Easy Foolproof Béarnaise Sauce

Béarnaise is one of the classic sauces from French cuisine and it is great with steak. The traditional way of preparing it au bain marie requires quite a bit of skill, as the sauces curdles easily. It also requires you to make clarified butter first. And even though you should make clarified butter to cook the steak anyway, using a slightly different technique you can make sauce béarnaise easily with minimal risk of curdling.

Last night’s dinner: a nice juicy steak cooked sous-vide and then seared quickly in very hot clarified butter, hand cut fries, sauce béarnaise, a green salad, and a nice glass of Saint-Émilion Grand Cru.

There are some variation on the recipe, but the basic idea of béarnaise is a hollandaise with tarragon. Some recipes also add parsley and chervil. Some recipes use tarragon vinegar, but instead you can just as easily use the stems of the tarragon to flavor the sauce, which is what I did.


For about 125 ml (1/2 cup) of béarnaise, serves 2

80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine

75 grams (5 1/2 Tbsp) butter

1 Tbsp white wine vinegar

2 Tbsp minced fresh tarragon leaves, stems reserved

1 egg yolk

1 shallot, sliced

1 bay leaf

1 sprig thyme

2 white peppercorns, crushed

salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste


Pick the leaves off the tarragon and mince them, reserve the stems.

Put the white wine, the white wine vinegar, the reserved tarragon stems, the shallot, the bay leaf, the thyme, and the crushed peppercorns in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Simmer over low heat until reduced to about 30 ml (2 Tbsp), 5-10 minutes.

Strain the liquid, pushing down on the shallots. (In Belgium and the Netherlands this liquid is called gastrique, but in France that is something else entirely to make things confusing.)

Allow the saucepan and the liquid to cool somewhat. When they are below 50ºC or 120ºF (so the egg yolk won’t cook), put the egg yolk in the saucepan and add the strained liquid.

Add the butter as well.

Whisk over low heat so the butter will melt. The heat should be low, otherwise the sauce will curdle after all. Keep whisking after the butter has melted…

…until the sauce thickens and resembles mayonnaise. This takes about 5 minutes. Now take the pan off the heat, or keep it warm over very very low heat (as otherwise it will curdle).

Stir in the tarragon and season to taste with salt, freshly ground white pepper, and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Transfer the sauce to a small bowl that you heated up previously (make sure it is not hotter than 60ºC/140ºF, as otherwise the sauce will curdle).


Butterflied salmon fillet filled with a basil-lemon pesto, rolled up into a roulade, cooked sous-vide, and cut into slices that are served on haricots verts. Salmon cooked sous-vide to 43C/109F is amazingly velvety, which contrasts nicely with the crispy haricots verts. The round buttery flavor of the salmon is complemented by the fresh taste of the basil-lemon pesto.

23 thoughts on “Easy Foolproof Béarnaise Sauce

  1. I must try this. (I admit to having cheated and added tarragon to hollandaise.) And also the hand cut fries. A glass of the wine would be great too.

    Your dinner is really a whole cooking lesson in itself! 🙂 Sous vide, deep frying, french sauce, french wine….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree that bearnaise is great with steak. Of course, it is absolutely killer when steak is contrasted by both bearnaise and a red wine demi glace, but I’m sure you know this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t believe I’ve actually tried that combination, not even in a restaurant, but I guess I should 🙂 I bet this would be even better with short ribs cooked sous-vide for 48 hours (57 for regular, 55 for wagyu). That is like steak, but more flavorful and rich.


  3. OK – how about béarnaise in the SV???
    I’ve done hollandaise in the SV – you still have to heat the butter, but the eggs are done at a fairly low temperature – it is a bit of a faff but probably reliable? Let me know and I’ll dig out the recipe (cookbook at home, I’m in London)


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