This easy Hollandaise sauce recipe doesn’t require a blender, a double boiler, or constant whisking. If you want a thick, creamy, and tangy sauce that’s easy to make and an easily-scalable recipe that’s a cinch to memorize, give this one a shot!
If you saw last week’s recipe for bistro-style turkey burgers with Hollandaise sauce, I’m sure you’ve been dying for the recipe for that deliciously tangy, creamy, thick sauce that’s oozing out of the side of the burger. Oh, Hollandaise sauce. I love it so much I could practically be in a relationship with it.
Except, you know, that I’m happily married. To a human man, even, and not to a delicious emulsion of butter, egg yolk, and lemon juice.
I have been making this easy Hollandaise sauce recipe, learned from my mother, since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and it’s pretty much the best thing ever.
Hollandaise sauce is one of those things I can wax poetic about, so this is a very long and thorough post today, including information on technique, scaling, safety, and storage, as well as ideas for uses and variations. I’ve added subtitles so you can easily skip ahead to the parts you want.
Flavor and texture
Now, I will give you a disclaimer about this recipe. I grew up putting copious amounts of lemon in everything, so I like my Hollandaise sauce very tart and creamy. I’ve ordered a lot of eggs Benedicts at restaurants and am frequently disappointed in their Hollandaise sauce, usually because it’s runny and you can barely taste any lemon.
I’ve seen recipes that have a ratio of 10 tablespoons of butter for only one of lemon juice, and that to me would not be a sauce I would enjoy on my eggs Benedict. If you prefer your Hollandaise to be made of mostly butter, this recipe is not for you.
My recipe uses equal parts lemon, butter, and egg yolks, which not only makes it nice and thick as well as tangy, but also has the added benefit of making this recipe a snap to remember and easily scaleable.
If you, however, don’t like as much lemon in your Hollandaise as I do, you could always sub out some water for some of the lemon juice, or add a little extra butter.
Maybe you’ve been intimidated by the thought of making Hollandaise sauce from scratch. Maybe it’s like a mystery sauce and you were never sure what actually went into making it. You might not want to deal with a double boiler and precise timing. Or maybe you have heard horror stories about people’s Hollandaise separating or curdling.
With this recipe, I have never had that happen. I assure you that this is a very easy Hollandaise sauce recipe. I can’t even count how many times I’ve made it, and it’s never failed on me.
It doesn’t require constant whisking, or hauling out a blender (most “easy Hollandaise sauce” recipes I’ve seen use a blender, which I find to be a huge pain to haul out and clean, and I don’t think this one is difficult at all).
You can use a more traditional double boiler for this, or set a Pyrex bowl on top of a pot of simmering water – but what I’ve done my whole life is to set a two-cup Pyrex measuring cup in the bottom of a medium saucepan filled with a couple inches of water.
Sure, I know it’s not the traditional way to do it since the whole point of a double boiler is that the vessel containing your ingredients is not directly touching the heat source, but this has always worked for me and I see no reason to change my technique now.
While the bottom of the measuring cup does touch the bottom of the pan, the sides are enveloped in a nice warm bath of simmering water, so it’s a gentle, multidirectional heat source rather than bottom-only heat. As long as you scrape the bottom of the Pyrex when you stir or whisk the sauce, it will not curdle and turn into scrambled eggs.
If the thought of your Hollandaise sauce coming into contact with a heat source bothers you, by all means set a larger bowl on top of your saucepan of simmering water. The recipe will work just as well.
Tempering your eggs
When a cold egg is poured into a hot liquid, it scrambles or cooks solid. Think egg drop soup or poached eggs. It’s the opposite of what you want for your smooth, silky, creamy Hollandaise sauce.
To combat that, we pour the hot liquid into the cold eggs first. It brings the eggs up to temperature without shocking them, so you can avoid curdling.
Tempering the eggs properly is the single most important thing in this recipe.
You can mess with ratios if you’d like, adding more butter or less lemon juice, but don’t mess with the technique.
Easy Hollandaise sauce, step-by step
What I do is:
- Bring a medium saucepan half-full of water to a light simmer, with a two-cup Pyrex measuring cup sitting in the middle.
- Melt the butter in the measuring cup.
- Remove the measuring cup from the saucepan and add the lemon juice (fresh or bottled is fine) to bring the temperature of the butter down a bit.
- Slowly pour the butter-lemon mixture into the bowl that contains your egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent curdling the eggs. (This is the “tempering the eggs” part).
- Pour the mixture back into the measuring cup and return to the saucepan.
- Cook over medium/medium-low heat (water bath should be a low simmer) for 10 minutes or so or until the sauce thickens, stirring frequently with a fork or whisk. Every minute or two should be fine – this does not require constant whisking.
If your sauce gets too thick, don’t worry. You can add in some of the hot water from the saucepan a spoonful at a time, whisking to combine, until it has the consistency you are looking for.
Hollandaise sauce for one… or a dozen.
Because this easy Hollandaise sauce recipe uses a simple ratio of 1:1:1 (1 tbsp butter to 1 tbsp lemon juice to 1 egg yolk) it’s easy to scale up or down as much as you’d like.
