How to Make Hollandaise Sauce

4.75 from 24 votes
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Homemade hollandaise sauce adds a touch of elegance to any meal. It’s a warmed egg and butter emulsion made quickly on the stovetop. This rich and velvety sauce is a breakfast staple to drizzle over eggs benedict or savory poultry, seafood, and vegetables.

Spoon pouring hollandaise sauce over a poached egg avocado toast.

You can make this hollandaise sauce recipe with just a few simple ingredients. I streamline the traditional stovetop process, which usually involves creating an acid reduction, straining, and clarifying butter. This method is much more home-cook friendly. The sauce comes together faster than you’d expect, adding a gourmet touch to any dish.

Making the sauce demands your attention because it uses delicate ingredients that must be properly incorporated. Once you create an emulsion a few times, it will be a breeze to whip up. It starts with aerating and gently cooking egg yolks over a double boiler, then gradually whisking in melted butter until a thickened and smooth sauce appears.

Melting butter in a nonstick frying pan.

What is hollandaise sauce?

Hollandaise sauce is an oil-in-water emulsion. The sauce ingredients include egg yolks, lemon juice, vinegar, melted butter (traditionally clarified butter with milk solids removed), and cayenne pepper.

For a taste boost, whole peppercorns can be reduced with a vinegar and water mixture to infuse flavor without the black speckles. It’s then mixed in with the egg yolks. The sauce should be eaten warm and has a lovely rich yet foamy and pourable consistency that clings onto food.

How to make hollandaise sauce

  • Make a double boiler simmering over medium heat.
  • Whisk egg yolks, water, and vinegar in a bowl over warm water until thickened.
  • Take the eggs off the heat and whisk in the lemon juice.
  • Whisk in the warm melted butter, a few drops at a time.
  • Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

How does a double boiler work?

The process involves using a double boiler or stainless steel bowl fitted on top of a pot to heat the sauce. The steam from the hot water gently heats the bottom of the bowl, which creates a warm surface to cook the eggs. This helps the egg gradually warm and starts to thicken at around 149ºF (65ºC). We’re trying to avoid the yolks from setting, which happens between 158 to 160ºF (70 to 71ºC).

Person whisking egg in a double boiler.

How do you prevent the egg from overcooking?

To prevent the yolks from overheating, ensure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. The water should stay at a simmer, and continuously whisk the egg yolks. As the yolks are warmed and whipped, they transform from a golden color with a runny consistency to a lightened cream color with a thick texture.

If you don’t see this change, the hollandaise sauce will not correctly thicken. The butter is warmed to about 140 to 145ºF (60 to 63ºC). This keeps the egg yolks warm but does not cook them.

How to ensure a proper emulsion

Slowly streaming the warm butter into the eggs while mixing is critical to creating the silky sauce. The sauce turns lighter in color, thickens, and thins in consistency as more butter is added. The final sauce should have the texture of lightly whipped cream.

Start with just a few drops at a time and mix. If you add too much butter all at once, suspending the oil in water will be extremely difficult. Clarified butter tends to make the emulsion more stable. However, since this homemade recipe is made in small amounts and not used in a restaurant setting, whole butter will work fine.

Egg color turning lighter yellow after being whisked in a double boiler.

How long does hollandaise sauce last?

Freshly made hollandaise sauce should be kept warm and enjoyed within 1 ½ hours. This can be done by setting it over the double boiler to reheat gently. The sauce should be refrigerated and covered within 2 hours of cooking.

To reheat the hollandaise sauce, stir over a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl in 10-second increments in the microwave, stirring in between until it reaches 145ºF (63ºC). Do not overcook, or the sauce will curdle.

What causes a hollandaise sauce to break?

A tell-tale sign of a broken hollandaise sauce is if it’s grainy in texture, the butter is pooled on top, or it’s thin in consistency. Broken sauces typically happen because the emulsion never formed in the first place due to various causes.

  • Adding in the butter too quickly
  • The egg yolk heated up too much, and the emulsifying properties are lost
  • The yolks are overcooked, and the sauce is curdled and grainy
  • Using very hot butter to emulsify the sauce
Pouring warm butter into a bowl with a whisk to make hollandaise sauce.

How do you fix a broken hollandaise sauce?

If the sauce is grainy, you cannot save it. It’s best to start over. I find the most effective method is to use a clean bowl and repeat the double boiler method by adding two new egg yolks, 1 teaspoon of water, and ½ teaspoon vinegar, whip until thickened, and then gradually add in the broken sauce.

