6 Basic mother sauces and their derivatives

The mother sauce is basically referred to as any of the basic six sauces, which are the starting points of making many secondary sauces. There is plenty of variety of French small sauces and most of them are derived from one of the six mother sauces.

The mother sauce was invented by chef  Auguste Escoffier in the 1800s. Nowadays French cuisine often uses this mother sauce. Any cook who wants to enhance his cooking skill should master these six mother sauces.

mother sauce

Before jumping into the six mother sauces let us look into the basic overview of sauce.

What is sauce?

The sauce is a liquid or semi-liquid mixture, it provides moisture, color, and shine to a food. A perfect sauce has a colorful appearance, smoothness, and texture, and also provides taste, richness.

Importance of a sauce in food preparation

  • Sauces enhance the flavor of food
  • Some sauces help in digestion, like mint sauce, apple sauce.
  • It gives moisture to the food.
  • It adds color to the food.
  • Some sauces are served as an accompaniment. 
  • Sometimes sauce gives the name to the dish. (when Madeira wine is added to the brown sauce it is called sauce Madeira)
  • Sauce enhances the nutritious value of the dish.

1. Béchamel Sauce

Béchamel Sauce

Béchamel Sauce is a creamy white sauce, it is the simplest of mother sauces because it doesn’t require any stock. Béchamel Sauce is based on milk thickened with a white roux. it is flavored with onion, cloves, and nutmeg.
Roux: It is typically made from equal parts of flour and butter by weight.
Béchamel Sauce can be used as an ingredient in used in the filling of a chicken pot pie, baked pasta like lasagna, and smeared onto sandwich bread for a Croque monsieur. It could be used as a base for many other sauces

Derivatives of Béchamel sauce

A) Morney sauce: Béchamel sauce with parmesan cheese, cream, and egg yolks.

Use: Fish, eggs, vegetables

B) Cream sauce: Béchamel sauce with cream and butter.
Use: Poached fish, Boiled vegetables

C) Onion sauce: Béchamel sauce with chopped onion, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Use: Roasted mutton and eggs.
D) Mustard sauce: Béchamel sauce with cream, butter, and mustard powder.
Use: Grilled herring.
E) Soubise sauce: Béchamel sauce with puréed onions, pepper, and nutmeg.
Use: Egg and boiled fish.
F) Parsley sauce: Béchamel sauce with cream, butter, and chopped parsley.
Use: Vegetables and boiled egg.
G) Scotch egg sauce: Béchamel sauce, mixed with hard-boiled yolk, served with strips of egg white.
Use: Poached fish, Boiled fish, and egg.
H) Cardinal sauce: Béchamel sauce with fish stock, truffle reduction, butter, and cayenne pepper.
Use: For fish and seafood.

2. Espagnole sauce

Espagnole sauce

Espagnole is a brown sauce and it is a slightly more complex mother sauce, based on a brown stock reduction, and thickened with brown roux, ingredient includes roasted bones, bacon, tomato purée, and mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onions).

For making Espagnole sauce, a very dark brown roux is prepared then the brown stock is added which is prepared from simmering roasted bones, meats, and aromatics. Pieces of beef, roasted bone, vegetables, brown sugar, and various seasonings are added along with the stock. This blend is allowed to slowly reduce liquid while being frequently skimmed. Tomato paste or puree is added toward the end of the process.
Espagnole has a very strong taste and flavor with dark brown color, and it is rarely used directly on food but it serves as the starting point for many derivatives,

Derivatives of Espagnole sauce

A) Africaine sauce:  Espagnole sauce with tomatoes, onion bell pepper, basilthyme, and wine.

Use: Chicken or beef steak, lamb chops, and chicken.
B) Bigarade sauce:  Espagnole sauce with liqueur Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Curacao

C) Bourguignonne sauce: Espagnole sauce with red wine, onions, shallots.
Use: sautéed meat or poultry
D) Aux champignons: Espagnole sauce with mushroom,, nutmeg

3. Velouté Sauce

Velouté Sauce
Velouté is a simple white sauce thickened with white roux like Béchamel, but here we use white stock instead of milk, made from chicken, fish, or veal. The term velouté is the French word for velvety.
For preparing Velouté Sauce, a light stock which is made from chicken, fish, or veal, is thickened with a blond roux. The sauce produced is basically named after the type of stock used (e.g. chicken velouté made with chicken stock, fish velouté made with fish stock, seafood velouté made with seafood stock).

Derivatives of fish Velouté Sauce

A) Shrimp: Fish velouté Sauce with fish fillet, cream, shell shrimp tail, and butter.
Use: fish and shrimp
B) Normande: Fish velouté Sauce with mushroom, oyster, liqueur, fish fillet, egg yolk, and cream.
Use: Fish and shellfish
C) Vin blanc: Thin fish velouté Sauce with egg yolks, and butter.
Use: Fish
D) Diplomat: Normonde sauce with cold lobster, butter.
Use: Shellfish and fish
E) Nantua: Fish velouté Sauce with cray fish.
Use: Fish and shellfish.

