Essential Sauces Every Cook Should Know

If you have a beautiful meal before you, whether on a date or during a holiday feast with your family, the one thing that may be most important to you is the sauce. Without sauce, so many meals would go undressed and drab in taste and presentation. From demi-glace concentrate to espagnole, here are some of the essential sauces you should know how to make to enhance any meal.


Béchamel is the term used for a roux made from milk. If you’ve ever made mac and cheese from scratch or a chicken pot pie, you may have used béchamel as the base. Its usually cooked as a base sauce because it doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own.


Espagnole is another word for a basic brown sauce used as a base in many meals. It’s generally made from beef stock, tomato puree, and mirepoix and thickened with brown roux. Beef bourguinon and demi-glace generally have espagnole as a base.


Hollandaise is a delicious and rich sauce that’s thickened by egg yolks and butter. Because butter and yolks typically don’t blend together very well, it’s often difficult to master hollandaise. However, once you get the mixture just right, hollandaise is an amazing finishing sauce for many meals or as a dipping sauce for vegetables.

Tomato Sauce

Tomato sauce has been created since at least the early 19th century by cooking tomatoes down into a thick pasty sauce. The modern-day tomato sauces you know and love are made with tomatoes and seasoned with herbs and spices. However, tomato sauce made in the traditional French culinary style is flavored with pork and vegetables.


If you’ve ever made a basic white roux whisked with clear stock such as chicken or fish, then you made veloute. The name comes from the French word for velvet and is extraordinarily good served as a finishing sauce over steamed or poached fish or poultry.

You’ve probably heard someone say “the secret’s in the sauce.” They may have been saying so figuratively as “secret sauce” often refers to a special feature of a company that’s been the key factor in their success. However, all too often, the secret actually is in the sauce, whether it’s made from a roux or demi-glace concentrate. Food generally just tastes better with delicious sauce on it, so it’s vital to know how to complete your meal with one of or all of these mouthwatering sauces.

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