What is a Beurre Blanc Sauce?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Beurre blanc sauce is a rich French sauce made from an acidic reduction whisked together with chunks of fresh butter. The result is used on foods like fish, eggs, poultry, and vegetables to add a complex, rich layer of flavor. Many French restaurants offer foods lavishly garnished with this sauce, and it can also be made at home relatively easily by patient cooks with steady hands.

Chunks of butter are whisked with an acidic base to make beurre blanc sauce.
Chunks of butter are whisked with an acidic base to make beurre blanc sauce.

In French, beurre blanc translates into “white butter.” The name is a reference to the fact that, while the sauce is cooked and blended, it is not browned, as in the case of things like roux. Beurre blanc sauce is sometimes mixed with other ingredients, but as a general rule it makes a delicate white sauce, rather than a heavier and more dense brown sauce.

Beurre blanc sauce often includes finely chopped shallots.
Beurre blanc sauce often includes finely chopped shallots.

The origins of this sauce are largely shrouded in legend. One popular tale says that a cook was preparing a complex meal for a head of state, and accidentally left both the egg and the tarragon out of bernaise. Since the cook did not have time to fix the food, it was sent out as is, and to the cook's surprise, the dish was deemed a success. Others suggest that the sauce was developed intentionally, perhaps as a light sauce for mild freshwater fish such as trout.

A traditional beurre blanc sauce starts with reducing very finely chopped shallots in vinegar, lemon juice, or white wine. Once the acidic reduction is made, chunks of slightly softened butter are added and briskly whisked in. Cooks whisk rapidly to capture multiple small air bubbles in the sauce so that it will hold up well. The sauce is usually used immediately, and cooks differ on whether or not to strain it.

Some cooks add cream to the sauce, to stabilize it. This deviation from traditional should not technically be called beurre blanc, since the cream dramatically changes the composition and texture of the sauce. Other ingredients such as tarragon or dill may be added as well, for additional flavor.

To make the basic recipe, cooks can use 2/3 cup (157.7 ml) of wine, vinegar, lemon juice, or some combination of these ingredients. The liquid should be heated on a medium temperature setting along with two finely chopped shallots until the volume of the liquid has been reduced to approximately 1/4 cup (59 ml). The mixture should be allowed to cool before it is placed over low heat and 3/4 to 1 cup (about 170 to 227 g) of unsalted butter broken into chunks quickly whisked in. Strain, if desired, and add salt and pepper to taste.

A traditional beurre blanc sauce usually contains white wine.
A traditional beurre blanc sauce usually contains white wine.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

My grandmother was the one that taught me how to make beurre blanc sauce. She was from Normandy, and her version of it was famous in our family.

It is not the most difficult sauce to make but also not the easiest. There is some technique involved and you have to use quality ingredients. But when it is done well, it is divine and you can use it to enhance almost anything.


Has anyone ever tired this sauce on a steak? It sounds like it could be really tasty.


Does anyone know where you might purchase the Beurre Blanc sauce or a powder mix of it? Thank you. --NJH


My favorite beurre blanc dish is salmon fillet grilled on a cedar plank, topped with orange beurre blanc and cracked pepper.

To make the orange beurre blanc I make it as the article stated, but I use 1 part white wine and one part fresh squeezed orange juice. I add a couple pieces of orange rind and reduce all of the acidic ingredients to a syrup before whisking in the butter.

For the salmon, I soak the cedar plank in orange juice and water before adding it to the grill with the salmon. Once the salmon is done, I pour the orange beurre blanc over the top and serve with cracked pepper.


I tried this basic recipe with three parts white wine, two parts vinegar and one part lemon juice. The smell will scare you at first while it is reducing, but the taste comes out great. I used a white onion instead of shallot because that is what I had, and I did strain it. The sauce was smooth and thick. Thanks for the tips!

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