Derivatives of chicken Velouté Sauce

A) Allemande: Chicken velouté Sauce with egg yolks, mushroom, and lemon juice.
Use: Poached chicken.

B) Suprême: Chicken velouté Sauce with white wine, parsley, shallot, mushroom, egg yolks, lemon juice.

Use: Fish and chicken.
C) Hongroise: Chicken Velouté Sauce with paprika powder, white wine.
Use: Poached chicken, escalopes of veal.
D) Ivory: Supreme sauce with meat glaze
Use: Poached chicken, boiled chicken.

Derivatives of meat Velouté Sauce

A) Caper sauce: Mutton Velouté Sauce
Use: Boiled leg of mutton
B) Ravigote: Veal Velouté Sauce with white wine, shallot,
Use:  Boiled meat, Fish, and shellfish.

4. Tomato sauce

Tomato sauce
French classic tomato sauce is made from tomatoes and thickened with roux, seasoned with pork, herbs, and aromatic vegetables.
As the tomatoes themselves are enough to thicken the sauce, we can skip the roux. Tomatoes have a rich flavor, high water content, soft flesh which breaks down easily, and the right composition to thicken into a sauce when they are cooked. All of these qualities make them ideal for simple and appealing sauces.

Derivatives of tomato Sauce

A) Bretonne: Tomato sauce with chopped onion, white wine, butter, and chopped parsley.
B) Tomato chaud froid: Tomato sauce with aspic jelly.
Use: Cold chicken and egg.
C) Provencale: Thin tomato sauce with mushroom, chopped parsley.
Use: Egg, fish, and shellfish.

D) Portuguese: Tomato sauce with white wine, tomato cancasse and garlic.

Use: Egg, fish, and shellfish.
E) Barbecue: Tomato sauce with tomato ketchup, vinegar, honey.
Use: Grilled meat and poultry.
F) Italienne: Tomato sauce with demiglaze, chopped shallot, mushroom, ham, herbs.
Use: Entree, lamb, liver.

5. Hollandaise sauce

Hollandaise sauce
Hollandaise is a tangy and creamy sauce, made from egg yolk, melted butter, and lemon juice, seasoned with salt and either white pepper or cayenne pepper.

For making hollandaise sauce, beaten egg yolks are combined with butter, lemon juice, salt, and water, and heated gently while being mixed, melted butter is added to warmed yolks, starting with a reduction. The reduction consists of vinegar, water, and cracked peppercorns. Here the liquid is the clarified butter and the thickening agent is the egg yolks.

Hollandaise sauce can be used on its own, and it’s best on seafood, vegetables, and eggs. But there are also a number of derivatives sauces that can be made from Hollandaise

Derivatives of hollandaise Sauce

A) Mousseline: Hollandaise with stiffly whipped cream
Use: Fish, egg, vegetables, and meat.
B) Maltaise: Hollandaise sauce with orange juice
Use: Hot vegetables
C) Noisette: Hollandaise sauce with nut-brown cooked butter.
Use: Poached salmon, fruits.
D) Bearnaise: Hollandaise sauce with chopped tarragon, fresh chervil
Use: Grilled fish, meat, steaks.

E) Choron: Bearnaise with tomato puree.
Use: Grill or saute meat.
F) Mustard sauce: Hollandaise sauce with mustard
Use: Meat and steaks

6. Mayonnaise sauce

Mayonnaise sauce
It is a thick cold sauce made from olive oil, egg yolk, lemon juice, or vinegar,  commonly used in sandwiches, hamburgers, composed salads.

For making mayonnaise sauce to take a raw egg yolk in a small terrine, with a little salt and lemon juice: take a wooden spoon, turn it while letting a trickle of oil fall, and stirring constantly, as your sauce thickens, add a little vinegar; put in too a pound of good oil. This sauce is used for cold fish entrees or salad of vegetables cooked in salt water.

Derivatives of mayonnaise Sauce

A) Tartar Sauce: Mayonnaise sauce with hard egg yolk, chopped gherkins, and chives.

Use: Fried fish and shellfish.
B) Cocktail sauce: Mayonnaise sauce with tomato ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco, lemon juice.

C) Thousand Island Dressing: Mayonnaise sauce with boiled egg, tomato ketchup, chopped gherkins, onion, paprika powder, olives.

Use: Cold meat preparation.

D) Andalouse sauce: Mayonnaise sauce with tomato puree, green bell pepper, lemon juice.

Use: Served with cold meat.

E) Cream sauce: Mayonnaise sauce with chives, tarragon, herbs.
Use: Salman and shellfish.
F) Chantilly sauce: Mayonnaise sauce with lemon juice, whipped cream.
Use: Cold vegetables
G) Gloucester sauce: Mayonnaise sauce with sour cream, lemon juice, fennel powder.
Use: Cold meat.

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