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What is Bordelaise Sauce?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 16, 2024
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Bordelaise sauce is a popular French preparation frequently added to meats and other savory preparations. Named for the wine-producing region of Bordeaux, France, this hearty sauce typically involves a base of wine and broth. Bordelaise sauce is a common feature on French-inspired menus world wide, and can add sophisticated flavor to a wide variety of dishes.

A basic bordelaise sauce has only a few ingredients that are carefully simmered and reduced. Slightly sharp shallots, fragrant thyme and bay, rich butter, bone marrow, beef broth, and even earthy mushrooms are the basic ingredients found in many versions of the sauce. Learning to make a bordelaise is not a difficult process; once a basic recipe is mastered a chef can quickly learn to create variations that draw from his or her own style of cooking.

To make a basic bordelaise sauce, combine finely chopped shallots and spices in wine over medium to high heat, allowing the mixture to boil and begin to reduce. Reduction allows flavors to meld and strengthen, creating a potent base. To this mixture, it is possible to add broth or demi-glace, a rich and strong mixture of marrow and broth that can be homemade or purchased already prepared. Whisk in butter and season to taste before pouring over or around the main dish.

There are thousands of different recipes available for this savory sauce. Considered a basic French dish, bordelaise is subject to endless variations both in terms of the sauce recipe itself and the main ingredient the sauce is used to complete. Filet Mignon or other steaks are commonly pared with this sauce, but some use it to spice up mashed potatoes or flavor portobello mushrooms as well.

Other variations on ingredients include different spices and additional vegetables added to the sauce stock. Some recipes call for parsley, while others go for a spicier version using allspice. Carrots, tomatoes, and other variations may be boiled with the wine and removed or pureed before serving. As with many great recipes, only experimentation will help a chef find his or her own favorite version.

The wine used in a bordelaise sauce is particularly important to the finished product. Many food experts recommend using a dry red that will impart its best flavors when reduced into the thick sauce. Traditionally, a French wine is used, particularly a dry version from the Bordeaux region for which the sauce is named. A dry zinfandel or pinot noir, regardless of national origin, can also be an excellent choice.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for DelightedCooking. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By JaneAir — On Sep 29, 2011

@indemnifyme - I actually like to use a nice Cabernet to make my bordelaise sauce. For some reason I just like it slightly better than the Bordeaux. Maybe I'm just being picky though!

I know a lot of people put this on steak, but I like it on just plain penne noodles! I think it makes a really delicious dinner all on its own.

By indemnifyme — On Sep 29, 2011

I really like Bordeaux wine, so I knew I would like bordelaise sauce. The first time I tried it was in a restaurant, and I've been hooked ever since. Now I make it at home every so often.

I personally like to add a little bit of garlic to my bordelaise sauce. I'm of the opinion that garlic make everything just a little bit better, and bordelaise sauce is no different!

By ddljohn — On Sep 28, 2011

@alisha- Wow, it sounds like you make the original recipe for bordelaise sauce. I could never do so much cooking for a sauce!

I just cook butter, spices and herbs, add the wine, simmer some more and that's it! I know it's not the perfect way to make it but it's fast and still adds a nice flavor to meat.

Maybe I'll work on this recipe and make it more complex in the future, but I do enjoy this simple bordelaise sauce too.

By discographer — On Sep 27, 2011

I agree that the best bordelaise is an entirely homemade one but making a demi-glace for the bordelaise just takes too long.

Bordelaise sauce made with veal demi-glace is amazing, but the demi-glace itself takes at least five to six hours to prepare. I first have to simmer veal in hot water to make broth out of it and then use some of the veal broth to make espagnole sauce with butter, flour, small pieces of veal and vegetables. Finally I have to combine and boil the broth and espagnole sauce until it becomes a thick consistency.

Mind you, this is just to make the demi-glace! I need additional hours of cooking to complete the bordelaise sauce. I just don't have that kind of time on hand. That's why I just buy the ready made demi-glace from the store. Of course it doesn't taste the same as the homemade one.

Making it ahead of time does sound like a good idea, but then again, no matter which day I make it, I have to block out six hours which is a long time.

By julies — On Sep 27, 2011

Even though the name sounds fancy and complicated, making a bordelaise sauce is very easy to do.

If I know I am going to be in a hurry, I will make this creamy sauce a day or two ahead of time. It stores well in the refrigerator and just needs to be heated through when I am ready to use it.

A wonderful, creamy sauce like this adds so much flavor to meat. Our favorite way to eat this is with beef fillets. I also had carrots to my sauce, so get some vegetables with my meat and sauce.

It is very filling and leaves me content and satisfied.

By SarahSon — On Sep 26, 2011

There are many great tasting bordelaise sauces available, but I think the best tasting ones are those you make yourself.

I love complimenting my steak with a good bordelaise sauce. The homemade sauce for steak, or any beef, that I make includes shallots, fresh mushrooms and beef broth.

Not only is it good on steak but makes a wonderful topping for beef tips as well. If you don't like mushrooms, you wouldn't like this sauce though. I think the fresh mushrooms combined with the beef broth really set it apart.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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