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Espagnole or Brown Sauce is one of the 5 Mother sauces and ideal for use in gravies or other rich meat based sauces.

Espagnole Sauce | The Secret To Making Great Gravy

In the last little while, I have been covering the basic or leading sauces in French Cuisine. These Mother Sauces include Tomato Sauce, Bechamel Sauce, Espagnole Sauce, Veloute Sauce, and Hollandaise Sauce. Knowing how to make these five basic sauces, and home cook or chef can tackle even advanced recipes, without the need to buy any store bought products.  This week I’ll be finishing off the series on the French Mother Sauces with Espagnole Sauce. It’s a really versatile sauce to have in your repertoire, and is the perfect base from which to make gravy or sauce to be served with red meat.

Espagnole vs Demi-Glace

While Espagnole sauce is sometimes confused with its derivative sauce demi-glace, the two sauces are technically not the same. Espagnole sauce along with Hollandaise are two of the harder mother sauces to make, and in the case of Espagnole it is simply a matter of planning ahead. This is not a sauce you can whip up on the fly, you really need a day or two to properly make the brown stock and then simmer the Espagnole etc. This sauce is very much meant to be a base sauce and is very rarely used as a sauce on its own. This is due to its strong and often bitter flavour which is difficult to pair with many dishes.

Demi-glace on the other hand, is made using Espagnole and is full of beefy flavour, so rich it will coat your mouth and often referred to as black gold in kitchens. It makes the perfect side for any steak and is made using half beef or veal stock and half Espagnole which is then reduced.

t=Traditionally made French Espagnole sauce in a sauce pot

Making Espagnole Sauce At Home

It is a good idea to make a large batch of Espagnole sauce which can then be frozen in cubes and used to make smaller batches of sauce such as a demi-glace at a later date.

You will need:

  • 2.5 liters brown(beef) stock
  • 2 cup rough chopped Mirepoix – well caramelized (Mirepoix is a cooking term for a 2:1:1 ratio of diced onion, carrot, and celery)
  • 100 grams clarified butter or other fat
  • 100 grams flour
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 cup redwine ( optional)
Related:  Making High Quality Beef Stock At Home
  1. Begin by roughly chopping all the vegetables in the mirepoix and caramelize them in a pan until they are nice and dark brown.  The darker you can get them without actually burning the better. This is best achieved by cooking the vegetables in a pan over medium heat making sure to stir or toss them every so often to avoid any bits from sticking to the pan. Once you have browned all the veg you can de-glaze the pan with some red wine if you like, though this is optional.A side by side comparison of a mirepoix, before and after caramelizing the vegetables.
  2. Add the flour to the caramelized veg and cook it out for a good five minutes. Add your brown stock, Bayleaf, herbs, peppercorn and tomato paste to the pot and mix well. You may have noticed that by adding the flour you are technically creating a roux in the pan with all the veg mixed in. This ensures that when you add the liquid stock no lumps will form.Caramelized veg in a pot with flour and butter. The flour will help thicken the espagnole sauce as it simmers
  3. Bring the sauce to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Let the pot simmer for 1.5 hours. Periodically check the sauce and skim off any foam that may float and collect at the top. A pot of espagnole sauce simmering as it is being prepared.
  4. Once the Espagnole sauce has simmered for 1.5 hours taste the sauce and make sure it has a good consistency and flavour. While not traditional you may add a little sugar if it is very bitter. Strain the Espagnole and use as a base for gravy, demi-glace, or other rich meat based sauces.A pot of finished espagnole sauce prior to straining.


I hope you have enjoyed this series on the five mother sauces which form the basis of all sauces in French cuisine! In case you missed the first four recipes in this series make sure to read up on Hollandaise, Bechamel, Velouteand Tomato Sauce!

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Espagnole or Brown Sauce is one of the 5 Mother sauces and ideal for use in gravies or other rich meat based sauces.

Espagnole Sauce

Markus Mueller | Earth, Food, and Fire
Espagnole or Brown Sauce is one of the 5 Mother sauces and ideal for use in gravies or other rich meat-based sauces.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 45 mins
Course Sauce
Cuisine French
Servings 2 Liters Sauce
Calories 1864.3 kcal


  • 2.5 liters brown beef stock
  • 2 cup rough chopped Mirepoix - well caramelized Mirepoix is a cooking term for a 2:1:1 ratio of diced onion, carrot, and celery
  • 100 grams clarified butter or other fat
  • 100 grams flour
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 cup redwine optional


  • -Roughly chop the mirepoix
  • - Caramelize the vegetables in the butter or other fat until nice and dark brown. Add the peppercorns, bay leaf and herb now.
  • -Add the flour and cook it until you reach the brown roux stage. It will smell wonderfully toasty!
  • - Optional: If using red wine, add it to the pot now.
  • -Pour in the brown stock and stir to properly incorporate the flour mixture and avid any lumps from forming.Add the tomato paste.
  • -Bring the Espagnole Sauce to a boil, and then reduce and simmer for 1.5 hours.
  • -Skim off any foam that may rise to the top.
  • - Once simmered strain the sauce and use as a base in garvy or other sauces to be served with red meat.


Use the Espagnole as a base sauce to create gravies such as a peppercorn brandy sauce, or a rich mushroom demi-glace. Substitute turkey or chicken stock in this recipe to create the best gravies around!
Keyword how do you make espagnole sauce, making gravy from scratch, what are the five mother sauces

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  1. Very interesting! I didn’t realize that demi -glace was a derivative of espagnole (which I wasn’t familiar with!) My husband cooked and has always talked about how a cook needs to know the mother sauces and how to make a demi-glace. I look forward to the days when I do have more time to linger in the kitchen and I can make this sauce cause it’s definitely on food bucket list!

    • It is! Glad you got to learn something new! While Demi Glace is technically made with Espagnole (half espagnole,half beef stock and the reduced by half again) a lot of cooks will simply reduce beef stock down and fortify it with caramelized veg until it’s almost black in color. This is also sometimes just called Glace.

  2. Markus, I’ve been LOVING this sauce feature – you should make sure to collect the links together in one master-post when you’re done so that you can promote them all together! Of all the sauces, espagnole is the one I know the least about, so I’m particularly pleased to see this one. As always, you make it clear, doable, and pretty darned delicious looking. Well done.

    • Glad you have been enjoying it Sean! Espagnole talks a little time to make but it is worth the effort. It’s best to make a large batch so you don’t have to make it as often! A great base for gravies #

  3. NICE!! I knew very little about espagnole sauce coming into this post–just that it was one of the “mother sauces”. I now feel so educated! You really broke it down into accessible steps, and it’s so informative!

  4. So… I always knew there were 5 mother sauces, but realllly didn’t know just what this one was. I really need to make this! I can just imagine porkchops and mushrooms smothered in this with a side of risotto.

    • It’s fairly simple to make Amanda, you just need to set the time aside to make a good beef stock( recipe coming soon!). The method of thickening the Espagnole can actually be applied to any sauce made even with drippings from any meat. It’s how I usually make my sauces at home on the fly.

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