Rich brown espagnole sauce in a pot with spoon of sauce dripping over it.

Espagnole Sauce Recipe

  • Author: Christine Pittman
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 3 cups 1x
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: French


With its rich dark color and gravy-like flavor, Espagnole Sauce is a delicious choice to serve with meat and potatoes. This French classic is also a great base for other sauces, soups, stews, and more.


Units Scale
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) clarified butter*
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 rib celery, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. canned tomato puree**
  • 4 cups beef stock***
  • 1/4 tsp. whole black peppercorns (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley or parsley stems (optional)
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme (optional)
  • Salt


  1. Add the butter to a 3-quart sauce pan set over medium heat. Once it melts, add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until well-softened but not yet taking on any brown color, 4-5 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle vegetables with flour. Stir to combine well so that the flour and butter form a paste (this is the roux). Cook, stirring and scraping frequently with a rubber spatula or flat whisk, until the roux is a bit darker than peanut butter, about 5-6 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomato puree. Drizzle in about half a cup of the the beef stock and then stir and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the pan. Then add a half of a cup more of the stock at a time, stirring after each addition to make sure it stays as smooth as possible. 
  4. Add the peppercorns, bay leaf, parley, and/or thyme, if using.
  5. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a low simmer, stirring occasionally until sauce is reduced to 3 cups, about 35-45 minutes.
  6. Remove sauce from heat. Set a fine mesh sieve over a bowl. Pour the sauce through the sieve and into the bowl. Discard contents of sieve. 
  7. Taste the sauce and season to taste with salt. Serve immediately or store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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*Clarified butter is traditionally used here because its milk solids have been removed, making it less likely to darken too quickly and get bitter. However, since we actually want a dark sauce in this case, normal unsalted butter will be fine. Just watch it to make sure that it doesn’t get dark too fast. If you’re not using clarified butter, you will need to turn the heat down a little. Let the veggies, and then the roux cook slowly, reducing the heat if anything starts to brown more quickly than expected.

**Instead of canned tomato puree, mix together 1 tablespoon of tomato paste with 1 tablespoon of water. Two tablespoons of tomato (marinara) sauce can also be used as a substitute. Alternatively, you can use ketchup, but then only use 1 tablespoon total.

***Veal demi-glace concentrate is wonderful to use here. Find it at a specialty store or online. Reconstitute it according to package instructions before using. You’ll want 4 cups once it is correctly diluted. You can also use beef bouillon mixed with water according to package instructions (but let resulting broth cool a bit before using).