Your Saucy Guide to Different Types of Sauces

Words: Robyn Samuels

Imagine this – you’re at a restaurant on a date, it’s going great, the conversation is flowing and it’s all gravy, baby. Time to order – you get the steak, but you panic and realise that you don’t know your demi-glace from your Demi Moore, nor the difference between a chimichurri and a chimichanga. Fret not, we’re here to help you with this simple list of sauces. For easy digestion, we’ve arranged all the types of sauces by colour and cuisine.

Wine Sauces

Not all classic sauces are Mother Sauces. Here are some wine sauces you should know.


A classic red wine sauce with bone marrow, butter, shallots and a demi-glace. Think ‘Bordeaux’ as in the French wine and you’re good. Bordelaise sauce is infused with herbs and spices tied together with twine, known as a bouquet garni (bouquet of garnish).


Similar to Bordelaise, but the difference is in the type of wine used; Bordelaise uses Bordeaux whereas Bourguignon uses Burgundy wine. Bourguignon is a red wine sauce with onions. Typically used in Boeuf Bourguignon.


Au jus, meaning ‘with juice’, is made from meat stock or residual meat juices and has a thin consistency. There are different types of jus – red wine jus typically uses full-bodied wines.

Marchand de Vin

This red wine sauce translates to ‘wine merchant’ and is a classic red wine reduction, usually made with Cabernet Sauvignon and is accompanied by steak.

White Sauces

These sauces may be basic, but we don’t know where we’d be without them.


This type of sauce is essentially garlicky mayonnaise.


Pasta lovers are probably no stranger to Alfredo. It’s rich with butter, heavy cream, and of course, grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan). Usually paired with fettuccine pasta.


A white sauce made by cooking a light roux using butter/oil, flour and milk as the base with nutmeg and salt for seasoning. Normally used in macaroni & cheese and lasagne.


Eggs benny isn’t complete without a velvety Hollandaise. This mother sauce contains similar ingredients (eggs, vinegar, lemon juice, butter) as mayonnaise, but uses butter instead of oil and with different ratios. Think warm, tangy, yellow mayo.


Basically a fancy name for cheese sauce, with béchamel as the base and cheese (Gruyère, Emmental, white cheddar or Parmesan) worked in.

Sauce Au Poivre

Commonly called peppercorn sauce; it’s made by crushing whole black peppercorns, then melting them in butter. You then flame Cognac in a separate pan and add it to the peppercorns, along with veal stock and crème fraîche.  This type of sauce is usually served with beef steak, but can also be used for Pork Chops Au Poivre or Chicken Au Poivre.


Velouté is a mother sauce and is made by adding a light stock to a white roux.

Green Sauces

These herby sauces make the perfect topping for meats, or pretty much anything.


This Argentinian/Uruguayan green sauce is made using chopped fresh parsley, oregano, minced garlic, olive oil, (red wine) vinegar and chilli/chilli flakes. People often confuse it with gremolata, which is a dry version of chimichurri, sans olive oil. Chimichurri is similar to salsa verde and is normally served with steak or tacos to lift the flavours.

Salsa Verde

This green (verde) sauce is used in Mexican cuisine. Salsa verde is made from cooked down tomatillos (ripe green tomatoes), onion and jalapeños, which are pulsed in a blender along with lime juice, garlic and fresh coriander, with oil as a base ingredient. Salsa verde is a refreshing element used as a dressing for steak and seafood dishes.

Sauce Verte

Sauce verte is basically salsa verde, but with a creamy French twist. It’s made using fresh herbs (parsley, chopped chives, tarragon, dill) and a squeeze of lemon juice mixed with homemade mayonnaise. The classic version of this sauce incorporates fresh spinach. Sauce verte is usually served with seafood and potato dishes.


You can practically make any fresh herb into pesto, but classic pesto is made using basil, pine nuts, crushed garlic, coarse salt and Parmigiano Reggiano, and is traditionally blended with olive oil using a pestle and mortar.


Pistou is basically the French version of Italian pesto and contains the same ingredients (basil, hard cheese, garlic, olive oil), just without the addition of pine nuts.

Red Sauces

Not all red sauces are hot, but most hot sauces are usually red.


Marinara is your typical and classic Italian tomato-based red sauce. It contains onions, garlic and herbs. A good marinara is essential to any fresh tomato sauce pasta.

Mignonette Sauce

This type of sauce is typically served with fresh oysters and is made using shallots, black pepper, salt and red wine vinegar.


Is a smoky, blended red sauce of charred/fire-roasted tomatoes and red peppers, toasted nuts (almonds), bread, fresh parsley, smoked paprika, lemon juice and sherry vinegar. Traditionally, fishermen ate romesco sauce with fish.

Salsa Roja

Salsa roja is the red and hotter version of salsa verde. In Mexican cuisine, salsa roja uses red plum tomatoes, white onion, serrano chillies, cilantro and garlic.

Brown Sauces

These brown sauces add depth and flavour to some of your favourite dishes.


Demi-glace is used as the base for some sauces like Bordelaise. Remember ‘demi-glace’ means half so you’re only using half brown sauce/stock, whereas the ratio in an Espagnole is 1:1. To make a demi-glace, you’ll need dark brown reduced sauce, half stock (chicken, beef, vegetable) and half brown sauce (Espagnole).


This mother sauce is used as a base in demi-glace and beef stew, or served over meat. Brown stock is the base along with mirepoix (diced vegetables), which is then thickened with a brown roux. Some versions use tomato pureé/paste.


Who doesn’t love gravy? This type of sauce is made by reducing beef stock, and thickened with slaked cornflour (mixed with a little bit of water to make a paste). It’s typically poured over roasted meats and used in stews.

Jus Lie

This type of sauce is similar to a demi-glace. It’s made by thickening meat sauce or brown stock with either cornstarch or arrowroot (a starchy vegetable).


A French onion sauce used for soup, and finishing dishes. It consists of a demi-glace as the base, white wine, vinegar and butter-fried onions.


This type of sauce packs a lot of punchy bold flavours, made from ancho chillies, nuts, black pepper, cumin and cinnamon and rich, dark chocolate. Mole means ‘sauce’ — there are different types of moles (Roja, Verde, poblano, etc.) but the one with chocolate (traditionally served over chicken) is the most popular.

Sweet Sauces

Nothing beats a sweet sauce!


Fruit sauce, similar to coulis, but compôte contains fresh or frozen fruit pieces cooked in a simple syrup.


This type of sauce is made either with vegetables or fruit, but more frequently appears on dessert menus. Coulis has a thin and smooth consistency. It’s more refined than pureé, think Berry Coulis.

Want more? Check out our round-up of Condiments, Sauces and Marinades.

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