Traditional English Parsley Sauce

Traditional English parsley recipe

​The Spruce / Ali Redmond

  • Total: 20 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Servings: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
121 Calories
9g Fat
8g Carbs
3g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 121
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 9g 11%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Cholesterol 22mg 7%
Sodium 226mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Protein 3g
Calcium 95mg 7%
*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 easy sauce that can be extremely delicious.

This recipe only takes a handful of ingredients and about 20 minutes to throw together. Flavored with fresh, herbal parsley and mustard, creamy parsley sauce pairs perfectly with baked or pan-fried fish or baked ham. Other embellishments can be added, such as additional fresh herbs, lemon juice, or parmesan cheese.

Ingredients

  • 25 grams/1 ounce butter
  • 25 grams/1 ounce all-purpose flour (approximately 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons)
  • Optional: 1 1/2 teaspoons English mustard
  • 250 milliliters/1 cup milk
  • 1 handful fresh parsley (flat-leaf, chopped)
  • Sea salt (to taste)
  • Freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

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

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

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

    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.

    Lower heat
    ​The Spruce / Ali Redmond
  8. Add the fresh parsley and stir well. 

    Add fresh parsley
    ​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
    ​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
    ​The Spruce / Ali Redmond
  11. Serve and enjoy.

    English parsley
    ​The Spruce / Ali Redmond

Tips

  • The sauce will keep covered in the fridge for a day or two and can be reheated. It's best served freshly made.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.