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What Is Espagnole Sauce?

You may have found Espagnole sauce mentioned in a recipe. It’s one of the “mother sauces” listed by chef Escoffier. Meaning it’s one of the five most popular sauces in French haute cuisine. It forms the base for many other sauces, such as demi-glace. In other words, if you’re a true foodie, you need to learn all about it! So let’s find out what Espagnole sauce is, what it tastes like, and how to make it. 

So, what is Espagnole sauce? Espagnole sauce is a very flavorful sauce and is usually not used as a sauce as is but rather used as a base for other sauces (sauce bigarade, sauce bourguignonne, sauce chasseur, and sauce chevreuil, to mention but a few). It is made of dark brown roux and brown (meat) stock, as well as mirepoix and tomatoes or tomato paste. 

Espagnole sauce is incredibly versatile. You will find hundreds more sauces Espagnole sauce works as a base for in the French cuisine. 

So with this in mind. Let’s learn more about how to use Espagnole sauce, its flavor profile, various recipes, and similar sauces.

What Is Espagnole Sauce Made Of?

Espagnole sauce (or sauce Espagnole as the French say) is made from brown stock–usually beef or veal–a dark brown roux, mirepoix, and tomatoes or tomato paste. 

When you look at the ingredient list, Espagnole sauce looks like it’s pretty simple to make. 

Thankfully, that’s exactly the case. 

While there are many different recipes for it, the base ingredients are always brown stock (i.e., some form of meat stock), a dark brown roux (i.e., flour cooked in fat until it turns brown), mirepoix (a mix of finely cut onions, carrots, and celery), and tomatoes or tomato paste. 

Well, those are the traditional base ingredients–you’re bound to find some rebel out there who has changed one thing or another.

While simple to make, Espagnole sauce forms an important part of French cuisine and comes with a long and contested history. 

Espagnole sauce dates back to the 1600s or 1700s, depending on whom you are to believe–it may even date back further than that.

According to Louis Diat (one of the chefs at the Ritz, Paris), the Spanish cooks of Louis III’s wife, Anne, wanted to improve on the rich French brown sauce by adding Spanish tomatoes.

Hence, the name sauce Espagnole–Spanish sauce.

Auguste Kettner (chef to Napoleon III), on the other hand, argued that when Spanish fashions came back to Paris under Louis XV, the French chefs took a hint from the Spanish pot-au-feu (olla podrida) and created sauce Espagnole. 

On the other hand, Alan Davidson claims in The Oxford Companion to Food that the sauce got its name simply because Spaniards are brown, and so is the sauce (just as sauce Allemande got its name because Germans are blond–it’s a white sauce). 

It doesn’t likely matter why and how the sauce got its name; what does matter is that Espagnole sauce came to form the base for a multitude of different brown sauces, including the famous demi-glace (which in turn forms the base for many other sauces). 

Eventually, Espagnole sauce was included in the famous French list of “mother sauces” that worked as a base for literally every sauce in haute cuisine for a while.

Many different chefs listed these sauces in cookbooks, but it’s the list by chef Escoffier that seems to have become the modern reference guide.

He published his list in Le guide culinaire, in France in 1903, and the English version Le guide culinaire, A Guide to Modern Cookery in 1907. 

Chances are that you will never use Espagnole sauce on its own when serving a meal–the taste is too strong.

Instead, you want to learn how to make this sauce as it is a mother sauce–forming the base for hundreds of other sauces. 

Below you’ll find a couple of different recipes for Espagnole sauce, as well as some recipes that use Espagnole sauce as a base. 

This is so that you get a feel of the kind of sauce you can make once you know how to make Espagnole sauce. 

