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Types of Sauces


Information about types of sauces and how to cook sauces


 © Elke Dennis -


Jump to:   Types of Sauces  |  Classic Sauces  |  Savoury Sauce & Butter Recipes  |  Sweet Sauce & Butter Recipes



A sauce is a liquid or semi liquid preparation served with food principally to enhance its flavour, appearance or to make it more palatable. Although there are now lots of ready made and convenience sauce mixes available in one form or another, making your own sauce is not only cheaper but in most cases they taste much nicer and once you've mastered the two basic sauce- making techniques, you will be able to create all manner of sauces for any occasion in a matter of minutes.


They are good way to add interest  or a new dimension to everyday foods such as meat, poultry, fish and vegetables and many are very simple and quick to make.  Next time you're having a dinner party and are at a loss for something different to impress your guests, just think SAUCE.


Types of Sauces

Sauces can be hot or cold; sweet or savoury; thin or thick depending on how they are being used.  






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Today the name sauce is given to many preparations such as Bolognese sauce for pasta,  bottled tomato, chilli and brown sauces which should more properly be called condiments,   salsas (the Spanish word for sauce) and thin dipping sauces which would be better referred to as accompaniments.  On the other hand, the name isn't commonly applied to some items when, logically speaking, perhaps it should be, such as gravies, vinaigrettes and coulis.

Classic Sauces

In classic French cuisine,  there are two main techniques for making thickened sauces. The first is by using a roux and the second uses egg yolks to create an emulsion and from these two methods, grandes or  mother sauces are made which can then further enhanced and made into a very wide range of sweet and savoury sauces.


Two other classic sauces are custard or Crème Anglaise which uses egg yolks to thicken milk and thin vinegar based sauces such as mint sauce.


Roux Based Sauces


These sauces can be made thin enough to pour or thick enough to bind together ingredients such as in vol au vent fillings and are thickened with ordinary flour which is cooked with butter before the addition of liquid.

Roux is the name given to a cooked butter and flour mixture which is used to thicken liquids. Sauces made using this method are very versatile as they can be made thin enough to pour, slightly thicker to coat or thick enough to bind together ingredients such as in vol au vent fillings and as the base in soufflés.

To make a roux, the butter is melted then an equal amount of plain flour is added and cooked for a short time  before the addition of liquid.  The amount of time the flour and butter are cooked  before  the addition of liquid, plays an important part in the finished appearance of the sauce:-

  • White Roux   - 1-2 minutes when a very white sauce is required

  • Blond Roux   - 2-3 minutes until straw coloured suitable for most white sauces

  • Brown Roux  - 3-5 minutes or until a nut brown colour

About Mother Sauces

Mother sauces are so named because you can make lots of variations from the basic sauce recipe. The mother sauces using the roux method are two white sauces - Béchamel and Velouté and a brown sauce - Espagnole.

The difference between the two white mother sauces is that a Béchamel is made with seasoned flavoured milk, whilst a Velouté  is made with a light coloured stock  such as chicken, fish or veal.


A more simple white sauce, suitable for most uses, can be made with unflavoured milk. This has the added advantage that it can then be made into a sweet or savoury sauce.


In the video on the right, I make a classic Béchamel sauce using the roux method which has mostly been filmed in real time so you can see how quick and easy it is to do.  This sauce forms the basis of many other sauces including mornay (cheese) Soubise (onion), Indienne (curry) and Aurore (tomato).  Click here for the full sized video.


Emulsion Sauces

These are sauces which are primarily thickened with eggs which are whisked with other ingredients, until thick and smooth. There are two mother sauces in this category - Hollandaise and Mayonnaise.


This method can be used to make warm or cold sauces and although these sauces are less versatile than those made using the roux method, they can however be made thin enough to pour such as hollandaise or thick enough to bind together ingredients such as mayonnaise and can have added ingredients to create many different flavoured sauces.


The main components of emulsified sauces are egg yolks and oil or melted butter (depending on the sauce) which are whisked together until thickened. The addition of the oil/melted butter to the egg yolks must be done slowly to prevent the mixture splitting.


Of course, traditionally, this was done using a hand balloon whisk, however many find it easier  to use an electric hand whisk or, in the case of mayonnaise, a food processor which means you only have to concentrate on adding the oil rather than on whisking or steadying the bowl.


Emulsion Mother Sauces

There are two mother sauces in this category - Hollandaise and Mayonnaise.


The difference between the two emulsion mother sauces is that a Mayonnaise is very thick and always served cold, whilst Hollandaise  is generally of pouring consistency and mostly served warm.


Popular sauces derived from these include:-


Béarnaise,  Caper, Maltaise,  Noisette,  Vin Blanc

Aioli, Marie Rose (prawn cocktail),  Tartare as well as a myriad of herb flavoured varieties.

In the above video I make a classic mayonnaise using the emulsifying method.    Click here for the full sized video.



Sauce Recipes including gravies, coulis, butters

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