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Born of a culinary error: delicious béarnaise sauce

It's perhaps one of the best sauces ever invented in French cuisine: béarnaise sauce. Delicious with meat, it was born of a delicious culinary error in the 19th century. Here's its history and my advice on how to make a good béarnaise.


How to make a real béarnaise




  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 decilitres white wine
  • 5 centilitres spirit vinegar
  • 125 grams butter (half a French cap).
  • 2 shallots
  • Salt and pepper

Herbs to use

  • Estragon
  • Chervil
  • Parsley


The ingredients of a béarnaise. Photo chosen by Depositphotos.

The ingredients of a béarnaise. Photo chosen by Depositphotos.



The process


Prepare what you need:


Separate the yolks from the whites

Chop shallots finely

Chop the tarragon, parsley and chervil.

Keep the tarragon and parsley stems aside.




Tip: all ingredients must be at the same temperature. If you have things in the fridge, take them out ahead of time.



  • Melt the butter (over low heat) and keep it warm.
  • In a saucepan, combine the white wine, vinegar, tarragon and parsley stems, and season with a little pepper.
  • Reduce (by more than half) over medium heat.
  • filter to keep only the concentrate in the pan.
  • Place the egg yolks in another saucepan (thick-bottomed is best).
  • Add the reduction and remove from the heat
  • Whisk the eggs and the reduction briskly.
  • Return to low heat and continue to whisk a little: the creamy, dense mousse you obtain is a sabayon.
  • Remove from the heat and, using a spatula, gradually stir in the melted butter that you have kept warm.
  • Add the chopped herbs and stir again.



How to reheat a béarnaise


If you heat it directly, it may be lost. To reheat a béarnaise, heat it in a bain-marie, by placing its container in a vessel full of boiling water for a few minutes.



The amazing story of Béarnaise


The Henri IV pavilion, the birthplace of Béarnaise sauce (source: wikipedia).

The Henri IV pavilion, the birthplace of Béarnaise sauce (source: wikipedia).


A delicious mistake


According to several sources, béarnaise originated in the 1830s froma mistake made by the chef of a prestigious restaurant , "le pavillon Henri IV" in Saint Germain en Laye. While preparing a shallot reduction, the chef, Jean François Collinet, realized he was missing a few. To avoid losing his shallots, he had the idea of adding a little butter and egg yolk by emulsifying them before serving his slightly modified dish to customers.



And an original name


Henri IV roi de France et de Navarre, né à Pau, dans le Béarn et qui a inspiré involontairement le nom de la Béarnaise. 

Henri IV, King of France and Navarre, was born in Pau, in the Béarn region of France, and unwittingly inspired the name "La Béarnaise".


When a customer asked the chef the name of the sauce he had just tasted, Chef Collinet took a few seconds and was inspired by the bust of Henri IV in the center of the room to name the sauce "la béarnais" , Henri IV having been born in Béarn. Some say that the writer Alexandre DUMAS had a hand in creating the recipe, but nothing is certain.


Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site.