Béarnaise Sauce is considered by many to be one of the finest sauces to serve with steaks. A variation of Hollandaise sauce, one of the 5 “mother sauces” in classical French cookery, it’s notoriously difficult to make by hand. But this recipe uses a much easier method that yields exactly the same result – in 2 minutes flat!
It’s so fast, you could even make the Béarnaise while your cooked steak is resting!
Béarnaise Sauce is a stunning French sauce usually served with steak at fine dining restaurants and high-end steakhouses.
Traditionally it’s made by hand. Yolks are combined with a herb-infused vinegar reduction over a double boiler, then melted butter is carefully and slowly drizzled in while whisking. Too fast and the sauce will split. Too hot and the eggs will scramble. Too cool and it won’t thicken properly. Tricky!
Bicep stamina aside (we’re talking 10 minutes of vigorous whisking here), it can be quite challenging, even for the most capable cooks.
The good news? There’s an easy and foolproof way to make Béarnaise sauce using a stick blender. While traditionalists will turn their nose up at the thought of employing a 20th-century appliance, the reality is that the end result is exactly the same as hand-whisked – but in a fraction of the time, and with a fraction of the risk!
In fact, it takes less than 2 minutes. So you could even make Béarnaise sauce while your steak is resting after cooking!
What goes in Béarnaise Sauce
To make Béarnaise Sauce, you need: white wine vinegar, white wine, butter (which we clarify – more on this below), egg yolks, tarragon, chervil and eschalots/shallots (the small sweet onions sometimes called French eschalots.)
The best way to make Béarnaise Sauce is to use clarified butter instead of just melted butter. And just what is clarified butter?
Clarified butter is simply butter minus the dairy solids and water content which accounts for about 15% of ordinary butter. Clarified butter is actually the same thing as ghee which is the main fat used in Indian cooking, though different methods are used to make them.
Using clarified butter gives you a purer, more intense, and slightly nuttier butter flavour in your Béarnaise.
Options for getting your hands on clarified butter:
a) Buy it (clarified butter or Ghee) – Clarified butter is more widely available in Europe than Australia or US. But Ghee is quite common these days in Australia – Indian or oil aisle at large grocery stores (Coles, Woolies), Harris Farms, large Asian stores and Indian grocery stores;
b) Make it the proper way – 10 minutes simmering unsalted butter, then straining. It keeps in the pantry for months. Recipe here; or
c) Make it the quick n’ easy way – The method I use in this recipe, depicted below. Melt the butter and let the white milk solids settle at the bottom. The gold liquid remaining is clarified butter (about 90% of the total). Measure out ¾ cup and use. Easy!
Here in Australia, it’s much cheaper to make rather than buy ghee or clarified butter.
What’s the difference between Proper vs Quick method for clarified butter? The quick method is not as thorough at getting milk solids out so it’s not shelf-stable, meaning you cannot store it in your pantry at room temperature.
- White wine vinegar – Less sharp than standard white vinegar;
- White wine – Any dry white wine is fine here. Just avoid really sweet ones, fruity or woody ones;
- Tarragon and chervil – The two herb flavourings in Béarnaise Sauce that gives it a distinctly French and classy flavour;
- Eschalot / shallot – Small onion-like root vegetables but with a sweeter, more delicate flavour than normal large onions. Can’t find them? Just sub with a small amount of finely sliced normal onions; and
- Egg yolks – What emulsifies the butter and other liquids to create a thick, glossy sauce. As for what to do with the whites? I’ve been playing with Fluffy Egg White Omelettes, I’ve jotted it down in the recipe notes for you.
How to make Béarnaise Sauce
Part 1: Infused vinegar
- Infuse vinegar: Simmer the vinegar, white wine, herbs and shallot in a (very!) small pan over medium low heat for 2 minutes. Remove from stove then let it stand for 5 minutes to infuse the vinegar with flavour;
- Strain, pressing out as much liquid as you can, then cool. You should have around 1 – 1½ tbsp of vinegar. If you have too much, reduce it a bit further on the stove; this won’t take long. If you have too little, just top it up with water.
Part 2: Quick clarified butter
Here’s how to make clarified butter, the quick way, for use immediately in this recipe:
- Melt butter: Place cubes of butter in a heatproof jug and microwave until melted (do it in 20 sec bursts or the butter can explode everywhere!) ;
- Separate milk solids: Leave the melted butter for 30 seconds or so, and you’ll notice that white sediment settles at the bottom of the jug. The top 90% or so left is a lovely clear gold ,which is clarified butter. The white stuff are the milk solids which we do not want to use because it (technically!) clouds our Béarnaise Sauce. We just want to use the liquid gold;
- Measure out ¾ cup of the Clarified Butter to use for Béarnaise Sauce. Discard the milky white solids.
