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What Is Sauce Vierge?

Have you just been introduced to sauce Vierge? Maybe you’ve seen it in a recipe somewhere or perhaps on the menu at a restaurant? Either way, chances are you want to know what exactly sauce Vierge is and what it tastes like (if you didn’t taste it already). Perhaps, you’ll even get inspired to learn how to make it! If you want to buy it, it could get a bit trickier as it’s made from fresh ingredients, but a deli might. Nevertheless, here is all you will want to know.

So, what is sauce Vierge? Sauce Vierge is a fresh and versatile sauce that is traditionally served with fish and shellfish but can be used for anything from pasta (like a pesto) to chicken. It’s a very simple sauce–consisting of olive oil, tomatoes, lemon juice, basil, and garlic, though people tend to use different herbs. 

Sauce Vierge is a sauce originating in France. 

It was invented by Michel Guérard during the nouvelle cuisine movement that focused on healthier yet flavorful foods. 

Like a Mexican salsa, you don’t need to cook sauce Vierge (though you can do so if you need the flavors to blend more quickly), meaning it only takes five minutes to make!

Now, let’s find out a bit more about its uses, various recipes, and similar sauces.

What Is Sauce Vierge Sauce Made Of?

The basic recipe for sauce Vierge uses extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, basil, garlic, and tomatoes. It’s seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. Many different versions exist today; however, using all sorts of herbs and sometimes calls for onion, capers, and other ingredients that add flavor to the sauce. 

While the basic recipe for sauce Vierge contains extra-virgin olive oil (vierge meaning virgin), lemon juice, tomatoes, garlic, and basil, crushed coriander seed is often added.

Sometimes parsley, chives, and chervil are added and, at times, onion.

Other herbs are sometimes used, too.

Some change the recipe altogether and get rid of the basil or garlic. 

“Wilder” (or more liberal) interpretations of sauce Vierge call for anything from capers and anchovies to garlic and soy sauce. 

Sauce Vierge was invented by Michel Guérard when he was re-inventing French cuisine during the nouvelle cuisine movement.

The nouvelecuisine movement started in the 1960s, but sauce Vierge was only made popular in the 1980s.

Guérard’s wife owned a spa, and he wanted to create food that was flavorful yet healthy.

This led to sauces such as sauce viegre that contained a lot of flavors from the ingredients but no butter or cream. 

Truth be told, sauces similar to sauce Vierge existed long before Michel Guérard started experimenting–just look at the “mojo” sauces in the Canary Islands or pico de gallo in Mexico.

Nonetheless, we have Michel Guérard to thank for this modern classic, and he and his colleagues certainly did a lot to develop a healthy and tasty modern French cuisine. 

Most recipes don’t call for you heating sauce Vierge–you put it away for hours instead to let the ingredients meld together their flavors.

However, you can heat the sauce for the flavors to blend quicker.

This will, however, change the flavor profile. 

Recipe Option One for Sauce Vierge

  • 3 Large, ripe tomatoes (about 1 ½ pounds)
  • 2 whole, peeled garlic cloves, lightly smashed
  • 5 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh herbs (any combination of chives, tarragon, parsley, basil, chervil, cilantro)
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or to taste)
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Pinch of ground coriander (optional)

For full instructions, look here

Recipe Option Two for Sauce Vierge 

  • 5 ½ Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tomatoes, seeded and diced into 0.8cm (1/3″) cubes (Note 1)
  • 12 Black olives, pitted and cut into strips (Spanish, kalamata, or other)
  • 2 Anchovy fillets, very finely minced (Note 2)
  • ½ Tsp garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 Tsp parsley, finely chopped (Note 3)
  • ½ Tsp chives, finely chopped (Note 3)
  • ½ Tsp tarragon leaves, finely chopped (Note 3)
  • ¼ Tsp salt
  • ¼ Tsp black pepper

For full instructions, look here

Recipe Option Three for Sauce Vierge 

  • 2 Tomatoes 
  • 1 Garlic clove, minced
  • 8 Tbsp of fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp of fresh chervil, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 6 Coriander seeds, finely crushed
  • 200ml of olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt
  • Grund white pepper 

For full instructions, look here

Recipe Option Four for Sauce Vierge  

  • 5-7 Cherry tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1 Tsp capers in vinegar roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp fresh basil leaves

For full instructions, look here

Recipe Option Five for Sauce Vierge 

  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 2 Spring onions
  • 10 Sprigs of chives
  • 10 Sprigs of basil
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • 10cl Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Half a lemon
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For full instructions, look here

Recipe Option Six for Sauce Vierge

  • 75g Good quality olive oil
  • 225g Peeled tomatoes, finely chopped
  • ⅛ Tsp fine salt
  • ⅛ Tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅛ – ¼ Tsp sugar, optional, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 10g – 15g Finely chopped herbs–like parsley and basil, but also try chervil, tarragon, and chives

Optional Extras:

  • 25g Peeled shallots, finely chopped – or use red onion
  • 4g/1 Clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 25g Pitted and chopped black olives
  • 20g Capers, rinsed
  • 2 Anchovies, finely chopped (NB if using anchovies, do not add any salt. Only add salt after you have tried the mixture and add to taste.)

