Culinary Arts

Chef Thomas Keller’s Hollandaise Sauce Recipe

Written by MasterClass

Mar 7, 2019 • 5 min read

Traditional hollandaise sauce holds a special place in Chef Thomas Keller’s career. When he started cooking in the mid-1970s, his brother Joseph, a mentor to Chef Keller, was already an accomplished chef. The first sauce Joseph taught him was hollandaise, which Chef Keller made over and over, day after day, learning how to fix and refine it, and how to save it for later service. Repetition was his path to perfection. “Hollandaise sauce for me was... being able to do something that was so refined and had such history to it,” he says. “I still find great joy in making hollandaise.”

Watch Chef Keller demonstrate how to make the perfect hollandaise here.

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What Is Hollandaise Sauce?

Hollandaise sauce is an egg yolk mixture emulsified with unsalted butter and acid, like fresh lemon juice (or vinegar). Hollandaise is what is known as a French mother sauce, meaning it can be used to make a range of other sauces, including:

  • Choron
  • Maltaise
  • Béarnaise
  • Foyot
  • Paloise
  • Mousseline

Hollandaise may seem like an easy recipe, but it takes a lot of patience and practice to master. Practice this hollandaise sauce technique until you can execute it with confidence.

What Equipment Do You Need to Make Hollandaise Sauce?

In a restaurant, hollandaise is best made in a saucier over a graduated-heat flat top, but at home it is best to use a double boiler. (This is also how Chef Keller learned the first time.) Home stove tops do not work well at a low heat setting, so a double boiler helps spread the heat evenly across the bottom of the pan, especially small saucepans without a heavy bottom.

How to Use Hollandaise Sauce

Hollandaise sauce is perhaps most famously used to top a brunch classic, the Eggs Benedict. But there are a variety of ways you can use hollandaise to take your cooking to the next level. Drape vegetables with the traditional version of hollandaise, or build upon the mother sauce to create more layered versions. For example, if you swap white wine vinegar for the lemon juice, whisk in finely minced shallot, and add a handful of herbs like tarragon, you’ll have a béarnaise that works particularly well over steak, seafood, or eggs.

Try serving each your hollandaise or béarnaise sauce with one of these suggested dishes:

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How to Make Hollandaise Sauce in 7 Easy Steps

Learn Chef Keller’s method for making Hollandaise sauce below.

Thomas Keller preparing kitchen utensils and boiling water

1. Fill a saucepot with approximately 1 inch of water and bring to a gentle simmer.

Thomas Keller separating egg yolks from eggs

2. Separate out 3 large egg yolks and add them to the mixing bowl. Whisk in 25 grams of water to start (you may need to add more to maintain the emulsion).

Thomas Keller whisking eggs in bowl over pot

3. Then place the mixing bowl over the saucepot. Continue to whisk egg mixture in a figure-eight motion, rotating the bowl and removing from the heat as needed, aiming for constant, gentle heat. (Chef Keller’s double-boiler process takes about 2 ½ minutes. Look for cooked egg yolks. They should thicken and have a fluffy, ribbon consistency with a pale yellow appearance. If it is overcooked there will be little bits of egg that can be removed with a strainer.)

Thomas Keller whisking hollandaise sauce on cutting board

4. Remove from heat and place the mixing bowl in a turban on the cutting board.

Thomas Keller adding clarified butter to sauce

5. While continuing to whisk, add juice of half a lemon and slowly drizzle in the warmed clarified butter.

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Thomas Keller adding lemon to hollandaise sauce

6. As with the process for mayonnaise, continue to add water and fat, and, for hollandaise, heat as needed to continue the emulsification process. As you reach a consistency you like, taste and season with additional lemon and salt.

Chef Thomas Keller pouring hollandaise sauce over poached eggs

7. Set 2 poached eggs on top of toast and slowly spoon the hollandaise so that it envelopes each poached egg. Complete with a few grinds of black pepper and a sprinkle of finishing salt.

How to Fix Broken Hollandaise Sauce

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While making hollandaise, you may find that your smooth sauce “breaks,” separating into its liquid and fat components. Emulsified sauces can break for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Applying too much heat
  • Adding ingredients too quickly
  • Not using enough water

If your sauce breaks, don’t worry: it can be restored. To fix a broken sauce, return it to heat to completely break it, making the yolks look like curd. Warm a little bit of egg yolk in a separate bowl, then slowly drizzle the broken hollandaise in while whisking. Your sauce should return to a stable, creamy emulsion.

Chef Thomas Keller’s Hollandaise Sauce Recipe

Prep Time
35 min
Total Time
50 min
Cook Time
15 min

Ingredients

  • 60 grams egg yolks (approximately 3 each)
  • 25 grams water
  • 15 grams fresh lemon juice
  • 250 grams clarified butter held at 165°F*
  • 4 grams kosher salt to taste For plating: 2 poached eggs and 1 slice toast
  • Black pepper
  • Finishing salt

Equipment:

  • Cutting board
  • Utility knife
  • Rubber spatula
  • Damp kitchen towel
  • 2-quart saucepot half-filled with water, at a simmer
  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Hand strainer
  • Serving plate

For Clarified Butter

Ingredients:

  • 1 kilogram butter

Equipment:

  • Heavy-duty sealable plastic bag 12 quart stockpot half-filled with water, at a simmer
  • Kitchen shears
  • Bowl for trim
  • Ice bath or container of water

For the quick clarified butter:

  1. Place the butter in a heavy-duty kitchen bag and seal. Set into a stockpot of simmering water. Once butter has melted, transfer the bag to the refrigerator with one corner of the bag at the bottommost position. It is helpful to chill the bag in an ice bath or container of water to help maintain the position.
  2. Once the melted butter has solidified, take the bag out of the fridge, hold over a bowl, and snip the bottom corner to let the milk and solids drain into the bowl. Rinse the block of solidified clarified butter under a faucet for a few seconds; then dry to remove any remaining milk solids. Now you have clarified butter that can be cut into pieces for storage in the fridge or freezer, or melted down for immediate use.

For the Hollandaise recipe:

  1. Fill a saucepot with approximately 1 inch of water and bring to a gentle simmer.
  2. Separate out 3 egg yolks and add them to the mixing bowl. Whisk in 25 grams of water to start (you may need to add more to maintain the emulsion). Then place the mixing bowl over the saucepot. Continue to whisk in a figure-eight motion, rotating the bowl and removing from the heat as needed, aiming for constant, gentle heat. (Chef Keller’s double-boiler process takes about 2 ½ minutes. Look for cooked egg yolks. They should thicken and have a fluffy, ribbon consistency with a pale yellow appearance. If it is overcooked there will be little bits of egg that can be removed with a strainer.) Remove from heat and place the mixing bowl in a turban on the cutting board.
  3. While continuing to whisk, add juice of half a lemon and slowly drizzle in the warmed clarified butter. As with the process for mayonnaise, continue to add water and fat, and, for hollandaise, heat as needed to continue the emulsification process. As you reach a consistency you like, taste and season with additional lemon and salt.
  4. Set 2 poached eggs on top of toast and slowly spoon the hollandaise so that it envelopes each poached egg. Complete with a few grinds of black pepper and a sprinkle of finishing salt. (Learn to make the perfect poached eggs with Chef Thomas Keller.)

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