Espagnole: A Basic Brown Sauce

Espagnole recipe

The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Total: 75 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
67 Calories
4g Fat
6g Carbs
3g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 67
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 2g 11%
Cholesterol 9mg 3%
Sodium 186mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 4mg 20%
Calcium 20mg 2%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 246mg 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.)

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 dried 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.

Ingredients

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried 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
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  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.

    Spice sachet tied with string
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  3. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat until it becomes frothy.

    Butter melted in a pot
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  4. Add the mirepoix—onions, carrots, and celery—and sauté for a few minutes until lightly browned. Don't let it burn.

    Mirepoix added to pot
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  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).

    Vegetables cooked in a pot with flour
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  6. Lower the heat and cook the roux for another 5 minutes or so, until it just starts to take on a very light brown color. Again, don't let it burn.

    Vegetables and flour cooked until light brown in a pot
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  7. Using a wire whisk, slowly add the stock and tomato purée to the roux, whisking vigorously to make sure it's free of lumps.

    Stock and tomato puree added to the pot
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  8. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and add the sachet. Simmer for about 50 minutes, or until the total volume has reduced by about 1/3, stirring frequently to make sure the sauce doesn't scorch at the bottom of the pan.

    Reduced sauce in a pot
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  9. Use a ladle to skim off any impurities that rise to the surface.

    Skim off impurities
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  10. Remove the sauce from the heat and retrieve the sachet.

    Sachet removed from sauce and placed in a dish
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  11. For an extra smooth consistency, carefully pour the sauce through a wire mesh strainer lined with a piece of cheesecloth.

    Sauce straining through a strainer and cheesecloth
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
  12. If you won't be serving the sauce right away, keep it covered and warm until you're ready to use it. Otherwise, serve hot and enjoy!

    Espagnole Sauce in bowl
    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

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).

Tip

  • You can use store-bought beef stock for making your espagnole, but make sure to use a low-sodium or, if at all possible, unsalted stock. Anytime you're reducing a liquid with salt in it, you'll be concentrating the saltiness, which you might not want to do—especially if you plan to use the resulting sauce to make yet another sauce that you might also reduce. It's better to season at the very end of cooking your sauce.

What Are the 5 Mother Sauces?

There are five mother sauces of French cuisine: bechamel, hollandaise, velouté, espagnole, and tomato sauce. 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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