Mother Sauces

Built of simple ingredients, Mother Sauces (including Hollandaise) are the foundations from which hundreds of derivative sauces are made.

Beginning in the 1800s, the “Fathers” of French cooking defined “mother sauces” as the foundations from which hundreds of variations could be produced. Each of the sauce bases were categorized by simple ingredients. Derivatives are referred to as “small” sauces.


Sauces were not originally used to enhance the taste of foods, but to cover up rancid or spoiled meats and poultry.

French chef Francois La Varenne first tamed the sophisticated art of creating modern-day sauces. Chef Antonin Careme followed suit, defining espagnole, velouté, béchamel, and allemande as the four mother sauces.

Later, renowned chef Auguste Escoffier further refined the sauce bases to include: espagnole, béchamel, hollandaise (replacing allemande), velouté, and tomato. Today, these are the standards taught in culinary schools.


The Mother Sauces are also known as “grand” or “sayces meres.”

Velouté (blond) – This is a roux of flour and a “white” stockCream and/or egg yolks can be added. It is from this sauce that allemande is derived, which led to its removal as a base.

Espagnole (also called demi-glace or brown) – Essentially, this is a brown stock and flour roux, but often with the addition of a mirepoix and beef bones.

Béchamel  - A “white” or “pale” roux of milk and flour. Most often recommended for its creamy smooth texture and versatility.

Hollandaise – This is an emulsifying base sauce that requires butter, egg yolks, and oil. Some skill is required to prepare. Béarnaise is a well-known variation.

Tomato – So many sauces and marinaras are derived from tomatoes that this was a natural inclusion for a red base.

Vinaigrette and mayonnaise were added to the revolving list at a later time and are sometimes referred to as “contemporary” mother sauces.

Buying Tips

Chefs unanimously agree that only the best and freshest ingredients should be purchased for any sauce.