Mother Sauces: Hollandaise Sauce


Mandatory Credit: Danielle Scott

The next sauce on our quest to look at all of the mother sauces is that of the Hollandaise Sauce. With the Hollandaise sauce, it is similar to the other mother sauces that we have looked at in that it is a liquid that is being thickened by a thickening agent. We will not be using the roux for this sauce as a thickening agent as we have for the previous three.

More from Cooking Techniques

For a Hollandaise sauce the basis is butter being thickened by eggs. So let’s get into it.
The best use for a Hollandaise sauce is that on the classic breakfast of Eggs Benedict. It also works well with vegetables and fish dishes as well.

To make a Hollandaise sauce you will need clarified butter. If you don’t already have clarified butter, which you can buy from the store, you can make your own clarified butter by simply melting down regular butter in a pan and as it melts, skimming off the water and milk solids that bubble up. After all of the bubbles or milk solids and water and removed what you have remaining is clarified butter.

Hollandaise Sauce:

1 cup clarified butter (about 2½ sticks before clarifying)

4 egg yolks

2 Tbsp lemon juice (the juice from 1 small lemon)

1 Tbsp cold water

Kosher salt, to taste

Cayenne pepper (or a dash of Tabasco sauce), to taste


To start make sure that your clarified butter is warm and not hot. You will also need a couple of inches of water in a pot heating to a simmering stage.

You will combine the egg yolks and the tablespoon of water. Whisk until the eggs are foamy and light. You will also add a couple of drops of lemon juice and mix into the egg mixture.

The water heating on the stove should be simmering at this point. Place the egg mixture, still in bowl, on top of the simmering water creating a double boiler. A double boiler is a device or technique that is used to slowly heat a mixture so it does not burn or cook too quickly. It is mainly used with chocolate when melting. Whisk the eggs while over the heat until thickened a bit.

Remove the eggs from the heat and begin to add the warm butter. If the butter is too hot you will begin to make scrambled eggs and we don’t want a chunky sauce. Slowly add the butter a couple of drops at a time. If you dump all the butter into the egg mixture it will not mix properly and it will be separated.

Keep adding the butter, slowly, but once the mixture begins to thicken you can increase the rate that the butter is being added.

When all the butter is added, you can then add the remaining ingredients, lemon juice, salt and pepper, to taste. Your Hollandaise sauce should be a creamy smooth consistency. For safety reasons do not keep Hollandaise sauce for more than two hours and it should be kept warm. It goes without saying that serving a Hollandaise sauce right away is the preferred method.

Other sauces that you can make with the base of a Hollandaise sauce are a Bearnaise sauce and a Dijon Sauce. We will look at both of those at a later time when we begin to add to the mother sauces.