Espagnole: A Basic Brown Sauce

Reddish brown Espagnole sauce in a bowl

The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Total: 75 mins
Servings: 8
Yield: 2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
74 Calories
4g Fat
8g Carbs
3g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 74
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 2g 11%
Cholesterol 9mg 3%
Sodium 187mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 4mg 21%
Calcium 39mg 3%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 277mg 6%
*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.)

Espagnole (pronounced like the word for Spanish: español) is a basic brown sauce that is one of the five mother sauces of classical cuisine. It's also the starting point for a rich and deeply flavorful sauce called demi-glace, which is traditionally served with red meats.

Making espagnole sauce is not too different from making velouté—they're both essentially stock-based sauces thickened with roux. Where they differ is that espagnole​ is made with brown stock (i.e. beef stock), and it includes additional ingredients such as tomato purée (which adds color and acidity) and mirepoix, which is a fancy name for chopped up carrots, celery, and onions. These add a tremendous amount of flavor and aroma to the sauce.

You'll also see that the recipe calls for a sachet, which is simply a few herbs and spices bundled up in cheesecloth and tied with a long piece of cooking twine to make it easy to fish it out after cooking.

“Having a basic brown sauce in the refrigerator or freezer is the gateway to many miraculous dishes and sauces. This recipe yields a small amount, perfect for my husband and I, but can be easily doubled. The end result is a rich, flavorful base.” —Mary Jo Romano

Espagnole: A Basic Brown Sauce / Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme

  • 3 to 4 fresh parsley stems

  • 7 to 8 whole black peppercorns

  • 1 ounce clarified butter

  • 1/2 cup diced onion

  • 1/4 cup diced carrot

  • 1/4 cup diced celery

  • 1 ounce all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups brown stock (i.e. beef stock)

  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients for Espagnole brown sauce recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  2. Fold the bay leaf, thyme, parsley stems, and peppercorns in a square of cheesecloth and tie the corners with a piece of kitchen twine. Leave one string long enough so that you can tie it to the handle of your pot to make it easier to retrieve.

    Cheesecloth filled with spices and tied shut with string

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  3. In a heavy-duty medium saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat until it becomes frothy.

    Melted butter and garlic in a saucepan

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  4. Add the mirepoix—onions, carrots, and celery—and sauté until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Don't let it burn.

    Finely diced celery, carrots, and onions added to butter in the saucepan

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  5. With a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the mirepoix a little bit at a time until it is fully incorporated and forms a thick paste (this is your roux).

    Flour being stirred into vegetables and butter with a wooden spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  6. Lower the heat to low and cook the roux until it just starts to take on a very light brown color, 4 to 5 minutes. Again, don't let it burn.

    Lightly browned vegetables in roux

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  7. Using a wire whisk, slowly add the stock and tomato purée, whisking vigorously to make sure it's free of lumps.

    Stock and tomato puree being whisked into mixture in saucepan

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  8. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to low, and add the sachet. Simmer until the total volume has reduced by 1/3 (you'll have about 2 cups), stirring frequently to make sure the sauce doesn't scorch at the bottom of the pan, 35 to 45 minutes.

    Spice bag placed in the sauce

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  9. Use a ladle to skim off any impurities that rise to the surface.

    Impurities being skimmed off the top of simmering sauce with a wooden spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  10. Remove the sauce from the heat, retrieve and discard the sachet.

    Sauce in the saucepan with the spice bag removed onto a plate

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  11. For an extra smooth consistency, carefully pour the sauce through a wire mesh strainer lined with a piece of cheesecloth.

    Sauce being strained through a mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

  12. Keep the sauce covered and warm until you're ready to use it. If you won't be using it right away, cool it completely and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

    Smooth strained Espagnole brown sauce in a glass storage container

    The Spruce Eats / Bahareh Niati

How to Use

  • Esagnole (brown sauce) is rarely used on its own, but can be used to give flavor and body to soups, stews, sauces, risottos, and more.
  • It's commonly used as a starting point for a number of sauces, most famously demi-glace. To make demi-glace, you'd combine equal parts espagnole and brown stock along with additional mirepoix (and probably another sachet) and reduce it by half (hence demi).

What Are the 5 Mother Sauces?

There are five mother sauces of French cuisine: bechamel, hollandaise, velouté, espagnole, and tomato. These sauces are sometimes used as-is, but are often used in dishes or as a base for other, more complex sauces.

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