Hollandaise sauce adds a touch of elegance to any meal. It’s a warmed egg and butter emulsion made with ease on the stovetop. This rich and velvety sauce is a breakfast staple to drizzle over eggs benedict, or savory poultry, seafood, and vegetables.
You can make hollandaise sauce with just a few simple ingredients. In this recipe, 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 and adds a gourmet touch to any dish.
Making the sauce demands your attention because it uses delicate ingredients that need to be properly incorporated. Once you get the hang of creating 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, and then gradually whisking in melted butter until a smooth and thickened sauce appears.
What is hollandaise sauce?
Hollandaise sauce is an oil-in-water emulsion made with egg yolks, vinegar, lemon juice, melted butter (traditionally clarified butter with milk solids removed), and cayenne pepper. For a taste boost, whole peppercorns are 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 nice 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 the warm water until thickened.
- Take the eggs off the heat and whisk in the lemon juice.
- Whisk in warm melted butter a few drops at a time.
- Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.
How does a double boiler work?
Using a double boiler, or stainless steel bowl fitted on top of a pot, the steam gently heats the bottom of the bowl which creates a warm surface to cook the eggs. This helps the egg gradually warm and thicken at around 149ºF (65ºC). The yolks sets between 158 to 160ºF (70 to 71ºC), which we’re trying to avoid.
How do you prevent the egg from overcooking?
In order to prevent the yolks from overheating make sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl, the water stays at a simmer, and continuously whisk the eggs yolks. As the yolks are warmed and whipped they transform from a golden color with a runny consistency, to a lightened cream color with thick texture.
If you don’t see this change, the hollandaise sauce will not properly thicken. The butter is also 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
The gradual incorporation of butter into the eggs while mixing is key to create the silky sauce. You can see the sauce turn lighter in color, thicken, and than get thinner 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, it will be extremely difficult to suspend the oil in water. Clarified butter tends to make the emulsion more stable. However, since this is a homemade recipe made in small amounts and not used in a restaurant setting, using whole butter will work just fine.
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 gently reheat. 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 (63ºF). 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 happen typically because the emulsion never formed in the first place, due to various causes.
- Adding in the butter in 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
- The butter is too hot when it was added in
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 then allow it to cool down before rescuing it, or if it’s too cold heat it up 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 needs to reach at least 149ºF (65ºC) to help destroy any harmful bacteria present. This temperature is reached 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 right away, make sure to keep the sauce 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 of 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?
- Top on eggs benedict
- Vegetables like asparagus, roasted tomatoes, broccoli
- Poached salmon or chicken
- Roasted potatoes
- Baked potato
- Make it a béarnaise sauce by adding in shallots and herbs
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 in the butter into the egg and liquid mixture helps to break the fat into smaller droplets. This allows the water and fat to mix together in an opaque emulsion sauce. These two things ensure that the ingredients stay smooth and do not separate, similar to making mayonnaise.
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- 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
- Place egg yolks, water, and vinegar in a medium stainless steel bowl.
- Fill a double boiler with about 2 inches of water, or pot large enough to have the bowl sit on top without touching the water. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat.
- Place the bowl on top of the pot, whisk the egg 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 in a skillet, it should be between 140 to 145ºF (60 to 63ºC) when adding to the egg yolk mixture.
- Place the bowl containing the egg mixture nested in a kitchen towel to help keep the bowl in place when whisking in the butter.
- Very slowly start to add a few drops of melted butter at a time into the eggs, whisking constantly to create an emulsion.
- Continue to gradually add in the butter, constantly whisking until all of the butter is incorporated. The sauce should be thick and velvety.
- Add in salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Add more lemon juice if desired for a more tartness.
- Recipe Yield: about 1/2 cup (120ml) of sauce.
- Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
- Ghee or clarified butter can be used instead of butter.
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