Béarnaise Sauce From Scratch


This cheerful yellow sauce is one of my favorite condiments. It's light and fluffy, yet thick and creamy, and also smooth and silky. Béarnaise sauce is an elegant accompaniment to a special meal, and making it from scratch is easier than it looks. Tarragon gives it the signature flavor, so make it now while fresh herbs are still in season.

You'll want to slather this sauce on everything in sight, but in my opinion it's best served with red meat like grass-fed beef, buffalo, or venison, and with white fish and seafood like halibut, haddock, shrimp and lobster.

Vegetarians can spoon it over broiled portobello mushrooms, tamari-marinated tofu triangles, and grilled vegetable skewers.

This recipe is a slight departure than a traditional Béarnaise sauce. I used red wine vinegar and red onion (they didn't ruin the bright yellow color) instead of white wine vinegar and shallot because their flavor is a bit sharper and because I always have them on hand. I also added the zest of the lemon, instead of just the juice, for a little extra zing and because anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compounds are found there. If your lemon is not organic, omit the zest.

Whipping up a good Béarnaise does require a few different steps, but none are terribly difficult and the results are greater than the effort. This sauce can be prepared in advance but it's best served fresh, at room temperature, within an hour.

This recipe makes about a cup of sauce. Store any excess in an air tight container in the fridge. It will be a bit thicker after it's been refrigerated, so allow it to come to room temperature and serve it with very hot food.

1/4 cup Sauvignon Blanc or other dry white wine
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh tarragon leaves, plus 1 tbsp minced tarragon
1 organic lemon
Several grinds of peppercorn
3 egg yolks at room temperature
1 stick best quality butter (grass-fed or organic), at room temperature and cut into 8 pieces
Sea salt to taste
  1. In a small sauce pan, combine the white wine, vinegar, onion and tarragon. Zest half of the lemon into the mixture and add several grinds of peppercorn. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer over low heat until it has reduced to about 2 tablespoons of liquid. Pour it through a fine mesh strainer into a medium glass or stainless steel mixing bowl. Press out and discard the solids. Set it aside to cool.
  2. Prepare a pan of simmering water on the stove to use as a double boiler.
  3. One by one, whisk the egg yolks into the strained liquid until smooth. Set the bowl on top of the pan of simmering water and continue whisking. The mixture should get foamy and once it starts to thicken, add a piece of butter. Continue whisking and just before the butter has fully dissolved, add another piece. Continue until all of the butter is fully incorporated.
  4. Remove the bowl from the heat. Whisk in the lemon juice, the remaining tarragon, and a generous pinch of sea salt. Taste the sauce for seasoning and make any necessary adjustments.
  5. Serve the Béarnaise sauce immediately or set it aside at room temperature for up to an hour while you prepare the rest of the meal. If the sauce is still warm and you plan to serve it later, whisk it until it cools to room temperature. This should happen rather quickly once it's off the heat.
  6. Store any leftover sauce in an airtight container in the fridge.