Classic Espagnole Sauce

Espagnole sauce is a classic French mother sauce made with beef or veal stock, a dark brown roux, and mirepoix. Use this sauce on braised and roasted meats, even sauteed mushrooms.

Classic Espagnole Sauce

Sally Vargas / Simply Recipes

Despite its name, espagnole sauce is most definitely a French sauce and considered to be one of the five classic French “mother” sauces (Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Hollandaise, and Sauce Tomat). 

It is a meaty, rich brown sauce made with beef or veal stock, a brown roux, and enriched with tomato puree and mirepoix (finely diced carrots, celery, and onions). The origins of the sauce have been disputed with various colorful stories tying it to Spain, but once chef Auguste Escoffier embraced it, it was accepted unequivocally as French. 

To make the espagnole sauce, soften the mirepoix in butter, whisk some flour into the pan and cook until golden brown to form a roux. Gradually whisk in stock, tomato puree, and aromatics and simmer until the sauce is reduced by about a third. Once strained, the sauce is ready to use. 

Serve it with braised beef, lamb, or pork, or spooned over steak and sautéed mushrooms.

Classic Espagnole Sauce

Sally Vargas / Simply Recipes

What is the Best Stock for Making Espagnole Sauce?

Espagnole sauce will only be as good as the stock you make it with, so if you are able, use homemade stock. That’s a big ask. Making a brown stock first before even starting the sauce is a project in itself, but if you do make your own beef stock, you can make enough to freeze for other uses. 

Unfortunately, most beef stocks that you buy in a can or a box do not have much flavor. To add more flavor to store-bought stock simmer a quart of stock for 20 to 30 minutes with about 2 tablespoons of mirepoix (finely chopped onions, carrots, and celery), a pinch of dried thyme, a bay leaf, 1/2 cup red or white wine, and a teaspoon of tomato paste. 

Strain and taste, but don’t add any more salt until you add it to the espagnole sauce, and it has reduced.  

Classic Espagnole Sauce

Sally Vargas / Simply Recipes

Ways to Troubleshoot Espagnole Sauce 

Espagnole is fairly straightforward sauce. Here are a few things you should keep an eye out for while making this recipe.

  • Be careful when making the brown roux. A brown roux is simply a roux that is allowed enough time to cook until the butter and flour turn a deep golden brown. In a typical white roux, the butter and flour remain pale and light golden. If the roux is browning too quickly, slide the pan off the burner and let it cool a little to prevent it from burning, then return it to the heat. 
  • Stir the sauce often as it reduces to keep the bottom of the pot from scorching. It’s the kind of sauce that you could make while puttering around the kitchen. 
Classic Espagnole Sauce

Sally Vargas / Simply Recipes

What Else Can You Make with Espagnole Sauce? 

This mother sauce has many “daughters” or derivate sauces and can be transformed to suit your fancy. 

  • Demi-Glace is the most common derivative of espagnole sauce. To make it, simmer equal parts espagnole sauce and brown beef stock until it is reduced by half. It becomes a glaze to drizzle over steak or other meat. Although technically not a mother sauce, demi-glace has spawned many of its own derivative sauces. 
  • Africaine sauce combines espagnole sauce with onions, tomatoes, peppers, and creole seasonings to make a piquant sauce for spooning over chops, steak, and chicken. 
  • For chicken or meat, chasseur (hunter’s) sauce made with mushrooms, shallots, white wine, and tomatoes is a sure-fire winner for a fall supper.
  • For sauce Robert, add mustard.
  • For sauce piquante, add pickles and capers. 

These are just a few possibilities, and you can’t go wrong trying any of these sauces. 

How to Store and Freeze Espagnole Sauce

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat over low heat, whisking constantly, on the stovetop. 

You can freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Reheat over low heat from the frozen state, whisking constantly.


Classic Espagnole Sauce

Sally Vargas / Simply Recipes

More Mother Sauce Recipes for You!

Classic Espagnole Sauce

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 60 mins
Total Time 70 mins
Yield 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups unsalted or low-salt brown beef stock, preferably home-made
  • 1/4 cup canned tomato puree
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 whole peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 parsley stems, optional

Method

  1. Cook the vegetables:

    In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the diced onions, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, 5 to 6 minutes.

    Onions, celery, and carrots in pot for classic espagnole sauce
  2. Make the brown roux:

    Add the flour to the pan with the vegetables and whisk to incorporate fully. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking often, until the flour turns deep golden brown, 6 to 10 minutes.

    Flour added to onions, celery, and carrots for classic espagnole sauce
  3. Add the beef stock, tomato puree, and herbs: 

    Gradually pour in the stock and whisk simultaneously until there are no lumps in the sauce. Stir in the tomato puree, salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, and parsley stems.

    Add broth to onions, celery, and carrots for classic espagnole sauce
    Add herbs to broth with onions, celery, and carrots for classic espagnole sauce
  4. Reduce the sauce: 

    Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. Adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer (small bubbles occasionally rise to the surface of the sauce). Cook for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring frequently to keep the bottom of the pot from scorching, until the volume reduces by about 1/3. When ready the sauce should be just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. It is not a thick sauce, but approximately the consistency of heavy cream or thin gravy.

    Correct consistency of broth for classic espagnole sauce

    Sally Vargas / Simply Recipes

  5. Strain the sauce:

    Line a large strainer with cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Strain the sauce into the bowl and discard the solids.

    Classic espagnole sauce strained with cheesecloth

    Sally Vargas / Simply Recipes

  6. Store sauce:

    Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat over low heat, whisking constantly, on the stovetop.

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    Classic Espagnole Sauce

    Sally Vargas / Simply Recipes