What Are French Mother Sauces?


As a culinary student you will observe that your dominating focus to teach things in college is on French cuisine. And as you quickly understand this, the better. That French cuisine is all about sauce.

What Is a Mother Sauce?
French chef Marie Antoine-Carême was the first to classify all the French sauces into four primary sauces. Later, French chef Auguste Escoffier added one more sauce and affirmed in recipe form in Le Guide Culinaire in 1903.

Few years later, the word mayonnaise began to emerge in British cookbooks dedicated to French cuisine. It quickly made its way to the US, often with migrating French chefs, such that by 1838 the eatery Delmonico’s in Manhattan were serving mayonnaise of lobster and chicken in their menus. undoubtedly, the French popularized the sauce and it became the sixth mother sauce.

These Six French mother sauces are mandatory to learn to excel as chef. 


The Six Basic French Mother Sauces can be classified into

4 Hot Sauces and
2 Emulsified Sauces
One cold sauce (Mayonnaise) and another warm sauce (Hollandaise sauce)

The Six basic French Mother Sauces

  • Bechamel
  • Veloute
  • Espagnole
  • Hollandaise
  • Tomato and
  • Mayonnaise

They’re called mother sauces because each sauce is like the head of its own exclusive group of sauces. A basic sauce is originally a flavored liquid with some thickening agent. Each of the six mother sauces is prepared with a different liquid, and a different condense agent. First three of the mother sauces are thickened with roux, in each case the roux is cooked for a different degree and amount of time to get a lighter or darker roux.

Below we will classify and discuss the six mother sauces individually and show examples of some of the derivative sauces that can be made from each mother sauce.

Béchamel Sauce
Béchamel is the easiest of mother sauces to make because it doesn’t need any stock. The base liquid is milk that is mixed with white roux.

Béchamel sauce is prepared by thickening hot milk with white roux. The sauce is then flavored with onion studded with clove, nutmeg, simmered until it is thick, creamy and velvety smooth, and finished with a blob of butter.

Béchamel sauce is used extensively as one of the ingredient while baking pasta dishes such as lasagna and in a variety of casseroles. Since bechamel is quite bland, it is cooked with other ingredients and not used as a finishing sauce, most of the time.

It is basis for many derivative cream and cheese based sauces. Here is the list of some of the derivatives of béchamel:

  • Crème Sauce
  • Mornay Sauce
  • Soubise Sauce
  • Nantua Sauce
  • Cheddar Cheese Sauce
  • Mustard Sauce

Learn How To Cook Bechamel?

Veloute Sauce:
Velouté  is made by thickening white stock with bland roux and simmered until it is thick, shiny and velvety smooth.

Once this base sauce is made, the type of ingredient used with the sauce will determine its dish name. For ex: chicken velouté, made with chicken stock, veal velouté made with veal stock and fish velouté made with fish stock.

Each of the veloutés acts as the basis of its own respective secondary mother sauce.

For ex: chicken velouté enhanced with cream becomes the Suprême Sauce.
Veal velouté thickened with a liaison of egg yolks and cream becomes the Allemande Sauce.
And the fish velouté fortified with white wine and heavy cream becomes the White Wine Sauce.

Derivative sauces from velouté can be made directly from velouté, or from secondary sauces Supreme, Allemande or white wine sauce:

Here are some of the derivatives of Veloute Sauce

  • Normandy Sauce
  • Bercy Sauce
  • Hungarian Sauce
  • Mushroom Sauce
  • Aurora Sauce
  • Poulette Sauce
  • Shrimp Sauce
  • Herb Seafood Sauce

Espagnole Sauce
Behind in kitchen chefs will call it Brown Sauce, as a culinary student you need to learn this sauce by heart. It is a little complex mother sauce. Espagnole sauce is made by thickening brown stock with brown roux. Brown stock is made from roasted bones adding brown color and flavor to the stock.

Chargrilled or browned mirepoix and tomato puree is added to get deeper brown color and flavor.

Espagnole is further fortified by refining, to yield a rich, intensely flavored sauce called a demi-glace. Demi-glace is then becomes the base sauce for variety of derivative sauces. A demi-glace sauce is a combination of 50 per cent of Espagnole sauce, and 50 per cent of brown stock, which is simmered and reduced to 50 per cent.

Equal quantity of ei., Half Espagnole sauce + half brown stock = cooked and reduced to half

  • Marchand de Vin Sauce (Red Wine Reduction)
  • Robert Sauce
  • Charcutière Sauce
  • Lyonnaise Sauce
  • Chasseur Sauce
  • Bercy Sauce
  • Mushroom Sauce
  • Madeira Sauce
  • Port Wine Sauce

Hollandaise Sauce
Hollandaise is a piquant emulsified, buttery sauce made by slowly whipping clarified butter into warm egg yolks. Here, warm egg yolks acts as a thickening agent and clarified butter as liquid for the sauce. Commonly normal butter contains water and milk solids which can break the emulsion of the sauce. That is why clarified butter which is just pure butterfat is used to help the emulsion remain stable.

Hollandaise itself goes extremely well with seafood and vegetables. But, here are some of the derivatives of Hollandaise for you to know

  • Béarnaise Sauce
  • Dijon Sauce
  • Foyot Sauce
  • Choron Sauce
  • Maltaise Sauce
  • Mousseline Sauce

Sauce Tomat or Classic Tomate Sauce

Tomato sauce is used extensively with traditional pasta and pizza dishes. The name may indicate a simple homemade tomato sauce, but the industrial type made in the kitchen has much more flavor than its thought.

Traditionally in French cuisine, chefs render salt pork and then sauté fragrant vegetables. Then add tomatoes, rich vegetable stock, and a ham bone, and simmered for hours or overnight.

I have seen few chefs thickening the tomato sauce with white roux and few letting the tomatoes to cook till it thickens by themselves.

Here are some of the derivatives of Tomato Sauce

  • Spanish Sauce
  • Creole Sauce
  • Portuguese Sauce
  • Provençale Sauce

Mayonnaise Sauce:
Similar to Hollandaise, mayonnaise too is an emulsified buttery sauce made with slowly whipping olive or vegetable oil into egg yolks. Here, egg yolks acts as a thickening agent and Olive or vegetable oil as liquid for the sauce. And then lemon juice or vinegar is added and adjusted with seasonings. If you skip egg yolks, this would become a basic dressing for salads.

Here are some of the derivatives of Mayonnaise sauce:

  • Tartar sauce
  • Tyrolian sauce
    English sauce
  • Remouland sauce
  • Cocktail sauce
  • Chantily sauce