How to make a classic Sauce Bearnaise

Susan, a subscriber to SimplySmartDinnerPlans’ free meal plans, messaged us, asking…

Hi! So here’s a challenge for you…if I could have only ONE recipe ever, it would be for the Bearnaise sauce that accompanied my first filet mignon!
I was 16 years old and on my first prom date at the Compass Room in Phx. I have never forgotten how absolutely delish that sauce was! The only other Bearnaise I had that was even close was at Buddy’s Grill down here in Tucson, and they don’t even offer it any more. I’ve tried making a couple recipes, but they aren’t the same! Care to enlighten me?

Thank you for the question, Susan…I love a challenge!

Béarnaise sauce (or Sauce béarnaise) is considered to be a ‘child’ of the mother Hollandaise sauce, one of the five sauces in the French haute cuisine mother sauce repertoire. The difference is only in their flavoring: Béarnaise uses shallot, peppercorn, and tarragon, while Hollandaise uses lemon juice or white wine. Its name is related to the province of Béarn, France.

The sauce was likely first served at the 1836 opening of Le Pavillon Henri IV, a restaurant at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, not far from Paris. Evidence for this is reinforced by the fact that the restaurant was named for Henry IV of France, a gourmet himself, who was born in the province of Béarn.

In appearance it is light yellow and opaque, smooth and creamy, and is a traditional sauce for steak. (Thank you Wikipedia!)

How to make Bearnaise Sauce

Okay, so I couldn’t find their recipe anywhere, though I did find some reviews that mentioned it being a “classic French Bearnaise”

This is Julia’s recipe for Sauce Bearnaise, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Some tips I’ve learned from watching her shows might lend a hint as to why the version you had was so much better than what you’re used to. This is a sauce that will change completely, based on the quality and handling of ingredients.

Use the freshest possible local eggs (farm fresh), and let them be room temp before using them. Fresh herbs, not dried. Fresh ground pepper. Use a good white wine…doesn’t have to be expensive, but if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.

¼ cup tarragon vinegar
¼ cup dry white wine
2 Tbs. minced shallot
2 Tbs. minced fresh tarragon
1/8 tsp pepper
Pinch of salt
3 egg yolks, room temp
4 Tbs. cold butter
½ to 2/3 cup melted butter
2 Tbs. fresh minced parsley


UPDATE: If you’re having trouble finding tarragon vinegar, here’s a great blog post on how to make your own (super easy). If you’d rather buy it, I’ve added my favorite brand to the hautemealz.com store on Amazon, as well.  – Chef Perry

Saute the shallots, herbs, and seasonings with 1 Tbs of butter over moderate heat. Add vinegar and wine, and bring to a boil until the liquid has reduced to 2 tablespoons. Let it cool.

Add the egg yolks to the vinegar mixture with 2-3 Tbs of warm water, and beat until thick (it should start sticking to the whisk), moving the pan on and off a medium high burner. Beat in the another tablespoon of cold butter, until completely incorporated into the sauce, then repeat with remaining butter. Correct seasoning, and add parsley.

And…here’s how the great lady herself does it…

Bon Appetit!

-Chef Perry