Do you know who deserves the big bucks at that fancy French restaurant you love so much? It’s the saucier (the sauce maker)! These alchemists are the most talented at balancing flavors to create the personality of the dish it accompanies.

Learning how to make sauces is definitely one of the most important ways of enhancing the flavor of your food.

Before we dive in to how, here are key terms to become familiar with:

  • SAUCE – Flavorful liquid, usually thickened, used to flavor and enhance other foods
  • PAN GRAVY – Sauce made with the juices or drippings of the meat or poultry with which it is served
  • JUS – Unthickened juices from a roast

As I shared in the Stocks section, fundamental to good sauces is a good stock. In fact, in order to achieve the depth of flavor and complexity you experience when you eat a restaurant-prepared sauce, you must use good stock.

Additionally, utilizing thickening agents to create the desired consistency is a critical  element in sauce-making. The options for thickening agents available are quite numerous. Each of the following works in a particular way:

  • ROUX – Cooked mixture of equal parts flour and fat used for medium and long cooking; can be cooked to white, blond or brown by cooking longer; thickening power  lessens the longer it cooks
  • BEURRE MANIE – A mixture of equal parts raw butter and flour
  • WHITEWASH – Mixture of flour and water
  • CORNSTARCH – Twice the thickening power of flour; produces a glossy sauce that is almost clear; however, prolonged boiling breaks it down
  • ARROWROOT – Produces a clearer sauce than cornstarch and lasts longer on the heat; used for jus lie; however, more expensive
  • WAXY MAIZE –Only thickener that can withstand freezing
  • PREGELATINIZED/INSTANT STARCHES – Thicken without heating; used for baking
  • BREAD CRUMBS – Used to add texture
  • PUREES, NUTS –Sauce gets thickened texture from ingredients
  • LIAISON –Mixture of egg yolks and cream, used to enrich and lightly thicken a sauce (proteins coagulate when heated)
  • CREAM – Added for extra richness and color (opaque appearance)
  • BLOOD – Used in many traditional recipes; to prevent coagulating, it is mixed with vinegar, lemon juice or alcohol and  tempered before adding
  • REDUCTION – Thickening occurs through the process of boiling/simmering a liquid to evaporate part of the water


Foundational to all sauces are the five sauces that are referred to as “Mother Sauces”.

Each uses a different technique and serves as the basis from which all other sauces are derived. Therefore, if you can master these five sauces, you then have the ability to make a myriad of delicious sauces.

Below is a detailed explanation of how to make each of the Mother Sauces. And following this chart, are a set of diagrams detailing which sauces are derived from each of the Mother Sauces. If you’ve ever wondered what’s in all of those fancy-sounding French sauces, this is your guide!


  • In a pot, combine cold milk with ½ onion (spiked with bay leaf and clove) and bouquet garni (French term for a bundle of herbs which traditionally includes leeks, parsley stems, thyme, celery greens and bay leaf) with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and add cold roux slowly
  • Whisk until thickened
  • Strain through chinois
  • Add nutmeg and salt to taste


  • In a pot over medium-low heat, add stock and bouquet garni with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • Once the liquid comes to a soft boil, add cold roux and whisk in until a la nappe (French term describing the thickness achieved when a sauce coats the back of your spoon)
  • Monter au beurre ( French term to describe the process of finishing a sauce by  whisking in butter to create a glossy and more flavorful sauce)
  • Add salt and pepper to taste


  • Preheat oven to 350*
  • Render bacon in a large pot over medium-low heat (on the stove)
  • Sweat carrots, onions, leeks and garlic in the bacon fat with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • Add tomato paste and cook to develop the color and flavor
  • Add quartered tomatoes, salt, sugar and pepper (to taste)
  • Add a bit of flour and stir through
  • Add bouquet garni
  • Place pot in oven and cook sauce for 25-30 minutes
  • Remove pot from oven to add chicken stock and then place the pot back in the oven to cook for an additional 1 ½ – 2 hours
  • Remove bouquet garni, puree sauce with a stick blender (or by placing the sauce in a stand blender), strain through a chinois, monter au beurre and adjust seasonings


  • Whisk egg yolks in a bowl placed over a pot with simmering water
  • Once their color begins to lighten, slowly add clarified butter (milk fat rendered from butter by separating out the milk solids and water from the butterfat – to make, simply 1) heat unsalted butter over low heat until it melts and its foam rises to the top 2) skim off the foam with a spoon and 3) strain and the remaining liquid is clarified butter)
  • Add lemon juice and salt (to taste) and continue whisking until thickened


  • In a pot over medium-high heat, sweat mirepoix (French term for a combination of 50% onions, 25% celery and 25% carrots) in olive oil or butter with a pinch of salt and pepper
  • Incorporate a brown roux
  • Add tomato paste and cook through
  • Add stock
  • Add bouquet garni
  • Simmer for several hours, while skimming the top to remove fat and impurities
  • Adjust seasonings to taste
  • Strain through a chinois
  • When combined with an equal part of veal stock and reduced by half, it is referred to as demi-glace and serves as the base for many more elaborate sauces summarized below


Beyond the Mother Sauces and their derivatives, many of today’s Chefs are enhancing the flavor of their foods by using the following options:

  • Broths and Jus
  • Purees
  • Cream reductions  – heavy cream reduced and blended with stock
  • Salsas – mixture of raw or cooked veg, herbs and occasionally fruit
  • Relish – raw or pickled vegetables
  • Chutney – cooked fruit or vegetable condiment that is sweet, spicy and tangy
  • Asian sauces
  • Flavored oils

As promised above, the following diagrams demonstrate the derivative sauces of each of the Mother Sauces. Each requires that you first prepare the specific Mother Sauce and then continue with the added ingredients detailed in each box.

As I abbreviated below, here are a few notes:

  • “suer” refers to the process of sweating aromatics such as onion
  • “glace de viande” is a glaze created by concentrated reduction of brown stock
  • “gastrique” consists of a reduction of vinegar, wine and sugar
  • brunoise” is a knife cut which refers to tiny cubes measuring 1/8 in  x 1/8 in x 1/8 in
  • concasser” refers to a peeled, seeded and roughly chopped tomato


12 Responses to Sauces

  1. surendra singh says:

    thanks for this. very nice notes realy helpful……..

  2. Rodvin Rodrigues says:

    I was blessed by your hard work. Thank you Jesus bless you.

  3. Private First Class Ryan says:

    Jesus is definitely going to bless you for giving us these sauce notes

  4. Robin Baldry says:


  5. Omar Clarke says:


  6. chefyang.I says:

    superb knowladge

  7. Wilson Brinely says:

    Thanks for sharing this!

  8. premankur biswas says:

    Very simple & easy to understand notes.

  9. dinesh s says:

    very thanks for sharing this!

  10. Pingback: My Secret Weapon | My Culinary Joy




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