Classic Bearnaise Sauce



Hollandaise sauce is the basis for several classic French sauces. By adding vinegar, tarragon and chevil you have the Bearnaise sauce, add tomato puree and you've created a velvety Charon sauce, or, add the juice of a blood orange and the tart sauce is a Maltaise. Bernaise sauce is traditionally served with grilled poultry or meats but it equally at home served over fresh fish or beautifully steamed vegetables.

History Of Bearnaise Sauce

According to Larousse Gastronomique the sauce was first made in the 1830's by Collinet in restaurant named Pavillon Henri IV,  located in Saint-Germaine-en-Laye.  Given Henri IV was born in province of Béarnie, it is presumed that is how the sauce got its name.

The sauce continues to be served in restaurants to this day. Most steak houses in the U.S. will offer a Bearnaise as an accompaniment to a prime cut of meat.

The Importance Of Eggs

Egg yolks have the ability to be combined with various liquids to form an emulsion. When egg yolks are beaten with oil, stock or butter, the liquid become suspended in the yolk and become bound together.

The tricky business with this type of sauce is the careful control of temperature of all the ingredients.  Make sure everything is at room temperature before you start. Use a gentle heat when cooking the sauce, enough to thicken the ingredients but not so hot the sauce will break (separate).

Classic Bearnaise Sauce Recipe

Makes: 4 servings 


  • 1/3 cup white tarragon vinegar (plus 2 more tablespoons if you are using fresh tarragon) 
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine 
  • 4 crushed peppercorns 
  • 1 heaping tablespoon very finely chopped shallots 
  • 2 heaping tablespoons finely chopped leaves of chervil or parsley 
  • 6 sprigs fresh or 4 sprigs bottled tarragon (with 2 tablespoons liquid from bottle) 
  • Ingredients for 1 recipe Hollandaise Sauce


Combine in a small heavy saucepan vinegar, wine, peppercorns, shallots, chevril or parsley, and tarragon with liquid or the extra tarragon vinegar. (Reserve the leaves from half of the stalks and put aside.) Cook over high heat until liquid evaporates. Make Hollandaise and gradually add in the herbs.. Very finely chop and add remaining chevril or parsley and remaining tarragon.

Hollandaise Sauce

Makes 2 cups (4-6 servings)


  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 1 cup (1/2 pound) melted butter, cooled to room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of cayenne pepper 


Use a small, thick ceramic bowl set in a heavy-bottomed pan, or a heavyweight double boiler. Off the heat, put the egg yolks and cream in the bowl or upper section of the double boiler and stir with a wire whisk until well-blended — the mixture should never be beaten but stirred, evenly, vigorously and continually. Place the container over hot water (if you are setting the bowl in water, there should be about 1 1/2 inches of water in the pan; in a double boiler, the water should not touch the top section). Stirring eggs continuously, bring the water slowly to a simmer. Do not let it boil.

Stir, incorporating the entire mixture so there is no film at the bottom. When the eggs have thickened to consistancy of very heavy cream, begin to add the cooled melted butter with one hand, stirring vigorously with the other. Pour extremely slowly so that each addition is blended into the egg mixture before more is added. When all the butter has been added, add the lemon juice or vinegar a drop at a time and immediately remove from heat. Add salt and a mere dash of cayenne.

If you proceed with care your Hollandaise should not curdle. If it does, however, don't despair. Finish adding the butter as best you can. Remove sauce to a small bowl, clean the pot and put a fresh egg yolk in it. Start over again, using the curdled sauce as if it were the butter. 

Instant Hollandaise and Bernaise?

If you are a regular reader of our articles here at GourmetSleuth you know that we promote do-it-yourself home cooking.  Sometimes we find a product that is so good we feel you need to know about it.

premade hollandaise sauce

Thanks to Tetra-Pak packaging technology fresh, preservative free products become shelf-stable ready to use gourmet sauces and foods.  There is no sacrifice of flavor or texture. 

This hollandaise sauce can be served at room temperature or heated on the stove or in your microwave.  Unopened it can be stored for a year on your pantry shelf or once opened it will remain fresh for 20 days refrigerated.

This ready made hollandaise was developed for restaurant use but we make it available to home chefs.  If you'd like to give it a try (and we suggest you keep on hand in your pantry) it is available at

Use over vegetables, fresh salmon or your favorite eggs benedict.  Use as a base for making bernaise sauce.

Save A Curdled Bearnaise Sauce

If your sauce has curdled don't throw it out!  If the sauce is warm, gradually beat in a tablespoon of cold water, or, if the sauce is cold, use hot water.

Bearnaise Butter

A delicious compound butter that can be used over steamed vegetables, grilled steaks or fish with the same flavor profile as Bearnaise Sauce.

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon 5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
  • Boil wine, shallot and dried tarragon in small saucepan until liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Cool completely. 

Mix butter and fresh tarragon into shallot mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Form butter mixture into log; wrap in plastic and chill until firm. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.) Cut butter into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Bring to room temperature before using.

Place slices atop freshly grilled steaks.(Serves 2)

Sources And Credits

  1. The Good Cook - Sauces, Time Life.
  2. Larousse Gastronomique - Potter

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.