Gods seventh creation - The five mother sauces

Gods seventh creation - The five mother sauces

Now, the bible tells us that on the seventh day, God rested and blessed the day. But the legend say, that was not all he did on this day. Because god became hungry, from all that hard work had done. He then began wondering what to eat, and decided to create something so heavenly delicious, that man forever after will tell tales and share recipes of the five mother sauces.

- I’m not a religious man, but I must believe this to be true.

Very well, but what is a mother sauce?

The French chef Marie Antoine-Carême was the first to organize the four French fundamental sauces. Later though, French chef Auguste Escoffier added one more sauce so we now have the five mother sauces, which he published in Le Guide Culinaire in 1903.
These five sauces are seen as the foundation for many other sauces and for many dishes. The recipes are still taught to culinary students all over the world.
Some of them is used often home cooking, some or mostly used in the high end restaurants, and some of them are unfortunately rarely made anymore.

The roux - The foundation

Before we get into the sauces, we need to know the roux. We need to know what makes a sauce a sauce. basically a sauce is thickened liquid, so that the sauce clings to the food instead of running of it. The thickening can happen cooking down and reducing sauces, like tomato sauce. This will automatically as the liquid evaporates. Other sauces need a little help, and that is where the roux comes in.

Basically roux is made by cooking fat and flour together. Generally the fat used is butter or oil, but others fats like duck can be used too. The flour and fat are briefly cooked together to make a paste. Depending on the sauce, you cook it more or less. When cooked over higher heat it will turn darker and add a nutty and toasty flavor. When the liquid is added and the mixture starts to heat, the flour starts to thicken and then you have a sauce.


The Béchamel is pretty basic. It is made by whisking a light roux with milk or dairy. This sauce is a bit dull by itself, and is hence often used to cook other dishes. Have you tried Macaroni and cheese? The base for that is actually the béchamel sauce. It is rarely used for finishing dishes. See the recipe here.


This is again made with a light roux whisked together with some form of clear stock like chicken or fish, depending on the dish it is to be used for. The takes flavor from the stock and can vary in potensy from a light delicate sauce to a flavor explosion, but most often it comes in the light version. The Véloute is often used for fish or poultry that has been steamed or poached.
The name comes of the French velvet, which describes something smooth and light. See the recipe here.


For this one, we will need a nutty roux, hence the dark one that have been cooked over high heat. The roux is mixed with a brown stock, usually beef or veal, tomato pure and a mirepoix. When heated the roux will thicken to mixture to the sauce. The Espagnole is for example used for cooking boeuf bourguinon. See the recipe here.

Sauce tomat

The Sauce tomat is made by cooking tomatoes down to a thick sauce and and thickening it with a special roux made from pork fat. This one has a strong historically presence in the Italian kitchen and in Mexico as salsa. The sauce comes in many versions, maybe due to the fact that it is very time consuming. We of course like Auguste Escoffier’s original recipe the most. In the classic French kitchen is is typically flavored with pork and vegetables. See the recipe here.


The grand finale, the Hollandaise. This is the only mother sauce in which we don’t use the roux. Instead, it is thickened by the emulsion of egg yolk and melted butter. This is one of the most delicate sauces because the emulsion can easily break. Hollandaise is usually used for dishes like eggs Benedict. See the recipe here.