No need to use new butter. If the sauce is too hot, allow it to cool down before rescuing it, or if it’s too cold, heat it slightly over the double boiler.

Is it safe to eat hollandaise sauce?

To ensure that the hollandaise sauce is safe to eat and not raw, the egg yolk must reach at least 149ºF (65ºC) to help destroy any harmful bacteria. This temperature is achieved when the yolk is warmed over the double boiler or bain marie (a pan with simmering water to place a bowl on top for warming).

If you aren’t serving the sauce immediately, keep it warm, between 141 to 145ºF (61 to 65ºC), for no more than 1 ½ hours. If heated over 150ºF (66ºC), the sauce will become cooked and grainy in texture. If held below 45ºF (7ºC), the sauce will become solid and not ideal for use.

Keep the sauce out of the temperature danger zone between 40 to 140ºF (4 to 60ºC), as bacteria can multiply rapidly. I use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature during the preparation steps and the final sauce.

What can you serve with hollandaise sauce?

Spoon lifting homemade hollandaise sauce from a ramekin.

How does hollandaise sauce stay emulsified and smooth?

The lecithin in the egg yolk is a strong natural emulsifier that coats individual fat droplets as it’s whisked to help hold them in the water suspension. The physical agitation of whisking the butter into the egg and liquid mixture helps to break the fat into smaller droplets. This allows the water and fat to mix in an opaque emulsion sauce. These two things ensure that the ingredients stay smooth and do not separate, like making mayonnaise.

Hollandaise Sauce

Hollandaise sauce is a breakfast staple to drizzle over eggs benedict, or savory poultry, seafood, and vegetable dishes.
4.75 from 24 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Course Condiment
Cuisine French

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • ¾ teaspoon white wine vinegar, or distilled white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • kosher salt, for seasoning
  • cayenne pepper, for seasoning

Instructions 

  • Combine Ingredients – Place egg yolks, water, and vinegar in a medium stainless steel bowl. Set aside.
  • Heat the Water – Fill a saucepan with about 2 inches of water. The bottom of the bowl containing the egg mixture should not touch the water. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. 
  • Whisk the Eggs – Place the bowl on top of the saucepan. Whisk the mixture vigorously and continuously until the eggs turn cream-colored and thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the pot. Whisk in the lemon juice to help the egg stop cooking.
  • Melt the Butter – Melt the butter in a medium skillet over low heat. It should be warmed to between 140 to 145ºF (60 to 63ºC) when added to the egg yolk mixture.
  • Add the Butter to the Eggs – Nestle the bowl containing the egg mixture in a kitchen towel to keep it in place when whisking. Add a few drops of melted butter into the eggs very slowly, constantly whisking to create an emulsion.
    Gradually add more butter, constantly whisking until all of it is incorporated. The sauce should be thick and velvety.
  • Season the Sauce – Add in salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Add more lemon juice if desired for a more tartness.

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: About ½ cup (120ml) of sauce.
  • Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
  • Restaurant-Quality: Use Ghee or clarified butter instead of butter.
  • Storing: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost before using. 
  • Reheating: Place sauce in a double boiler, whisking until warm. 

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 8 servings
Calories 115kcal (6%)Fat 12g (18%)Saturated Fat 7g (35%)Cholesterol 76mg (25%)Sodium 3mgPotassium 4mgVitamin A 415IU (8%)Vitamin C 0.5mg (1%)Calcium 9mg (1%)Iron 0.1mg (1%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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8 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Stephanie says

    Hi there!
    The recipe looks delicious. Can you please clarify what you mean by “nested in a kitchen” on step 6? Thanks!

  2. Saundra says

    The sauce is very thick and tart without adding extra lemon juice. What can i use to thin it out? I would lower the lemon juice to 1tsp.

  3. Patty Gwin says

    Just made the sauce and put over poached eggs. Excellent sauce. My husband and I loved it. Lots of whisking but good for the muscles.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I love that cooking can incorporate some fitness too! Thank you for sharing your culinary sauce success!

  4. Vickie Jo Mosqueda-Ihrig says

    Your hollandaise sauce is the bomb. Super delicious and easy to make. My family loved it. Thank you

  5. CRAIG DRONGOWSKI says

    You say clarified butter is preferred, but then in the actual recipe you melt butter. If I’m using clarified butter, do I need to use less? There’s a big difference between a melted stick of unsalted butter and 1/2 cup of clarified butter. A half cup of clarified butter would have come from about a stick-and-a-half of unsalted butter. So which do I use? If I use 1/2 cup of clarified butter it’s like I’m using one and a half sticks. How will that affect the sauce?