Blend

Easy Béarnaise Sauce

by:
March 11, 2021
4.7 Stars
Photo by Julia Gartland
Author Notes

It was yet another night of procrastination. Instead of writing and updating my blog, I found myself scrolling through the endless glut of YouTube cooking videos, clicking through one clickbait-y title after another, helplessly spiralling into the black hole that is the "Recommended for You" bar.

While binging on Binging With Babish, I somehow ended up on a 19-minute video of a chef cooking and talking in Dutch. (Fun fact: I don’t speak Dutch.) The chef in question: Peter Goossens, owner of Hof van Cleve, a 3-Michelin-starred restaurant in Belgium that's regularly featured on the world’s best restaurants lists. In this particular video, Chef Goossens makes one of his signature dishes, turbot with lobster Béarnaise. Though seemingly extravagant at first, 9 minutes and 20 seconds in, I had the biggest culinary revelation of the year as I watched him make a much easier Béarnaise sauce that breaks all conventions.

Béarnaise is a close cousin to one of the five mother sauces of French cuisine: hollandaise. It's rich, tangy, and most importantly, fluffy. Like hollandaise, Béarnaise is traditionally made with a base of egg yolks and butter that's whisked until it's doubled or tripled in volume. Kind of like a fluffy mayonnaise, if you will—only richer and decidedly more French. But unlike hollandaise, which has lemon juice in it, Béarnaise is perfumed with tarragon, shallots, and white wine vinegar, and is luxuriously divine when slathered onto steaks and seafood.

In culinary school, I was taught the classical French way of making it: constantly whisking the yolks over a bain-marie or double boiler, while gently streaming in clarified butter until the sauce emulsifies. While this might sound simple in theory, Béarnaise really is one of the toughest French sauces to master. Whisk it too gently and it won’t get sufficiently fluffy. Heat it too quickly and the egg yolks will cook and the sauce will curdle. Stream in the butter too abruptly and you’ll get butter-soup instead of a velvety sauce.

Even after nine months of culinary school and over a dozen tries, any attempt I make at cooking a Béarnaise sauce will seem more like a gamble than any application of actual culinary knowhow. So when I saw Chef Goossens’s audaciously easy method for making Béarnaise, I was shell-shocked. Not only did it take a fraction of the time it takes me to make it, the resultant sauce was twice as fluffy and velvety as any Béarnaise I’d ever made. All he did was put two egg yolks in a saucepan with some water and what I'm guessing was tarragon oil (I don't speak Dutch), and whisked it over the flattop stove until the eggs were aerated, no double boiler needed.

To finish it off, he just plopped some soft butter into the fluffy egg-sauce, and that was that! The whole thing took less than 5 minutes. In a daze from the sheer simplicity of this technique, I tried recreating it at home, and it totally worked! While I did have to do some guesswork in estimating the quantities of ingredients used in the video, I was in awe as each time I whisked one of my test batches, the lustrous sauce came together like magic.

Needless to say, Chef Goossens’s Béarnaise hack totally puts all my culinary school struggles to shame. And in doing so, he’s made the typically finicky, hard-to-master French steak sauce a feasible undertaking for any home cook. —Jun

Test Kitchen Notes

Prepare the ingredients before you start, because when the sauce starts cooking you won't have time to begin chopping tarragon or separating eggs. Lower heat is better, the sauce will split if cooked too quickly. If the sauce does look like it is about to split—taking on an ever-so-slightly greasy appearance—take it off the heat and beat in a dash of cold water to bring it back together. —The Editors

  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • makes 1 cup
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 3 sprigs tarragon, leaves stripped and roughly chopped
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Place the white wine vinegar, minced shallot, and half the chopped tarragon in a saucepan. Heat this on a medium-low flame for 5 minutes, until the shallots are sweated and the liquid has reduced by about half. Strain out the solids, replace the concentrated liquid back into the saucepan, and let it cool to room temperature.
  2. Add the egg yolks, water, vegetable oil, and salt into the saucepan with the concentrated vinegar, and heat over a medium-low flame while whisking vigorously. The goal here is to whisk the eggs to a fluffy, custard-like consistency, which should take around 3-5 minutes. Once you see it start to steam, be extra-vigilant: if you overcook the sauce, it’ll turn into scrambled eggs. Remove the pan from the heat if needed to better control the temperature.
  3. When the sauce thickens and reaches the desired consistency, add in the butter and the rest of the chopped tarragon, and whisk until the butter dissolves.
  4. The sauce is best served immediately, but can hold well for 30 minutes to an hour. It’s classically paired with steak, but can go well with fish or even grilled vegetables!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jody and Eddie
    Jody and Eddie
  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
  • Jun
    Jun
  • sporty
    sporty

