An Improvised and Compromised Béarnaise Sauce

how to make bearnaise sauce

I’ve had my fair share of failures. Like the time I cut my finger with a hand blender. Or the time I could’ve killed my husband with pork meatballs and red sauce. And then there was the time I used steak rub instead of pepper. Oh, memories.

This post is about the time I tried to make a Béarnaise sauce, but ended up with melted butter instead.

Hmmm. I guess when I put it that way it really wasn’t a failure at all. Who doesn’t love melty butter? Especially when you add some herbs and drizzle it over a steak and a baked potato. 

So, here’s the story. The steaks were on the grill, and it was time to make a sauce. Stat. I grabbed my sauce book*, scoured the cabinets, and realized I had nothing that the Béarnaise recipe called for, except for water, eggs, and salt.

This is how it worked out.

Béarnaise recipe as it should be Saucy Dipper Béarnaise recipe
1/2 ounce fresh tarragon3 shakes of dried tarragon flakes
2 shallots, chopped1/4 of large white onion
2 tbsp white wine vinegar2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp water2 tbsp water
1 tsp lightly crushed white peppercorns1 tsp lightly crushed black peppercorns
4 egg yolks4 egg yolks
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, clarified2 1/4 sticks salted butter
juice of 1/2 lemonfake lemon juice
salt and freshly cracked plack peppersalt and freshly cracked black pepper
a pinch of cayenne3 pinches of paprika
1 tbsp chopped chevril leavesn/a

Bottom line: I whisked and whisked and whisked (I broke a sweat – seriously) and no ribbony, creamy sauce for me. Béarnaise should look like hollandaise sauce for Pete’s sake! Finally, I learned that clarified butter is helpful when making an emulsified sauce. Rookie mistake.

So…the egg yolks rested on the bottom and the butter floated to the top. It still tasted nice, but I was disappointed none the less.

butter sauce over baked potato

For those of you interested in giving Béarnaise sauce a go. Here are the very basic steps for how to make Béarnaise sauce.

1. Bring shallots, vinegar, and water to a boil. Reduce to simmer until 2 tbsp of liquid remain.

2. Remove from heat and strain onions from liquid.

3. Add egg yolks to liquid and whisk fast.

4. Meanwhile, add water to double boiler over medium heat. Place mixture in top of double boiler, be careful not to let the mixture get too hot.

5. Once smooth and creamy, slowly add butter and whisk all the while.

6. Add lemon juice, tarragon, salt, and pepper (plus any other seasonings you like). Serve right away.

Remember, if your sauce breaks, add a tablespoon (or less) of cold water and whisk away.

*The Sauce Book by Paul Gayler


  1. I would have done the same thing (except I probably would have done the clarified butter because Chef Anne Bureell did a show on this and I’ve stumbled on the same show twice while channel surfing). But looking at your ingredients, I was like “yep!”. I would have used all those things and hoped for the best. I’m gonna bet the next one will be fabulous and will be made even sweeter because of this adventure! I’ve yet to try making Bearnaise sauce, but one of these days.

    1. I’ll have to see if I can find the show on YouTube. And you’re right – the next time will probably be a sauce success. Live and learn, right?

  2. I’ve always kinda wanted to try my hand at bearnaise and this is such an awesome recipe! Definitely need to try it.

  3. If it tastes good, it is good. 🙂 I do have clarified butter at home.. so may be I will give this a try and report back 😀

  4. I have never prepared a bearnaise without clarified butter and it does make it smoother. But the eggs should have been the binder. But I would take the tasty melty butter too 🙂

    1. The eggs are the trick? Hmmm. I beat and beat and beat that sauce and just couldn’t get an emulsion.

  5. Oh food memories. I have quite a few myself. And I agree with Ansh, if it tastes good, you win! Thank you for sharing with me! I hope you are having a blessed day.

  6. I haven’t made Bernaise sauce in ages and ages. Now you have me wanting to make it again.

    It was so nice seeing you again and Maggie is so beautiful. I hope to see you both again soon.

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