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How to make a Béarnaise sauce

By BBC Maestro

Last updated: 30 August 2022

Learn how to make this classic French sauce, with a simple recipe from three Michelin star French chef, Pierre Koffmann.

Béarnaise sauce is a staple of the French culinary repertoire, and belongs to a group of sauces known as ‘mother sauces’. This exclusive group includes delicious dressings like mayonnaise, beurre blanc and béchamel. Using these mother sauces as a base, you can create hundreds of variations, with different flavours and textures.


What is Béarnaise sauce?

Creamy, herby and with a kick of acidity from the lemon juice - a good Béarnaise sauce is hard to beat. 
Originating from the French province of Béarn, Béarnaise sauce is similar to a Hollandaise sauce, but with the addition of the tastebud-tantalising herb tarragon. The ‘mother sauce’ is a firm favourite with everyone from professional chefs to home cooks. 
Traditionally, Béarnaise sauce is served with steak and chips, although it also works well with salmon, chicken or eggs. For a vegetarian option, try serving with asparagus spears, Brussels sprouts or green beans.


Béarnaise sauce recipe


350g unsalted butter, roughly cubed 
2 shallots, peeled and finely diced 
8 tbsps white wine vinegar 
200ml white wine 
6 egg yolks 
Salt and white pepper 
Lemon juice 
½ bunch of tarragon leaves, finely chopped 

  1. Clarify the butter. Gently warm the butter in a pan over a low heat until melted and foam begins to form on the surface. Then carefully spoon the foam from the top of the liquid butter and discard. Next, slowly pour the golden liquid into a clean bowl or saucepan, leaving behind the milky white liquid which can also be discarded. “Do not rush the making of clarified butter. Haste makes mistakes in this instance. If you rush the spoon or the pouring you will disturb the solids that have sunk to the bottom and will have to wait for them to settle again. Work calmly and in a controlled manner,” says Pierre Koffmann in his online French cooking course.
  2. Add the shallots, vinegar, white wine and tarragon to a saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil and then reduce until only a small amount of liquid remains. Leave to cool.
  3. Place the egg yolks into a heat-proof bowl, and add half an eggshell of water for each yolk. Whisk together.
  4. Add the cooled shallot and tarragon mixture from step 2 to the whisked egg yolks and stir.
  5. Place the egg yolks over a bowl of boiling water to gently cook, whisking in a figure of eight motion for 5-10 minutes until fluffy. Drag your whisk through the mixture, and when it’s slow to close back together, you’ll know it’s ready for the next step.
  6. Remove the bowl from the heat and slowly whisk the clarified butter into the yolks.
  7. Add seasoning and a squeeze of lemon. Then enjoy! 

Béarnaise sauce is best eaten straight away, however if you aren’t quite ready to sit down to eat you can put it in a bowl inside a pan of warm water to keep it ready to serve. 

Course Notes
Course Notes

Love classic French cooking?

Then you’ll love Pierre Koffmann’s online French cooking course. 

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