Classic Bearnaise Sauce

bearnaise sauce in bowl
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  • Total: 20 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings (1 1/2 cups)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
366 Calories
35g Fat
6g Carbs
6g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6 servings (1 1/2 cups)
Amount per serving
Calories 366
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 35g 45%
Saturated Fat 20g 102%
Cholesterol 232mg 77%
Sodium 65mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Protein 6g
Calcium 67mg 5%
*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," Bernaise 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. 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.


  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter
  • 4 shallots (finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
  • 4 white peppercorns (crushed)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of cayenne

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat just to melt.

  3. In another medium-sized saucepan, that is nonreactive, boil the shallots, tarragon, and peppercorns over medium heat until reduced to about 1/4 cup.

  4. Strain into the top portion of a double boiler.

  5. Whisk in the egg yolks.

  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.

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

  8. Turn off the heat and add 4 ice cubes to the bottom of the double boiler to cool the hot water a little.

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

  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.

  11. With constant whisking, whisk in the salt and cayenne.

  12. When all the butter is incorporated, taste and add more salt or cayenne as needed.

  13. Use as a sauce for meats, fish, vegetables, or roasted pork tenderloin.