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Everything You Need to Know About Making Hollandaise Sauce

Three images of recipes from the article below including Tyler Florence's hollandaise sauce from Food Network, hollandaise sauce from the Kitchen and Bearnaise from Daring Gourmet.
Food Network/ The Kitchn/ Daring Gourmet

Hollandaise sauce is one of five mother sauces in classical cuisine and a lusciously rich one at that. There’s really no way to serve the sauce wrong because it accompanies various foods so well.

We’ll teach you how to make hollandaise from scratch, using two different methods so you can pick the one that works best for your kitchen and your needs. You’ll also learn the significance of each ingredient and how they work together to create this creamy French delicacy.

Wondering what foods pair well with it? We’ll cover that, too!

What Is Hollandaise?

Simply put, hollandaise sauce is a mother sauce that combines three main ingredients; raw egg yolks, butter, and lemon juice. Most recipes also further enhance with cayenne pepper, cracked black pepper, or salt.

It’s made by carefully (yet rapidly) whisking warm butter into warm egg yolks and lemon juice using a double boiler for delicate heat. The low heat, combined with the continued whisking, creates a light and creamy sauce.

While most mother sauces use roux for thickening, hollandaise relies on an emulsification process to thicken it.

Emulsification is the process of mixing two unmixable liquids in a way that keeps them together. A great example (aside from hollandaise) is how vinegar and oil separate when combined until you emulsify them to create a consistent or uniform vinaigrette.

The sauce is known for being quite challenging to whip up for its tendency to break due to the egg yolks and butter not coming together. But to be honest, if you own a whisk and you know how to use it, you can make hollandaise.

A Breakdown of Ingredients

Each of the ingredients plays a vital role in making hollandaise sauce just right every time.

Below is a more detailed explanation of each ingredient and its purpose:

  • Clarified Butter: Most recipes will call for plain old butter, but clarified butter makes a difference because the milk solids are removed, leaving pure butterfat behind. Without the milk solids, the sauce emulsifies better. Regular butter sometimes causes the sauce to break or separate, but it still gets the job done, just not as efficiently. Whichever butter you choose, though, make sure it is warm and melted.
  • Egg Yolks: Like the butter, your egg yolks should be warm and melted. Cold egg yolks won’t combine as well with warm butter but instead reharden the fat. Crack open and separate whites from yolk ahead of time, and let it sit at room temperature for half an hour. If you are short on time, let your fridge eggs sit in a bowl of warm water for about five to seven minutes.
  • Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice is typically added to the yolks before the stream of warm butter is added. The juice adds a tangy balance to the rich sauce and provides an acidic ingredient to avoid the yolks from turning solid.
  • Salt: Salt enhances the sauce just right before enjoying it. If using salted butter, be mindful about adding too much extra salt.
  • Cayenne Pepper: The cayenne adds an earthy spicey tone to the sauce but is optional.

Now that you have a better understanding of each ingredient, it’s time to try and make it.

How to Make Hollandaise

While there are several recipes for this rich sauce, there are two main methods. The first is the very traditional way to whip up some hollandaise and the second is a faster way that uses the power of a good blender.

The Traditional Method

An image of homemade hollandaise sauce poured over hot eggs benedict, with a side of hollandaise
Tyler Florence, Food Network

If you are working on honing your culinary skills, you must understand the fundamentals of making hollandaise traditionally. This recipe is a great place to start, as there’s a video you can follow along with so you can see the steps in real time.

Get the Recipe: Tyler Florence, Food Network

What You’ll Need

OXO good grips balloon whisk sitting over a bowl of eggs that need to be whisked.

Making this Sauce is easy when you have the right gear, and building a cookware collection is one of many fun factors in the home cooking world. Sometimes a recipe calls for something you don’t have, and while improvising with other types works, sometimes it’s fun to take a little shopping trip.

Below are two items you’ll need for making a traditional hollandaise:

Double Boiler: If you don’t have a small stainless-steel bowl, check out this double boiler by farberware, a reputable brand in the cooking world. The handle is great for quick lifting if you think your sauce is getting too warm.

Once you are finished with the sauce, wipe the bottom and pour over whatever you’ve made to accompany it. Aside from hollandaise, double boilers are great for melting chocolate, making custards, or anything that needs very delicate heat.

Reliable Whisk: You’ll spend more than a few minutes whisking if you plan to make the sauce traditionally, so make sure you have a reliable whisk for the job. This OXO 11-inch balloon whisk features a comfortable handle with a soft grip, and it’s dishwasher safe, too. Think about how often you use your whisk in the kitchen. If yours is timeworn and starting to rust, it’s time to replace it with a new one.

