Kitchen Tips: Sauce Dictionary

Sauce Dictionary

Sometimes remembering the names of so many different sauces can be confusing. To help you keep them straight, this Sauce Dictionary provides descriptions of some of the most commonly used sauces.

Aioli: A strongly flavored garlic mayonnaise from the Provence region of Southern France.

Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce): This basic French white sauce is made by stirring milk into a butter-flour roux. The thickness of the sauce depends on the proportions of flour and butter to milk. The standard ratio is 2 tablespoons each of fat and flour mixed with 1 cup of liquid.

Beurre Blanc Meaning white butter, this classic French sauce is composed of a white wine, vinegar and shallot reduction into which chunks of cold butter are whisked until the sauce is thick and smooth.  It's excellent with poultry, seafood, vegetables and eggs.

Bisque: A rich soup or sauce made of shellfish, tomato, and cream.

Caramel Sauce: White granulated sugar that is cooked until amber-colored and then mixed with heavy cream.

Chutney: A cooked combination of fruit, vinegar, sugar, and spices. Ketchup is a type of chutney.

Compote: Fresh or dried fruits that have been slowly cooked in a sugar syrup.

Confit: To cook in fat at a low temperature (under 200 degrees F).

Coulis: A pureed and strained fruit sauce.

Crème Anglaise: A custard made of egg yolks and cream that is cooked on the stove-top.

Crème Fraiche: A thick, soured cream that is made by combining 1 cup heavy cream with ¼ cup buttermilk and letting sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

Curd: A creamy, citrus-flavored filling made from eggs, butter, and sugar.

Curry: 1. Spices used in Indian cooking or 2. a coconut milk-based dish from Thailand.

Demi-glace: Veal stock flavored with aromatics and reduced to half of its original volume. This sauce base can then be flavored with wine, alcohol, mushrooms, fruits, or vinegar.

Emulsion: A smooth mixture of two liquids which do not normally combine (oil and water are the classic example).  Emulsifying is done slowly (sometimes drop-by-drop), adding one ingredient to another while at the same time whisking rapidly.  Whisking disperses and suspends minute droplets of one liquid throughout the other.  Emulsified mixtures are usually thick and satiny in texture.  Mayonnaise (an uncooked combination of oil, egg yolks and vinegar or lemon juice) and Hollandaise sauce (a cooked mixture of butter, egg yolks and vinegar or lemon juice) are two of the best known emulsions.

Espagnole Sauce (Brown Sauce) Brown sauce is used as a base for dozens of sauces.  It's traditionally made of meat stock, a mirepoix (usually carrots, onions & celery) of brown vegetables, a brown roux, herbs and sometimes tomato paste.

Foam or Froth: A sauce that has had air whipped into it.

Ganache: The combination of chocolate and heavy cream that is often used as a cake icing.

Gastrique: A fruit-flavored reduction of sugar and vinegar.

Hollandaise Sauce: This smooth, rich, creamy sauce is generally used to embellish vegetables, fish, and egg dishes such as eggs benedict.  It's made with butter, egg yolks, and lemon juice, usually in a double boiler to prevent overheating, and served warm.

Korma: An Indian stew of meat, aromatics, and curry spices.

Marinara (Red Sauce): A simple tomato sauce flavored with garlic.

Marmalade: A preserve made from citrus, but sometimes marmalade refers to onions slow-cooked with sugar and vinegar.

Mayonnaise: A thick and creamy dressing that is an emulsion of vegetable or olive oil, egg yolks, lemon juice or vinegar, and seasonings. 

Mirepoix: A mixture of diced carrots, onion, celery and sometimes leeks and herbs. It is the base of soups, stocks and sauces.Nage: Fish or shellfish stock enriched with butter or cream.

Pan Sauce: A sauce made from the drippings of cooked meat, and then mixed with aromatics, wine, stock, cream or butter, or a thickening agent. Also known as jus or gravy.

Pesto: A puree of basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, and olive oil.

Reduce (Reduction): To boil a liquid (usually stock, wine, vinegar, or a sauce mixture) rapidly until the volume is reduced by evaporation, thereby thickening the consistency and intensifying the flavor. When the sauce is finished boiling, it is called a reduction.

Romesco: A Spanish-style tomato-bell pepper-garlic sauce thickened with nuts or bread.

Sabayon: A custard of egg yolks, sugar, and wine cooked on the stove-top, as known as zabaglione.

Salsa: An uncooked combination of fruit, aromatics, herbs, acid, and spices.

Vinaigrette: A combination of oil and vinegar, generally used to dress salad greens and other cold vegetable, meat, or fish dishes. In its simplest form, a vinaigrette consists of oil, vinegar (usually three parts oil to one part vinegar), salt and pepper.  More elaborate versions contain herbs, spices, onions, mustard, or other flavorings.