In cooking, a sauce is liquid or sometimes semi-solid food served on or used in preparing other foods. Sauces are not consumed by themselves; they add flavor, moisture, and visual appeal to another dish. Sauce is a French word taken from the Latin salsus, meaning salted. Sauces need a liquid component, but some sauces (for example, salsa or chutney) may contain more solid elements than liquid.

Sauces may be prepared sauces, such as soy sauce, which are usually bought, not made, by the cook; or cooked sauces, such as Béchamel sauce, which are generally made just before serving. Sauces for salads are called salad dressing. Sauces made by deglazing a pan are called pan sauces.

A person who specializes in making sauces is often referred to as a "saucier", a French term borrowed for its situational usefulness. Sauces are an essential element in cuisines all over the world. Some famous sauciers include Julia Child, Benjamin Christie, Yutaka Ishinabe, and François Pierre La Varenne.

Sauces in French cuisine

Sauces in French cuisine date back to Medieval times. There were hundreds of sauces in the culinary repertoire. In 'classical' French cooking (19th and 20th century until nouvelle cuisine), sauces were a major defining characteristic of French cuisine.

In the 19th century, the chef Antonin Carême classified sauces into four families, each of which was based on a mother sauce (Also called grand sauces). Carême's four mother sauces were:

  • Allemande, based on white stock, thickened with egg yolk.
  • Béchamel, based on milk, thickened with roux.
  • Espagnole, based on brown stock (usually veal), thickened with roux.
  • Velouté, based on a white stock, thickened with roux.

In the early 20th century, the chef Auguste Escoffier updated the classification, adding new sauces such as tomato sauce, butter sauces and emulsified sauces such as Mayonnaise and Hollandaise.

Most sauces commonly used in classical cuisine are derivatives of one of the above mentioned mother sauces. Mother sauces are not commonly served as-is; instead they are augmented with additional ingredients to make derivative sauces. For example, Bechamel can be made into Mornay by the addition of Gruyère, and Espagnole becomes Bordelaise with the addition of reduced red wine and poached beef marrow.

Sauces in other cuisines

Sauces and condiments also play an important role in other cuisines:

Asian prepared sauces are not thick as they do not contain thickening agents such as flour. The thickening occurs in the last minutes of cooking when thickeners like corn starch are added.

Sauce variations

There are also many sauces based on tomato (such as tomato ketchup and tomato sauce), other vegetables and various spices. Although the word 'ketchup' by itself usually refers to tomato ketchup, other vegetables or fruits may be used to prepare ketchups.

Sauces can also be sweet, and used either hot or cold to accompany and garnish a dessert.

Another kind of sauce is made from stewed fruit, usually strained to remove skin and fibers and often sweetened. Such sauces, including applesauce and cranberry sauce, are often eaten with specific other foods (apple sauce with pork, ham, or potato pancakes; cranberry sauce with poultry) or served as desserts.

Examples of sauces

White sauces

Brown sauces

Béchamel family

Emulsified sauces

Butter sauces

Sweet sauces

Sauces made of chopped fresh ingredients

Hot sauces (Chile pepper-tinged sauces)

East Asian sauces

Southeast Asian sauces

Other sauces

See also


  • Peterson, James (1998). Sauces. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-29275-3.
  • Sokolov, Raymond (1976). The Saucier's Apprentice. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-48920-9.
  • McGee, Harold (1984). On Food and Cooking. Macmillan. ISBN 0-02-034621-2.
  • McGee, Harold (1990). The Curious Cook. Macmillan. ISBN 0865474524.

External links

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