Your Saucy Guide to Different Types of Sauces
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.
Not all classic sauces are Mother Sauces. Here are some essential sauces you should know.
A classic red wine sauce with bone marrow, butter, shallots (tiny sweet onions) and a demi-glace. Think Bordeaux as in the French wine and you’re good to go. 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 and is typically made with Cabernet Sauvignon and usually accompanies a steak.
These sauces may be basic, but we don’t know where we’d be without them…
This type of sauce is basically garlicky mayonnaise.
Pasta lovers are probably no stranger to this type of sauce. It’s rich with butter, heavy cream, and of course, grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan). Usually paired with fettuccine pasta.
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 (Gruyere, Emmental, white cheddar or Parmesan) worked in.
Sauce Au Poivre
Commonly called peppercorn sauce, made by crushing whole black peppercorns, then melting them in butter. you would then flame Cognac in a separate pan and adding it to your peppercorns, along with veal stock and finally crème fraîche. This type of sauce is usually served with steak, but can also be used for chicken au poivre.
Velouté is a mother sauce and is made by adding a light stock to a white roux.
These herby sauces make the perfect topping for meats and pretty much anything.
This Argentinian/Uruguayan green sauce is made using chopped fresh parsley, oregano, minced garlic, olive oil, (red wine) vinegar and chopped 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 this type of sauce is normally paired with steak to cut through the richness, or topped over pulled beef/pork tacos.
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 is basically salsa verde with a creamy French twist. This green sauce is 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 usually accompanies fish 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 in a pestle and mortar.
Pistou is basically the French version of Italian pesto and contains the same ingredients (basil, hard cheese, garlic, olive oil), sans the pine nuts.
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 pasta.
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, roasted red peppers, toasted nuts (almonds), bread, fresh parsley, smoked paprika, lemon juice and sherry vinegar. Traditionally fishermen ate romesco sauce with fish.
Salsa roja is the red and hotter version of salsa verde. Also in Mexican cuisine, this version uses red plum tomatoes, white onion, serrano chillies, cilantro, and obviously garlic.
Learn your demi-glace from your Espagnole.
Dark brown reduced sauce, half stock (chicken, beef, vegetable) and half brown sauce (Espagnole). 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.
This mother sauce is a classic brown sauce used as a base in demi-glace, beef stew or as a serving sauce for meats. Brown stock is the base along with your mirepoix (diced vegetables), which is then thickened with a brown roux. Some versions use tomato pureé/paste.
Pretty much everyone knows and loves gravy. This type of sauce is made by reducing beef stock, and thickened with slacked cornflour. It’s typically poured over roasted meats and used in stews.
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 a plethora of moles (Roja, Verde, poblano, etc), but the one with chocolate (traditionally served with chicken) is the most popular.
Nothing beats a sweet sauce!
Fruit sauce, similar to coulis, but compôte contains fresh or frozen fruit pieces cooked with syrup water.
Want more sauce with that? Check out our round-up of Condiments, Sauces and Marinades.
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. More refined than pureé. Think Berry Coulis.
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