The History of Sauce

Once a method for covering up rotten foods and now a way to elevate the deliciousness of a meal, sauces have long served a culinary purpose. No matter where you are in the world, your cuisine most likely calls for a sauce in certain recipes.

Is it too much to say that a sauce can define a culture?

I don’t think so. Sauce, like so many other foods, is representative of the food our land can grow, the seasonings we can afford, and the tastes we’ve come to love.

Today starts the beginning of an epic series of posts on sauce. I’ve taken a sauce-making class, watched endless YouTube videos, read books, failed and succeeded at making sauce, and interviewed several food experts all in an effort to learn how to make sauce. Now, I’m going to share what I’ve learned with you in this post and the next five posts.

A Sauce Timeline

  • Mid 1700s, Noda, Japan – Word about soy sauce travels from China to Japan where several families master the art of soy sauce making. Soy sauce works as both a preservative and flavor enhancer. By the mid-1800s several Japanese families joined forces to make and export the sauce, but it didn’t take off in the western world until after World War II. Kikkoman, one company to come out of this Japanese region, is still a popular soy sauce brand today.
  • Early 1800s, Paris – Marie-Antoine “Antonin” Carême becomes a notable chef among French royalty and identifies the four basic mother sauces (bechamel, espagnole, velouté, allemande) of which most all other sauces are based. Carême published several books including the famous L’Art de la Cuisine Française.
  • 1839, Worcester County, England – Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce hits the U.S. market with a bang. As the only bottled condiment for some time, the sauce still dominates. See this vintage newspaper advertisement from 1874.
  • 1868, Avery Island, Louisiana – Edmund McIlhenny creates the Tabasco sauce recipe to spice up the bland diet of the Reconstruction South. While Tabasco is more condiment/ingredient than a traditional sauce, its influence on American cuisine can’t be denied.
  • Early 1900s, Paris – French chef Auguste Escoffier adds tomato sauce and butter sauces (mayonnaise and hollandaise) to the list of mother sauces. By the way, the first Italian recipe for pasta with tomato sauce appeared in 1839.
  • 1940, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Heinz produces a nationally-distributed barbecue sauce. History books speak of barbecue sauce as early as the 15th Century when Christopher Columbus landed in the US.
  • Global, 1970s – A trend away from starch-thickened sauces opens the door to thinner, easier-to-make sauces. During this time, chefs and at-home cooks focused on reduction, which reveals more flavor.
  • 1973, Paris/New York – Carl G. Sontheimer invents the Cuisinart, which allows chefs and at-home cooks to make sauces (and more) with ease. A mortar and pestle is no longer required.
  • 2010, Denver, Colorado – Sara Lancaster establishes as a shrine to what she loves most—sauces and dips.

Okay, so that last item on the timeline may not necessarily belong, but I hope it proves that the history of sauce is not a simple thing. Much like cooking sauce, the concepts behind it are complex and deserve some praise.

In the next post, we’ll look at what goes into making the mother sauces and why you should even care. You’ll definitely want to come back for this one—I managed to get some excellent advice from a couple expert chefs.


The Sauce Book, Paul Gayler, 2008——-10–1—-0-


  1. Isn’t it funny how some of our culinary staples began? Thank you so much for sharing this history with me. I learned quite a few new facts that I’ll be eager to share next time someone pulls out their favorite sauce. Thank you for sharing, my friend!

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