Traditional English Parsley Sauce

Traditional English parsley recipe

​The Spruce / Ali Redmond

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
115 Calories
7g Fat
9g Carbs
3g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 115
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 9%
Saturated Fat 4g 22%
Cholesterol 20mg 7%
Sodium 226mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 7mg 36%
Calcium 93mg 7%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 150mg 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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Ingredients

  • 1 ounce/25 grams butter

  • 1 ounce/25 grams all-purpose flour (approximately 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons English mustard, optional

  • 1 cup/250 milliliters milk

  • 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
    ​The Spruce / Ali Redmond
  2. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.

    Melt butter in a saucepan
    ​The Spruce / Ali Redmond
  3. Stir in the flour and mustard (if using).

    Stir in flour and mustard
    ​The Spruce / Ali Redmond
  4. Stir thoroughly to form a thick paste.

    Stirring thoroughly to form a thick paste
    ​The Spruce / 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.

    Cook gently
    ​The Spruce / Ali Redmond
  6. Gradually whisk in the milk.

    Whisk in milk
    ​The Spruce / 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.

    Bring sauce to boil and lower heat
    ​The Spruce / Ali Redmond
  8. Add the fresh parsley and stir well. 

    Add fresh parsley and whisk it into sauce
    ​The Spruce / Ali Redmond
  9. Season with a good pinch of sea salt and a few black pepper grinds. Taste and add more as needed.

    Add salt and pepper to sauce
    ​The Spruce / 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.

    English parsley sauce in a saucepan
    ​The Spruce / Ali Redmond
  11. Serve and enjoy.

    Traditional English parsley sauce, ready to serve
    ​The Spruce / 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.

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.


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.