Part 3: Making Béarnaise Sauce – in 2 minutes flat!
Separate yolks, leave to de-chill – Do this first while the eggs are fridge-cold because they’re easier to separate. The whites of warm eggs are runnier and the yolks are softer, which makes them a bit harder to separate neatly.
I find it easiest to pass the yolks back and forth between the cracked shells and let the whites slide out (see recipe video below for demo). Otherwise, just crack the egg into your fingers and let the whites slip through.
Once you have the yolks in a bowl, leave them to de-chill for around 15 minutes so it incorporates better with the butter.
- Blitz yolks – Place egg yolks, infused vinegar and salt in a tall vessel that fits the stick blender then blitz to combine;
- Drizzle in butter – With the stick blender going, start drizzling the clarified butter in slowly. It should take around 1 minute to add it all. It’s important to add it slowly so the sauce properly emulsifies (binds and thickens) rather than splitting, which is what would happen if you dumped the butter in one go;
- Keep blitzing – Once all the butter is added, give it a good blitz for another 10 seconds, moving up and down, to make it smooth;
Adjust thickness with water – You’ll find that the sauce is quite thick at this stage, like mayonnaise. So if you were to dollop it onto something, it would stay in a mound rather than spreading, which is not what we want for our sauce. So we need to thin it a bit using water.
Start with 1 tablespoon of water, give it a quick blitz to incorporate, then slowly add a bit more at a time. Be careful here – you can always thin out a sauce, but you can’t undo a thin sauce!
- Desired thickness – Béarnaise Sauce should be fairly thick but thin enough so it still oozes slowly across the surface of steaks. It’s ideally thicker than Hollandaise Sauce but thinner than mayonnaise;
- Add fresh herbs – Stir in the fresh tarragon and chervil at the end;
- Done! And there you have it! Perfect Béarnaise, in 2 minutes flat.
How to keep Béarnaise Sauce warm for serving
One thing that used to prevent me from making things like Hollandaise and Béarnaise Sauce at dinner parties was the inevitable stress of making these sauces just before serving. Though they can be made ahead, refrigerated and then reheated, it’s quite risky and easily prone to splitting. And Béarnaise more so than Hollandaise, I’ve found.
Restaurants never, ever make Béarnaise Sauce ahead, I keep getting told!
So anyway, there’s two easy solutions:
- Prep everything ahead and make while protein is resting – I did this last weekend with salmon and it really was a no-brainer. Just have the butter cut and in a jug ready to melt, the vinegar already infused, herbs chopped, jug and stick blender out and ready to use. Then it really was a 2 minutes job to blitz it all up while the salmon was resting; or
- Keep finished sauce warm in a thermos – Admittedly I haven’t done this for a gathering, but I did it when taking the photos. It was as good as new 1 hour later as if it were freshly made!
What to serve with Béarnaise Sauce
Béarnaise is a very traditional sauce for steak, one that you almost always see at higher-end steakhouses and classic French bistros. And it is exceptional with steak, for sure.
But try it with salmon. It’s Incredible – with a capital I!! The luxurious mouthfeel and the fresh tarragon flavour is a dead set perfect match with the rich oily flavour of salmon.
I want to tell you that Salmon with Béarnaise Sauce is one of the best things I’ve eaten this year, but that’s not really a grand statement given it’s only early February!
But really, it is that good. I’d choose salmon over steak any day! – Nagi x
Complete your plate
Recipes featured in this post:
- Steak – Cooked the cheffy way, basted with garlic butter;
- Crispy Skin Salmon – Else just pan sear skinless salmon, or any white fish will be great with Béarnaise too, for that matter. Salt, pepper, 3 minutes each side;
- Creamy Mashed Potato and Creamy Cauliflower Mash (low carb option); and
- Green Bean Salad – Minus the tomato and onion.
Watch how to make it
Béarnaise Sauce – Fast, easy, foolproof method
No one will know you didn’t whisk it by hand. And you know it will work every single time – because it’s foolproof. Not even the most seasoned chefs can say that about hand-whisking!
Serve over steak or pan seared salmon for a fine dining restaurant experience at home.
Makes enough to (very) generously sauce 3 large steaks, or 4 sensible portions.