The Blender Method

Two images of hollandaise sauce made by the blender method from The Kitchn, including sauce drizzled over asparagus, and another image of hollandaise sauce along side of a halved and squeezed lemon.
The Kitchn

In recent years in an effort to make hollandaise prep a little less fussy folks started using the blender to their advantage rather than spending time and energy whipping away at the yolks and butter. It’s not traditional, but it’s genius.

Whisking the yolks and lemon juice while holding your double boiler in place and slowly streaming in butter is quite challenging with two hands. This blender helps blend the yolk and butter with ease, so you won’t have to whisk by hand.

The Kitchn will guide you through all the steps to make it this way and even give you tips on fixing a broken sauce.

Get the Recipe: The Kitchn

What You’ll Need

An image of a Vitamix blender filled with fruits, ready to make a smoothie.

This method won’t get you very far without a blender, but having one will really get your sauce to that luxurious rich texture.

Vitamix Explorian Blender: While there are certainly a select few blenders that stick out in the market, a trusted brand like Vitamix will last you years and do so much more than making sauces and smoothies.

The Explorian blender offers several speeds, and it’s built like a tank, so you’ll have it for many years. The hefty motor and large capacity container will give you that homemade hollandaise in minutes, but exploring new ways to use it is all part of the fun.

7 Ways to Enjoy Hollandaise Sauce

A plate with asparagus, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce.
Anna Shepulova/Shutterstock

Now that you know what hollandaise is, how to make it, and what you need before saucing it up in the kitchen, it’s time we present all the delicious pairings.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy hollandaise:

  • Eggs Benedict: This classic is pretty obvious for most, but no hollandaise pairing list would be complete without it. The rich sauces over the delicately poached eggs and briny Canadian bacon are a match made in heaven, and nothing soaks up the extra sauce the way English muffins do.
  • Eggs in all forms: You don’t need to go all out with eggs benedict because this sauce tastes delicious on eggs in every form. Scrambled, poached, over medium all taste fantastic, but nothing quite finishes an omelet like the drizzle of hollandaise. Don’t forget about your favorite breakfast sandwich because each bite is better once dipped in.
  • Fish: Salmon tastes fantastic with a generous drizzle of hollandaise, especially when garnished with fresh dill or tarragon on top. It’s delightful on most white fishes, too!
  • Seafood: The lightness of seafood pairs gorgeously with a buttery sauce like hollandaise. Think crab, shrimp, or scallops. If you don’t believe us, you’ll have to fall head over heels trying it yourself.
  • Meat: Pan-seared chicken, char-grilled steak, you name it, hollandaise smeared over the top further enhances it like no other. It’s a great way to take a break from A1.
  • Veggies: Sharp or bitter-tasting vegetables like brussels sprouts or asparagus are well-known pairings for this sauce. Leafy greens and potatoes work well, too.
  • Bread: You dip bread in cheese fondue, alfredo and breadsticks are a match made in heaven, so there’s no reason why you can’t do the same thing here. Grab a fresh loaf of warm artisan bread and get to dipping.

We urge you to enjoy these pairings with caution because they are seriously addicting.

Two Popular Sauces Made from Hollandaise

Hollandaise is a mother sauce, which means it can be used as a base to create other delicious sauces. Two popular variations are Dijon and bearnaise sauce.

Dijon Sauce

A spoon drizzling warm Dijon sauce into a fancy bowl with a pour spout.

You might have already guessed it, but Dijon sauce is a simple variation of hollandaise with the addition of Dijon mustard in the mix. This one tastes especially delicious over grilled chicken, steak, and fish because the pungent kick is swirled into the buttery-rich sauce.

Get the Recipe: Downshiftology

Bearnaise Sauce

Two images of warm bearnaise sauce, one displaying the thickened sauce, and the other drizzling a generous amount over a hot steak cooked medium.
The Daring Gourmet

Bearnaise is another popular sauce you’ll find on the menu of many top-notch steakhouses. If you want to wow someone on a special date, be sure to make this sauce to accompany a steak or fish dinner.

While a typical hollandaise uses lemon for acidity, bearnaise is spiked with white wine vinegar instead. The other key flavors in it come from shallots and fresh herbs, and white wine.

Get the Recipe: The Daring Gourmet

Whether you are working on your cooking skills or enjoy learning new recipes, hollandaise is a great place to start. Once you’ve honed in on this one, be sure to learn how to make tomato sauce, too.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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