How to Make Hollandaise Sauce

How to Make Hollandaise Sauce

April 27th, 2009; By Chef Jeff

When most folks think about having Hollandaise sauce at home for a meal, they usually consider purchasing a powdered mix or a jar of the pre-packaged variety, but few would consider making it themselves. It does take some patience, materials and attentiveness, but otherwise, it is not a difficult sauce to master. This article will show you how to make it yourself at home if you’d like to give it a try. Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Metal mixing bowl
  • A metal whisk
  • A 2 ounce ladle
  • A double boiler
  • 6 egg yolks (best to use pasteurized eggs)
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt if desired for taste

For the double boiler, I recommend buying an actual double-boiler set so that you do not get burnt by the steam, although 2 similar sized saucepans can be used in place of it.


  • First we need to setup the double boiler. Fill the bottom portion with enough water so that the top section floats, but not so much that when you add the butter, the water flows over. The water, when hot, will be used to melt the butter.
  • Heat the water at medium heat, bringing it to a low simmer. If the top portion of the double boiler is rocking a bit from the simmering water, reduce the heat some.
  • Add your butter to the double boiler and allow it to melt.
  • After about 25-30 minutes, check the butter. The milk in the butter will separate and start to rise to the top. The water will also have started to evaporate out of it. Using a spoon, skim the top of the butter and remove the milk deposits.
    • The result of this is called Clarified Butter. It has a higher smoke point than butter and is preferred by professional chefs.
  • Repeat this process in another 25-30 minutes. At this point, you’ll have gotten most of the milk and water out of the butter. Make sure you remove all of the milk deposits as it can make your Hollandaise sauce ‘lumpy’.
  • Reduce the heat on the double boiler to low, just keeping the butter hot.
  • Crack your eggs and separate the yolks from the white, taking care not to break the yolk. You do not want any white at all! Place your yolks into the metal mixing bowl. An easy way to do this is by pouring the contents of the egg into one hand and allowing the white to slip between your fingers. Then, roll the yolk into the other hand and do this a few times until you’re confident that the white is gone.

  • Egg yolks for Hollandaise Sauce
  • Once you have your yolks, grab your metal whisk and 2 oz. ladle and go back to the double boiler. Remove the top portion from the water, but keep it nearby.
  • Turn the heat back up on the water until it is at a low simmer again.
  • This next part is tricky and can easily "break" your hollandaise sauce so take care to read the instructions carefully!

  • Place the metal mixing bowl over the simmering water and begin whisking the egg yolks briskly in a back and forth or side to side motion for about 3-5 minutes. Take care not to let the bowl get too hot as you do not want the eggs to begin cooking too much and sticking to the side of the bowl. The point here is to slowly heat the egg yolk and thicken it to the point until you can draw a line in the eggs with a whisk or until it can coat the back of a spoon and stick to it.

  • Whisking the egg yolks for Hollandaise Sauce
  • Remove the egg yolks from the heat.
  • While whisking, mix in 2 ounces of the clarified butter at a time using the ladle. You want to use one ladle of butter for each egg yolk, or 2 ounces of butter for each yolk. Do not use more than 12 ounces (6 ladles) of clarified butter.

  • Whisking in the butter for Hollandaise Sauce
  • Once the butter is incorporated into the sauce, mix in the lemon juice, salt and paprika to finish the sauce.
  • Serve immediately or keep it warm until serving. If it sits too long, the butter will separate from the egg yolks (breaks) and your Hollandaise will become lumpy and thick. If you see this start to happen, a quick whisking will fix it up.

And that’s how Hollandaise sauce is made. There are a few ingredients you can substitute if some materials are not on hand:

  • If cayenne pepper is not available, use paprika or a dash of tabasco sauce.
  • If kosher salt is not available, regular salt will suffice
  • If fresh lemons are not available, bottled lemon juice will suffice, but add a few drops at a time until you get the desired taste as it is usually concentrated.

Hollandaise sauce is used to make Béarnaise sauce. Béarnaise sauce includes a reduction of fresh tarragon, red wine vinegar and shallots added to the Hollandaise sauce. Different variations exist and in traditional French cooking, red wine vinegar is not used, but that is how I was taught to make it and is probably a variation of American style cooking.

While working in professional kitchens, some chefs like myself, have used another method for warming the egg yolks. You can warm the egg yolks over a very low flame from a gas burner, but you must take care to tilt the bowl and whisk on the side of the bowl as the metal will get hot quickly and can easily start to cook the egg yolks. It can also burn your hands if you’re not using a towel or oven mitt. If the bowl begins to get too hot (the egg yolk starts to stick to the bowl like scrambled eggs), remove it from the heat and whisk away from the flame, returning it only if the sauce is not thickening.

And there you have it. Enjoy and if you like this article, leave a comment here: Making Hollandaise Sauce at Home

If you think you've got the hang of it and would like to print the recipe, click here!

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