Recipe Option One For Espagnole Sauce 

  • 1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • ½ stick (1/4 cup) of unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups of hot beef stock or reconstituted beef-veal demi-glace concentrate*
  • ¼ cup of canned tomato purée
  • 2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
  • ½ tsp of whole black peppercorns
  • 1 Turkish or ½ California bay leaf

For full instructions, look here

Recipe Option Two for Espagnole Sauce 

  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp of dried thyme
  • 3 to 4 fresh parsley stems
  • 7 to 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 ounce of clarified butter
  • ½ cup of diced onion
  • ¼ cup of diced carrot
  • ¼ cup of diced celery
  • 1 ounce of all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups of brown stock (i.e., beef stock)
  • 2 tbsp of tomato puree

For full instructions, look here

Recipe Option Three for Espagnole Sauce 

  • 4 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • ½ medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups of unsalted or low-salt brown beef stock, preferably home-made
  • ¼ cup of canned tomato puree
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 whole peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 parsley stems, optional

For full instructions, look here

Recipe Option Four for Espagnole Sauce 

  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp) of unsalted butter
  • ½ cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • ½ cup of dry white wine
  • 8 cups of good-quality low- or no-sodium brown stock, such as veal or beef stock
  • 1 tsp of black peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 dried bay leaves

For full instructions, look here

Now, let’s move on to some recipes for sauces made with Espagnole sauce. 

Recipe for Demi-Glace 

  • ½ tsp of dried thyme
  • 3 to 4 fresh parsley stems
  • 7 to 8 of whole black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups of brown sauce (Espagnole sauce)
  • 2 cups of beef stock

Note: Like Espagnole sauce, demi-glace is often used as a foundation for other sauces. 

For full instructions, look here

Recipe for Chasseur Sauce

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sliced white mushrooms
  • ¼ cup of chopped shallots, from 1 large or 2 small shallots
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 4 cups of demi-glace
  • 1 cup of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp of chopped parsley

Note: This is a classic “hunter” sauce, meaning it goes really well with game. As you can see, it’s made with demi-glace, which is made with Espagnole sauce… 

For full instructions, look here

Recipe for Classic Mushroom Sauce

  • 1 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • ½ cup of sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp of finely chopped shallots
  • 2 cups of demi-glace
  • 2 tbsp of sherry
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste 

Note: Again, this is a recipe calling for demi-glace made with Espagnole sauce. 

For full instructions, look here

What Does Espagnole Sauce Taste Like?

Espagnole sauce is a semi-thick brown sauce that is extremely flavorful and therefore used as a base for other sauces rather than used as is. That said, there’s nothing stopping you from pouring some over your next meal of steak and potatoes–just go light on the sauce!

As Espagnole sauce is made from a reduction of broth, in addition to the seasoning, mirepoix, and tomato paste, it has a really strong flavor.

This makes it ideal when used as a base for other sauces.

However, on its own, it’s usually a tad too strong as you’ve reduced the brown broth so much. 

If you want to make a brown cream sauce, you can use Espagnole sauce and simply add some cream–that will mellow out the flavor. 

What Do You Eat Espagnole Sauce With?

Espagnole sauce is a brown sauce traditionally used as a base for sauces that most often are served with some form of meat. 

As Espagnole sauce is rarely served as is, it’s hard to say what it goes well with!

It has a strong meaty flavor as it’s normally made with veal or beef broth.

Hence, it’s often used in sauces served with meat. As always, there are exceptions to the rule, though. 

If you use Espagnole sauce as a base and simply add some cream to make a simple cream sauce, it will go well with most meats, as well as chicken.

It will also taste nice when poured over potatoes. 

What Is Similar To Espagnole Sauce? 

Any dark brown sauce made with brown broth as the main ingredient will have a somewhat similar flavor profile to Espagnole sauce. If you’ve tasted demi-glace made with Espagnole sauce, you’ll also have a fairly good idea of what it tastes like.  

Espagnole sauce is a brown meat sauce.

As such, if you’ve tasted other brown meat sauces, you’ll likely have a fair idea of what it tastes like.

This is no cheap sauce in a bottle, though. It’s made from pure ingredients and tastes significantly better than anything found in a bottle! 

Finally

Espagnole sauce is a sauce you need to know how to make if you want to conquer French cooking.

It’s a great sauce to have in your repertoire as you can make a myriad of other sauces using it as your base.

You can simply also add some cream to it to make a simple cream sauce. 

Want to learn more about French sauces? Then my other guides may be of interest: