Color and the 5 Basic Sauces

Let  the Spoon Mage™ Help You Learn to create Mother Sauces!

Bechamel Sauce new Mother Sauce 101 copyColor and the Five Basic Sauces

Five sauces rule the kitchen – Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Hollandaise, and Tomato. Fantastically named Mother Sauces, they form the swirling base or hefty ladle of deliciousness on top of your favorite meals.

Once you know what to look for, you’ll see Mother Sauces everywhere – in many recipes, on menus, and on cookery shows. It doesn’t take secret saucery incantations or an analysis of ancient texts to learn to identify them. The easiest way to find the big five is by mindfully considering their colors – white, light brown, deep brown, yellow, and red.

Pause a moment, breathe, and let your imagination stir up a little colorful saucy goodness. 

Sauces, part one: The Overview – What Color is Your Sauce?

The following guide to the five Mother Sauce’s lists their distinctive color, main ingredient, and the type of thickening agent. Yes, there are vegetarian alternatives and in the how-to article for each sauce, we’ll detail the options.

Béchamel (White) – Milk, thickened with white or blonde roux.

Velouté (Light or Medium Brown) – Made with veal, chicken, or fish stock. It is thickened with white, blonde, or light brown roux.

Espagnole (Medium to Deep Brown) – Usually beef or veal stock, thickened with a well-browned roux and seasoned with a bit of tomato puree.

Hollandaise (Pale Yellow or Yellow) – Made with egg yolks and butter, thickened with emulsification.

Tomato (Red!) – Made with tomatoes, is thickened with a medium to dark brown roux or tomato puree.

Sauce color is one easy way to identify a Mother Sauce. My dinner at the quiet Italian restaurant came lightly drizzled with a deep brown savory sauce – an Espagnole. My daughter’s pasta was covered in a creamy white Béchamel sauce. Our vegetarian friend was delighted with the full-bodied deeply red tomato sauce on her vegetables and polenta.

For those new to cooking, roux and emulsification may need a little more explanation.

Roux is made by very slowly sautéing fat and flour to create a thickening agent. The longer it cooks the darker and more flavorful it gets.

Emulsification is the result of mixing an emulsifier (a binding ingredient such as egg or mustard) with an emulsion (ingredients that do not mix well such as oil and vinegar).

In Mother Sauces 101, we will learn to make and use each sauce in recipes. Vegetarian options will be given where appropriate. Links will be added below as the Spoon Mage™ completes the rigorous testing required to make the whole thing easy for you.

First let’s look at one of the most popular sauces of all – the versatile white sauce.

Sauces, part two – Basically Béchamel

Sauces, part three – Velouté

Sauces, part four – Espagnole

Sauces, part five – Hollandaise

Sauces, part six – Tomato, examples include Red Chile Sauce, and Pasta Sauces, or this delicious Tomato Red Onion and Raisin Sauce

Attention chefs:

yes, the information above is simplified and not intended to satisfy a professional chef. It is useful for home cooks and incorporates some non-traditional thinking.

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