For full instructions, look here

There are versions of sauce Vierge that call for heating the ingredients, but that’s not normally the case.

However, that’s not to say you can’t use sauce Vierge when frying fish, for example.

You could also sprinkle it over fish, wrap it in foil, and toss it on the BBQ. 

Likewise, if you love garlic and onions, but your stomach (or breath!) can’t tolerate the raw versions thereof, you can quickly boil them before adding them to the sauce (they should still be crunchy).

It changes the flavor profile, but if it prevents you from tasting onions and garlic on your breath for eight hours, it may be worth it… 

What Does Sauce Vierge Taste Like?

If you’ve ever had a bruschetta, you have a fair idea of what traditional sauce Vierge tastes like. It’s a combination of tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and basil. The lemon juice and tomatoes add tartness. In addition, the tomatoes also add sweetness together with the basil. The garlic gives it a nice kick, and the olive oil mellows it all out. 

Sauce Vierge is a fresh, herby sauce that comes with a nice bit of tartness (the lemon) and a bit of a kick (the garlic). The tomatoes obviously add their flavor, too.

Overall, it has a fresh, summery taste to it that brings your thoughts to the Mediterranean. 

Some people add anchovies, olives, or capers, which clearly alter the flavor profile–making it a lot saltier.

You will also find recipes that use pretty much any kind of herb–while the classics are the ones used in France (tarragon, thyme, parsley, basil, marjoram, oregano–i.e., herbes de Provence), I’ve seen recipes calling for dill, which is distinctly different–but brilliant if making fish.

Dill is often used in Scandinavia and Russia with fish.

That said, dill is used in France, but not necessarily for the same dishes that call for herbes de Provence.

Chervil is also often used.

Some experimental (and perhaps not very French) versions of the sauce call for anything from coriander to ginger and soy sauce!

Balsamic vinegar can be added if you want a bit more sweetness. 

What Do You Eat Sauce Vierge With?

Sauce Vierge, like most fresh herbal sauces, is extremely versatile. While traditionally paired with fish (such as salmon) and shellfish (as a fresh salsa), it can be stirred into pasta and served with chicken or vegetables. You can also use it as a salsa the way you’d use Mexican salsa and dip your nachos into it. 

Top your toast with sauce Vierge and turn it into a bruschetta.

Make a pasta salad using sauce Vierge as the sauce/dressing.

Serve it over a cheese omelet or frittata. 

Pan-sear chicken or pork with salt and pepper, then spoon over some sauce Vierge and serve.

Similarly, cook (i.e., not necessarily pan-sear) shellfish or fish with salt and pepper, then spoon over sauce Vierge like a salsa before serving.

Use it as a dipping sauce and dip your fresh bread or nachos into some sauce Vierge.

What Is Similar To Sauce Vierge? 

Sauce Vierge can, perhaps, best be likened to a salsa, such as pico de gallo.

Salsa translates to “sauce,” but when we speak about salsa in the west, we refer to a sauce made from tomatoes, onions, and chilies as a base.

Many salsas, such as salsa roja, pico de gallo (a.k.a. Salsa fresca, salsa bandera, and salsa cruda) use fresh, not cooked, ingredients.

Pico de gallo is made from tomato, onion, serrano peppers, lime juice, cilantro, and salt. 

As you can see, the ingredients in pico de gallo and sauce Vierge are somewhat similar.

However, there’s a huge difference in taste between the most common herb used in sauce Vierge (basil) and that used in pico de gallo (cilantro).

For those who can’t stand cilantro (it’s apparently genetic), sauce Vierge is a nice alternative, though much less spicy–that’s the other difference, as there’s no chili in sauce Vierge.

You could, of course, make pico de gallo with parsley, or basil, instead of coriander. 

Lastly, the difference between sauce Vierge and pico de gallo is that pico de gallo calls for lime, while sauce Vierge calls for lime. 

Finally

Sauce Vierge is a truly fresh sauce made with uncooked ingredients.

It’s divine when used as a salsa for fish and shellfish, as well as pork and chicken, works well when used instead of pesto for a pasta salad, can be used as a dipping sauce for bread, and nachos, and even as a topping for roasted veg.

In short, it’s versatile! 

The flavors of sauce Vierge are distinctly summery and Mediterranean, though you can enjoy the sauce year-round anywhere in the world! 

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