Classic Bearnaise Sauce

Classic Bearnaise sauce

The Spruce / Ali Redmond

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
275 Calories
26g Fat
5g Carbs
4g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 275
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 26g 33%
Saturated Fat 15g 77%
Cholesterol 177mg 59%
Sodium 110mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 3mg 16%
Calcium 38mg 3%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 143mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This classic French sauce is made from a reduction of vinegar and wine mixed with shallots and tarragon and thickened with egg yolks and butter. The light yellow, smooth, and creamy sauce is served with meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables, and is especially delicious with whole roasted tenderloin.

Considered a "child" of Hollandaise sauce, one of the five French "mother sauces," bearnaise has been around for quite some time. It is believed that it was invented by the chef Collinet in 1836 at the opening of his restaurant, Le Pavillion Henri IV, near Paris, France. The name is derived from Bearn, France, where Henry IV of France was born.

The method here is the traditional way to make bearnaise, by using a double boiler to reduce the liquid and whisk the egg yolks. You may come across recipes calling for a blender, which also works well. Once you feel comfortable making a bearnaise, you will be able to try your hand at many other French sauces, as the techniques are very similar.

"Classic for a reason, this sauce is perfect for dressing up any dinner protein. Very savory and round in flavor. The tarragon adds a nice hint of herbaceousness. It’s even delicious enough to be used as a dipping sauce for garlicky bread or veggies." —Renae E. Wilson

Classic Bearnaise Sauce Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar

  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

  • 4 shallots, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves

  • 4 white peppercorns, crushed

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • 4 ice cubes

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • Pinch cayenne

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for classic bearnaise sauce

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

  2. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it is just melted.

    Melted butter in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

  3. In another medium-sized non-reactive saucepan, boil the vinegar, wine, shallots, tarragon, and peppercorns over medium heat until reduced to about 1/4 cup.

    Vinegar, wine, shallots, tarragon, and peppercorns in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

  4.  Strain into a measuring cup. Discard the solids.

    Strain into a double boiler

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

  5. Whisk the egg yolks in the top portion of a double boiler. Slowly pour the warm vinegar mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly to avoid scrambling them.  

    Whisk egg yolks into a double boiler

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

  6. Place the top portion of the double boiler over the bottom of the double boiler containing simmering water. Make sure that the simmering water is not touching the bottom of the pan with the egg mixture. Whisk constantly.

    Cook egg mixture over the double boiler

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

  7. The second that the yolk mixture begins to thicken slightly, about 3 minutes, remove the pan from above the hot water and continue whisking.

    Whisk the sauce

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

  8. Turn off the heat and add the ice cubes to the bottom of the double boiler to cool the hot water a little.

    Ice cubes in a small saucepan

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

  9. Put the pan of yolks back above the hot water. Whisk in the melted butter, drizzling it in very slowly as you whisk.

    melted butter poured into the egg sauce mixture

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

  10. If at any time the sauce looks as if it is about to break, remove the pan and continue whisking to cool it down or whisk in 1 teaspoon cold water.

    whisk the sauce with a little cold water

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

  11. Whisk in the salt and cayenne.

    salt and cayenne added to the sauce

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

  12. When all the butter is incorporated, taste and add more salt or cayenne as needed. Use the sauce immediately on your favorite dishes.

    Classic Bearnaise Sauce, served with a steak and potatoes

    The Spruce / Ali Redmond

Raw Egg Warning

Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.

How to Use Bearnaise Sauce

Here are some recipes that bearnaise sauce goes well with:

Grilled Fillet Mignon

Grilled Salmon Cakes


Sauteed Broccoli

How to Store Bearnaise Sauce

Bearnaise sauce is best consumed the day it's made, as soon as it's ready. You can, if needed, store it in a covered container in the fridge for up a couple of days. At that point, you can spread it on toast because it will not be sauce-like anymore, or take it out and gently reheat it over a double boiler. Bear in mind, however, that it may not taste as good as it did when it was fresh, because bearnaise is really a sauce that's best made right before serving.

What is the Difference Between Hollandaise and Bearnaise?

These two sauces are very similar. Hollandaise is a more basic sauce using a reduction of lemon juice and white wine. Bearnaise, like this one here, typically uses shallot, peppercorns, and tarragon (or sometimes chervil) in a reduction of vinegar and wine.