Plan on one of everything for each person, or two if the person really loves Hollandaise sauce. For example, to go with my recipe for bistro-style turkey burgers, I would use 4 tbsp butter, 4 tbsp lemon juice, and 4 egg yolks to go with 4 burgers.
If you’re just making eggs Benedict for yourself, use 1:1:1. If you’re serving 8 people, do an 8:8:8 ratio. You get the gist.
There are people who are concerned about the presence of raw eggs in recipes and are hesitant to eat things like homemade egg nog and Hollandaise sauce. I am not one of those people.
If you, however, are wary of raw eggs, never fear. A lot of Hollandaise recipes are thickened mainly because egg yolk is an emulsifier, but this one is thickened as the yolk cooks. By the time you get done with this sauce, the yolks are fully cooked, as much as they are in any custard.
You can store any leftover sauce in the fridge for a few days. It will thicken as it chills until it really is like a custard, pudding, or a savory lemon curd. It’s tempting to eat any leftovers straight from a spoon.
You can whisk in a little water to thin it out and then reheat for just a few seconds in the microwave (10-15 seconds should suffice) to restore it to a nice, pourable sauce, or you can relish in its thick, custardy texture and use it as a cold spread.
If spreading leftover Hollandaise sauce like mayonnaise onto a piece of bread with a knife is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Uses for Hollandaise sauce
In my opinion, pretty much anything is better smothered in a nice tangy Hollandaise sauce. But if you’re looking for a few ideas of what to serve with your sauce, I’m happy to share. It’s not just for brunch!
- Poured over a classic eggs Benedict (of course) or these variations:
- As a sauce for grits
- Over perfectly-ripe avocado slices
- On an omelet
- Serve on these juicy, sagey turkey burgers with avocado and tomato (pictured above)
- This light lunch of Asparagus with Crispy Prosciutto, Egg, and Hollandaise Sauce from Mon Petit Four
- As a topping for crab cakes
- Over grilled or pan-fried polenta cakes
- With chicken Florentine (chicken and spinach)
- Over seared scallops or other fish
- With steak
- Drizzled on blanched asparagus, broccoli, broccolini, or mushrooms
- On zucchini fritters or potato latkes
- As a dip for the leaves of a steamed whole artichoke
- From a spoon
Variations and additions
I think this easy Hollandaise sauce is pretty much perfect as is, but there are so many things you can add or switch out for some variety if you’d like.
- Add spices:
- Cayenne pepper or a dash of hot sauce
- Mix in purees, to taste:
- Roasted red pepper
- Canned chipotle pepper
- Jalapeño peppers
- Substitute other acids for the lemon juice:
- Lime juice
- Meyer lemon juice
- White wine vinegar
Now that you’re armed with the know-how and some inspiration, you too can go Hollandaise-crazy and have it with breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner!
What’s your favorite use for Hollandaise sauce? Let me know in the comments!
Easy Hollandaise Sauce
For extra-lemony Hollandaise (the way I love it, but it's not for everyone)
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 egg yolks
For a more traditional Hollandaise
- 8 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 egg yolks
Bring a medium saucepan half-full of water to a light simmer, with a two-cup Pyrex measuring cup sitting in the middle.
Melt the butter in the measuring cup.
Remove the measuring cup from the saucepan and add the lemon juice (fresh or bottled is fine) to bring the temperature of the butter down a bit.
Slowly pour the butter-lemon mixture into the bowl that contains your egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent curdling the eggs. (This is the "tempering the eggs" part).
Pour the mixture back into the measuring cup and return to the saucepan.
Cook over medium/medium-low heat (water bath should be a low simmer) for 10 minutes or so or until the sauce thickens, stirring frequently with a fork or whisk. Every minute or two should be fine - this does not require constant whisking.
I love lemon, so the 1:1:1 ratio yields a very tangy Hollandaise sauce. If you like your Hollandaise sauce less tart, add more butter or reduce the lemon juice to taste. For a much less lemony (more traditional) sauce, double the butter and halve the lemon juice (1:2:4 ratio of lemon:yolks:butter).
If sauce gets too thick, you can thin it out by adding hot water from the sauce pan into the sauce one spoonful at a time, whisking to combine thoroughly.
Scale the recipe up or down as much as you need - 1:1:1 for each person (for extra-lemony version).
EDIT, OCT. 2017: Due to several comments about this sauce being too lemony, despite my:
- having addressed the fact that it is a super lemony Hollandaise that is not for everyone in the "Flavor and texture" section of the blog post, and
- including an alternate ingredient ratio for non-lemon-lovers in the recipe notes on the recipe card (above) for those who don't read the post,
I have now also added both versions into the ingredients list to try to make this as foolproof as possible. If you were a fan of the recipe as written prior to Oct. 2017, you will want to use the "extra-lemony" ingredient list. If you are not a lemon freak, and are looking for a more traditional Hollandaise flavor, please use the other ingredient list. The technique stays the same.