarragon and parsley. Cover the top of the sauce with cling film, to prevent formation of skin, and keep in warm bain marie to keep warm.

Do not reheat the sauce once cooled.

The sauce is now ready to serve.

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