Master These Five Mother Sauces Now

What the mother is a mother sauce? 

Knowing what the five mother sauces are and how to make them is going to elevate your cooking abilities in many ways.  

The following five sauces are the base of most sauces you will make for any dish. Once you have a better understanding of each of these sauces you will be able to master one of the most important skills a good cook needs and that is making a complimentary sauce for a dish.  

I am going to break down the basic recipe for each mother sauce and list a few derivative sauces for each to highlight how versatile each sauce really is.  

Espagnole Sauce

Espagnole is a basic brown sauce that is often served with beef, veal, pork, or sometimes fish.  

Basic Recipe 

1 tbsp vegetable oil 

3 cup standard mirepoix

2 tbsp tomato paste 

5 qt brown veal stock 

2 cup brown roux

1 bouquet garni

Salt to taste 

Pepper to taste 


  1. Heat the oil and sauté the onions until translucent then add the rest of the mirepoix. Cook the mirepoix until browned, about 10 minutes. 
  1. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes while stirring. 
  1. Add the stock and bring it to a boil and then add the bouquet garni.  
  1. Once the stock is boiling whisk in the brown roux and simmer for 1 hour. 
  1. Skim off the fat and strain the sauce then season with salt and pepper and serve. 


  • Matelote – add red wine, mushrooms, fish trim, parsley, and cayenne 
  • Financiere – add Maderia wine and truffles 
  • Mushroom – add mushrooms and butter 

Bechamel Sauce

Think mac and cheese when you think of bechamel sauce, because the creamy and cheesy deliciousness of mac cheese starts with a base of bechamel.  

Basic Recipe  

2 tbsp clarified butter 

3 tbsp small diced onions  

1 cup white roux  

5 qt milk 

Salt to taste 

White pepper to taste  

Nutmeg freshly grated to taste 


  1. Heat the butter over medium heat and add the onions. Cook the onions for 6 minutes until translucent.  
  1. Add the roux to the onions and cook for 2 minutes while stirring. 
  1. Add the warm milk to the roux while continuously whisking and bring the liquid to a boil for it to thicken. Simmer the sauce for 30 minutes. 
  1. Season with salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg. The sauce is ready to serve. 


  • Cardinal – add truffles and lobster 
  • Scotch Egg – serve sauce with eggs 
  • Mornay – add Gruyere, parmesan, and butter 


The sauce Velouté is going to be the sauce you want to serve with fish, chicken, or vegetables. It can be made to be light in taste but depending what derivative you go for it can pack a strong and fully developed flavored.  

Basic Recipe 

1 tbsp clarified butter 

3 cups white mirepoix 

5 qt stock (chicken or vegetable) 

2 cups white roux 

1 bouquet garni 

Salt to taste 


  1. Heat the butter and sweat the white mirepoix without adding any color.  
  1. Add the white roux and cook for 2 minutes. 
  1. Add the stock while whisking and bring it to a boil. 
  1. Simmer the sauce for 30 minutes with the bouquet garni and skim the top. 
  1. Add the salt to taste and serve. 


  • Fish Velouté – use fish stock  
  • Supreme Sauce – add heavy cream and mushrooms 
  • Aurore – add tomato puree 

Tomato Sauce

This is the Italians only mother sauce and because I falsely claim to be part Italian my favorite sauce. A good tomato sauce is versatile. Sometimes it is coarse and other times it will be pureed depending on its use. Use fresh plum or roma tomatoes in peak season and use canned tomatoes during the off season as this will create the freshest tasting sauce.  

Basic Recipe 

2 tbsp olive oil 

2 cups minced onion 

2 tbsp minced garlic 

5 qt tomatoes 

Salt to taste 

Pepper to taste 


  1. Heat the oil and sweat the onions for 3 minutes then add the garlic and sweat for another minute. 
  1. Add the tomatoes and simmer for an hour stirring occasionally. 
  1. Season with salt and pepper and then serve. 


  • Tomato Coulis – add red wine, vegetable stock, and tomato puree serve chilled 
  • Bolognese Sauce – add diced pancetta, ground beef, tomato paste, and heavy cream  


Hollandaise is the thick and delicious eggy goodness that is served on eggs benedict. I know say no more let’s get right into making this one. The technique of this sauce can be more challenging to master. Watch this video for a more visual walk through of making Hollandaise.

Basic Recipe 

2 tbsp minced shallot 

1 tsp black peppercorns 

2 tbsp white wine vinegar 

2 tbsp water 

6 egg yolks 

2 cups clarified butter

1 tbsp lemon juice 

Salt to taste 

White pepper to tase 

Cayenne to taste 


  1. Combine the shallot, peppercorns, and white wine vinegar and reduce the liquid until it is almost dry.  
  1. Add the water to the reduction and strain into a stainless-steel bowl. 
  1. Whisk the egg yolks into the water and place the bowl over a simmering pot of water. Continue to whisk the egg yolks over the heat until they are pale and fluffy. 
  1. Gradually add the butter while continuously whisking.  
  1. Add the lemon juice, salt, white pepper, and cayenne pepper. Serve immediately or hold in a slightly warm spot. 


  • Bearnaise – use tarragon vinegar and add chopped tarragon and chervil 
  • Mousseline – fold in whipped heavy cream at the end 
  • Maltaise – add blood orange juice to the reduction and add grate blood orange zest and blood orange juice at the end 

Knowing and mastering these five mother sauces is the key to becoming a well-versed professional cook or expert home cook. If you want to be a good cook, make these sauces, and get creative with them. Your dishes are going to be next level after you add one of these mothers.

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