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Sauces are liquid or partly-liquid foods used to accompany other foods or aid in their preparation.

The variety of sauces in other cuisines includes chutneys, gravies, hot sauces, mustards, pasta sauces, relishes, salsas, and many others.

Sauces in traditional French cuisine[edit]

Sauces are an important part of classical French cuisine. The modern system of mother sauces was codified by Antonin Carême in the 19th century and expanded by Auguste Escoffier in the 20th century. Carême's mother sauces were:

  • allemande
  • béchamel
  • espagnole
  • velouté

Escoffier's additions were:

  • tomato
  • mayonnaise
  • hollandaise


Roux is a thickening agent used in three of the mother sauces and many others, including gravy. Roux is also an ingredient in soups and soufflés. It is defined as a cooked mixture of flour and butter. The flour includes starch, which provides the thickening power of roux. The purpose of the butter is to disperse the flour before it is added to another medium, preventing lumping, and to cook the starchy flavors out of the flour before it is eaten. The fact that it is cooked gives it an advantage over other flour-based thickening agents like beurre manié—flour kneaded with butter—and slurries—flour agitated with water.

Roux is classified as white roux, blond roux, and brown roux. The three are differentiated by their color, flavor intensity, and thickening power, which is determined by the cooking time.

To make roux, melt butter over medium-low heat, then add flour until it becomes the desired consistency. Usually roux calls for equal parts butter and flour (by weight), but you should add as much as is necessary to get a thin paste. Roux can be made to a thick paste, but it is more difficult to integrate it into other liquids. As soon as the roux is the correct consistency, keep stirring as it cooks.

White roux should be cooked 1–2 minutes and take on no additional coloring. Blond roux should take 3–5 minutes and have a very light brown color and a nutty flavor; longer than that yields a brown roux with bold flavor. Note that the longer a roux is cooked, the thinner it gets, so you may want to compensate for this by beginning with a thicker paste for brown roux.

Any fat or oil can be used in place of the butter. Gravies are usually made with fat from the drippings of the meat they will be served with. Animal fats are more suited for blond and brown roux.


Béchamel sauce is defined as scalded milk thickened with roux. It is a part of many Italian pasta dishes, including cannelloni and lasagne.

White roux is traditionally used, but use a color that best suits the flavor of the dish you are using it in. Add hot milk gradually, stirring to incorporate each time, then simmer uncovered for 10–15 minutes. Alternatively, you can add cold milk directly to the roux, but add it even more slowly, and allow it to begin steaming before mixing it into the roux—otherwise, you risk forming lumps—and simmering for 10–15 minutes. When done, season with salt and white pepper.

Adjust the ratio of roux and milk to control the consistency of the béchamel. A paint-like consistency is suitable for pasta and vegetables. A yogurt-like consistency is suitable for lasagne and other baked dishes. Very thick béchamels are used in soufflés.

Variations on béchamel:

  • Aromatics, such as onion, garlic, and bay leaf, can be added to the hot milk or sweated in the butter to add flavor.
  • To make a crème sauce, replace the milk with heavy cream.
  • To make a Mornay sauce, add shredded Gruyère or other cheese. Mornay sauce is used in macaroni and cheese.
  • Thicken the sauce further by adding a liaison of egg yolk and heavy cream (3 Tbsp of cream for each yolk).
  • Add an extra sheen to the sauce by adding cold butter before serving.

Velouté and Allemande[edit]

Velouté sauce is defined as a white stock thickened with roux.

To a blond roux, add stock a little at a time, stirring to incorporate each time, and bringing to a simmer before adding more. The sauce is the right consistency when, after it is simmering, you can drizzle the sauce over itself without it sitting on the surface. Simmer uncovered for 15–30 minutes. When done, season with salt and white pepper.

Like béchamel, velouté can be thickened with a liaison or given a sheen with butter. Aromatics like bacon and onion can also be used.

Allemande sauce is simply a velouté thickened with a liaison and seasoned with lemon juice.


Tomato sauce is begun by sweating diced onions in olive oil, then adding garlic and tomato paste and cooking briefly, before puréed, deseeded tomatoes are added and simmered until reduced slightly. Use approximately 1/4 cup of onions and 2 Tbsp of tomato paste for every 28 oz of tomatoes. Tomato sauce is usually seasoned with salt, but not black pepper.

Tomato sauce can be varied indefinitely. Commonly, basil and olive oil are added at the end for flavor. Examples of tomato sauces can be seen at the Pasta Sauces page.

Recipes and Examples[edit]

Cream, White, and Cheese Sauces[edit]

Pasta Sauces[edit]

Main article: Pasta Sauces

Salsas, Hot Sauces, and Moles[edit]

Sweet Sauces[edit]