White Butter Sauce

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Shaun Hill's Cookery Book

Shaun Hill's Cookery Book

By Shaun Hill

Published 1990

  • About

For steamed fish or vegetables. This sauce will taste greasy if poured on anything fried or roasted. The variations and permutations are endless. Try adding ginger and chives to accompany scallops or steamed salmon; try basil and chopped tomato with Dover sole.

All white butter sauces need either lemon juice or a vinegar reduction to taste as they should – sharp and fresh, never greasy or fat.

Salted butter is especially useless for this sauce. It is very salty when warm, has too much residual sediment and is in any case too sweet.


  • 4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 8 oz (225 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 5 fl oz (150 ml) dry white wine
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper


  1. Sweat the shallots without colouring in a knob of the butter for 3 or 4 minutes.
  2. Add the vinegar and white wine. Boil rapidly until the liquid has reduced by half.
  3. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in 1 oz (25 g) only of the butter. When the butter is completely incorporated add one more ounce (25 g) of butter and whisk it in.
  4. Whisk in the remaining butter ounce by ounce. Periodically return the pan to the heat and bring the sauce up to near boiling point.
  5. When all the butter is incorporated you should have a smooth velvety sauce. Pour in the lemon juice. Season with salt and cayenne pepper, then strain through muslin.