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What Is Bread Sauce?

By Tiffany Manley
Updated: Jan 22, 2024

Bread sauce is a dish that has its roots in medieval British cooking. The sauce is traditionally served with a Christmas meal in Britain, although it accompanies many poultry dishes well. This sauce consists of milk or cream, onion, spices, stale bread and butter. It might be served warm or cold, but many people prefer it warm with turkey or chicken, next to potatoes and gravy. Many people enjoy the scent of bread sauce being cooked, caused by onions and spices simmering in milk, almost as much as the taste of the finished product.

The origins of bread sauce reportedly can be traced to medieval times, when cooks tried to find creative ways to use day-old bread. This sauce was created as a savory sauce to accompany many dishes and use any leftover bread. This sauce is one of the only savory sauces and dishes using bread as a predominant ingredient that is found in modern British cooking. Bread is often used in sweet puddings such as bread pudding or summer pudding.

While many people enjoy bread sauce on festive occasions, such as Christmas, it is not difficult to make, and as such, it might be served at any time. To make bread sauce, a whole onion studded with cloves and mace is added to simmering milk and cream. This is allowed to steep for at least an hour, after which the cubes or crumbs of bread are added. Garlic, salt and pepper are added at this time as well. The mixture is heated until it is thick, and butter is added just before serving.

The type of bread used in bread sauce is important. To create a creamy sauce that still has texture, a sturdy whole loaf bread should be used. Traditional thin-sliced sandwich bread should not be used, because it lacks the texture needed to properly create a bread sauce. The crust of the bread is not used to make the sauce, rather the inside is torn into cubes. If the bread is too fresh to be used for the sauce, it might be placed in an oven set at a very low temperature for a few minutes to toast.

A Turkish variant of bread sauce includes a sauce made with breadcrumbs, to which ground walnuts, chicken and chickpeas are added. This salad, known as Circassian salad, might also be made with duck or pheasant. Instead of using milk to moisten the bread and create a sauce, Circassian salad uses the broth from cooking the poultry.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By backdraft — On Jan 05, 2013

@zsazsa56 - I have made it before with a little paprika added. It adds some color and some spice and makes the sauce a little zestier than the way it is normally served.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Jan 04, 2013

I am looking for a bread sauce recipe that is a little more interesting than the traditional recipe. I like the original, but I am looking for something with a little stronger flavor. Does anyone know of any tasty variations? Thanks!

By gravois — On Jan 03, 2013

I studied abroad when I was in high school and I lived with a British family for about 6 months. I ate a lot of different foods that I had never tried before, but bread sauce stands out to me as one of the more memorable dishes.

My host mother made it at Christmas time and also sometimes when she would cook a chicken. It is a simple sauce, and not that different than some of the gravies that get served here in the states, but it is delicious and for whatever reason it made a big impression on me. When I came back I convinced my mom to learn the recipe.

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