Infused Vinegar :
- 1 ½ tbsp white wine , dry, not too fruity, sweet or woody (Note 1)
- 1 ½ tbsp white wine vinegar (Note 2)
- ¼ tsp black pepper , coarsely crushed
- 1 eschallot (small), peeled and finely sliced (Note 3)
- 2 sprigs tarragon (Note 6)
- 3 egg yolks , at room temperature (Note 4)
- ¼ tsp salt , kosher/cooking salt
- 225g / 16 tbsp unsalted butter , cut into 1cm / 1″ cubes – 2 US sticks (Note 5)
- ½ tbsp tarragon leaves , finely chopped (Note 6)
- ½ tbsp chervil , finely chopped (Note 6)
Place Infused Vinegar ingredients in a small saucepan over medium low heat.
Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from stove and let it stand for 5 minutes to infuse.
Strain, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible. You should have around 1 tbsp of liquid. Cool 5 minutes before use.
Quick Clarified Butter:
Place butter in a jug and microwave until melted (1 – 1½ minutes on high, but watch it carefully so it doesn’t explode!).
Stand for 30 seconds until the milky whites settle at the bottom (this is the milk solids) and clarified butter (golden part) sits above it.
Pour off 175g / 3/4 cup of the clarified butter, discard the milky whites remaining. Use in this recipe while hot.
Alternative: Just melt 175g / 3/4 cup ghee, which is the same thing as clarified butter.
Place egg yolks, infused vinegar and salt in a tall, narrow container that the blender stick fits in all the way to the base. Blitz briefly to combine.
With the stick blender going on high, slowly drizzle the butter in over about a minute.
After all the butter is in, blitz for a further 10 seconds, moving the stick up and down.
Thickness: Add 1 tablespoon water, then blitz to incorporate. Add more water as needed, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the Bearnaise Sauce is a thick sauce but loose enough to ooze across a steak, coating it thickly.
Fresh herbs: Stir in tarragon and chervil.
Using: Use immediately, or keep warm until required. I use a thermos – a good one will keep it warm for at least 1 hour. Use warm or at room temperature. See note for storing and reheating.
2. Vinegar – Champagne vinegar also works great. Cider vinegar works fine too.
3. Eschalot/shallot – The small onion-like vegetables, also called French eschalots. Sub with 1 tbsp very finely sliced normal onion.
4. Egg yolks – Easiest to separate when fridge cold, but then leave them for 15 minutes to take the chill out of them. Do not use while fridge cold, it may not incorporate properly with the butter.
Using egg whites – I’ve been on a mission to make a killer egg white omelette using leftovers from all the Béarnaise shooting (of which there were lots!), but I’m not there yet. All iterations have been loosely revolved around whisking whites until foamy to make a soufflé style omelette, along the lines of the following:
- Spray a small-medium non-stick skillet with oil then sauté a small amount of chopped red capsicum/bell pepper, ham, eschalot and ½ a small garlic clove. When ham is golden, remove, wipe skillet, spray again, let cool then heat to medium low;
- Whisk whites with salt and pepper very vigorously for 30 sec so it’s foamy (I’m not pulling out my electric beater at 6am!), then whisk in some finely chopped chives. Pour into pan, cook for 1½ minutes or so until set on underside, then flip like a pancake and cook other side. Serve folded in half with the ham and veg inside. Guilt-free breakfast, and super-filling too!
5. Butter – We need 175g / 3/4 cup clarified butter for this recipe. With the quick clarified butter method used in this recipe, you will lose around 30 – 50g of butter, which is why we start with more.
Ghee – instead of making clarified butter, just use 175g / 3/4 cup ghee instead. Melt until hot and use per recipe.
6. Tarragon is the signature herb of Béarnaise, so you really can’t substitute this! Chervil can be substituted with parsley.
7. Make ahead – Can be done but it’s difficult to reheat after refrigeration (it goes hard like butter). Bizarrely it’s more prone to splitting than Hollandaise which I’ve revived many times. It’s best to make fresh, as follows:
- Prep everything ahead then make it fresh while your cooked protein is resting (it really does take 2 – 3 minutes flat); or
- Make up to an hour or so ahead and keep warm in thermos.
8. Nutrition per serving, Béarnaise Sauce only. It’s worth every calorie!
Life of Dozer
No dogs allowed on the surf beaches in this area.
This is the beach in question that he’s yearning to get down to – Mona Vale Beach, my local. And occasionally he does get away from me, oops.