13 Reviews

sporty August 27, 2021
Gonna echo Jenna below.. da hamm man, that kinda blew my mind 😘
Mom came over for my b-day dinner tonight and although I was hesitant at first (cuz old school), ultimately I decided thunderbirds are go for this version. A smooth sauce was born over low heat in the first try! Perfecto over a tenderloin filet, blasted on a 450f pan, with sousvide asparagus (180f 10min). Me thinks this will be made over and over again! I was nervous trying this but wow so easy … but ya still gotta get your whisk on 💪
Thanks food52 🖖
 
Jenna August 24, 2021
This technique Blew. My. Mind. Wow! I was super suspect the whole time. But it turned into a super fluffy herby béarnaise that really brought the meal together. Tonight was our 18th wedding anniversary, and since we live in Tahoe, where due to the fires we currently have the worst air quality in the world, we enjoyed surf & turf at home. Thank You! Next up I'm going to try this technique for a hollandaise
 
sue August 6, 2021
Even I could not mess thes up. Turned out very good. Added a little lump crabmeat to the sauce and served
 
TLS March 11, 2021
This had to be one of the easiest and most fool proof ways to make béarnaise sauce, so thanks for this.
 
Four970Him March 10, 2021
The reduction amount leaves almost no liquid whatsoever. The extremely little amount of butter made me suspicious also. I'm sorry but this created a very dissappointing sauce.
 
TLS March 11, 2021
Truly must've fine something wrong then, as I've made this several times and it comes out great.
 
Rickiam November 23, 2019
Would it be possible to double this recipe? Has anyone tried to do that?
 
Jody A. September 2, 2018
Okay, Yi Jun Loh, I had to come back here to tell you my results. Bar none! This turned out to be so easy and superb.
I made the sauce by prepping the macerated shallots and vinegar strained and set aside until I was ready to use it.
I decided to recreate the entire meal you have pictured above by sous-viding two Prime N.Y. Strips, hand-cut frites fried in peanut oil and duck fat, seasoned with a simple de Camargue fleur de sel, and a salad of mixed greens, arugula and baby spinach tossed in a champagne vinaigrette with goat cheese crumbles.
Before the searing of the steaks in my homemade ghee and some French butter and after the first fry of the potatoes, I finished assembling the sauce. Wow, so easy and it whisked together seamlessly. Also, I must note that surprisingly the sauce held together better than the traditional method, absolutely no separation at all.
Thanks to you this will be the only way I make Bearnaise from now on, the Bain-Marie is now vanquished for chocolate only! LOL
I have a question for you... Do you think I use your method here to make a simple Hollandaise, of course by eliminating the shallots and vinegar?
IE:
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 dash of cayenne
1 tablespoon butter, softened at room temperature
 
Author Comment
Jun September 7, 2018
Hi Jody and Eddie, thank you so much! I'm so glad you liked the recipe. I was floored the first time I tested it too!! Haha. And your meal sounds absolutely delish. (Steaks seared in ghee?! I gotta try that!)

Also yes, you could definitely whip up a hollandaise with this method too!
 
Jody A. August 30, 2018
Thank you, Yi.
Definitely going to be making this tomorrow to accompany my steak frites dinner!
 
isw August 30, 2018
Been making it with a stick blender for years (just like mayonnaise). Why is this way better? Does it produce a better result?
 
Author Comment
Jun August 30, 2018
Yup the results are quite different! If you do it mayo-style, very little air gets trapped in the sauce. But if you whisk it while heating it gently, the yolks get a bit cooked and holds its structure better, thereby allowing some air to be trapped in it. So it yields a fluffy, aerated sauce (which does deflate slowly over time, so serve it quick!), as opposed to a flat emulsification like a mayonnaise.
 
Eric K. August 29, 2018
This was life-changing for me, Jun. Always thought I hated Béarnaise until I tasted your version, which is rich yet lighter and less nauseatingly claggy. Coated the steak (and my tongue!) beautifully.