Traditional English Parsley Sauce

English parsley sauce spooned over fish fillet on a bed of greens

​The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
103 Calories
7g Fat
7g Carbs
3g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 103
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 9%
Saturated Fat 4g 22%
Cholesterol 20mg 7%
Sodium 223mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 7g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 7mg 34%
Calcium 87mg 7%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 133mg 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.)

English parsley sauce sometimes gets a bad reputation, thanks to memories of thick, gloopy sauce served lukewarm. It's an old-fashioned sauce that's fallen out of favor with some, but it doesn't deserve to be relegated to the history books. Parsley sauce is a quick and simple sauce that can be extremely delicious.

This parsley sauce recipe is made of fresh parsley, butter, English mustard, milk, and flour. It's a great way to give a basic white sauce a gentle flavor and use an abundance of parsley. The creamy parsley sauce is ready in about 20 minutes and pairs perfectly with baked or pan-fried fish or baked ham. Additional embellishments can be included, such as other fresh herbs, lemon juice, or Parmesan cheese.

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"The parsley sauce was flavorful and attractive, and it was an easy recipe to follow. It would be an excellent sauce to serve with fish or seafood, and with the mustard it would be great with meat, especially corned beef or ham." —Diana Rattray

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons/25 grams butter

  • 2 tablespoons/20 grams all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons English mustard, optional

  • 1 cup/250 milliliters milk, more as needed

  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

  • Sea salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for traditional English parsley sauce recipe gathered

    ​The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  2. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.

    Butter being melted in a saucepan

    ​The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  3. Stir in the flour and mustard (if using).

    Flour and mustard added to melted butter in saucepan

    ​The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  4. Stir thoroughly to form a thick paste.

    Flour, butter, and mustard being stirred into a thick paste with a wooden spoon

    ​The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  5. Cook gently for 2 to 3 minutes more, watching the heat to ensure the paste does not burn. This will cook off the taste of raw flour in the finished sauce.

    Roux being stirred in a saucepan with a wooden spoon

    ​The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  6. Gradually whisk in the milk.

    Roux with the milk added being whisked smooth with a wire whisk

    ​The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  7. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, frequently whisking to make sure there are no lumps. The sauce should be quite thick but still pouring consistency. If too thick, add a little more milk.

    Thick white sauce being whisked with a wire whisk

    ​The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  8. Add the fresh parsley and stir well. 

    Chopped parsley being stirred into sauce with a wire whisk

    ​The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  9. Season with a good pinch of sea salt and a few black pepper grinds. Taste and add more as needed.

    Salt and pepper being stirred into thick smooth parley sauce with a wire whisk

    ​The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  10. Keep the sauce warm, on low heat, until needed. If keeping sauce warm for more than 15 minutes, laying a piece of buttered parchment paper on the surface will prevent a skin from forming. If a slight skin does form, whisk thoroughly over heat, and it should disappear.

    Circular piece of parchment paper placed on surface of parsley sauce in saucepan

    ​The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

  11. Serve and enjoy.

    Thick parsley sauce in a serving bowl with a spoon

    ​The Spruce Eats / Ali Redmond

Tips

  • If the sauce is too thick, whisk in milk a little at a time until the desired consistency is reached. If the sauce is too thin, whisk a small amount of flour with a little water to create a slurry. Whisk into the parsley sauce over heat and cook until thickened.
  • Dried parsley is not a good substitute for the fresh herb, particularly in this recipe. Like cilantro and some other leafy herbs, parsley loses most of its flavor when dried and will result in a bland sauce.

Recipe Variations

  • Add finely chopped chervil or tarragon and a teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. This variation is great with fish.
  • If serving with boiled or baked ham, reserve some of the cooking liquor and make the sauce with half milk and half stock.
  • Stir in 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese and serve over cooked vegetables au gratin.

Can Parsley Sauce Be Frozen?

Though it's best served when freshly made, parsley sauce will keep covered in the fridge for a day or two and can be reheated. Freezing parsley sauce is not recommended since it will affect the creamy texture. It only takes a few minutes to make, so it's best to whip up a fresh batch.