Does hollandaise sauce contain dairy?

Quick Answer

Yes, hollandaise sauce does contain dairy. The main ingredients in hollandaise sauce are egg yolks, butter, and lemon juice. Both the egg yolks and butter are dairy products, so hollandaise sauce is not dairy-free.

What is Hollandaise Sauce?

Hollandaise sauce is a rich, creamy sauce that plays a starring role in many classic French dishes. It has a smooth, velvety texture and a rich, tangy flavor from lemon juice and cayenne pepper. The base of the sauce is made by emulsifying egg yolks with melted butter.

Some key facts about hollandaise sauce:

  • Hollandaise is one of the five “mother sauces” of classical French cuisine. The others are béchamel, velouté, espagnole, and tomato.
  • It is categorized as a “warm emulsion sauce” since it involves emulsifying butter into egg yolks over gentle heat.
  • Hollandaise is served warm, not hot, since heating it too much will cause the sauce to break.
  • It has a creamy, custard-like texture from the egg yolks.
  • The sauce is seasoned with lemon juice, salt and white pepper, and sometimes cayenne pepper or other seasonings.
  • Hollandaise is rich in fat, with about 85% of its calories coming from fat. Egg yolks and butter are high in saturated fat.

So in summary, hollandaise sauce is a warm, creamy, lemony sauce made by emulsifying egg yolks and melted butter. It’s considered a “mother sauce” of French cuisine and is classically served over vegetables, fish, eggs, and meat.

Hollandaise Sauce Ingredients

There are only 3 main ingredients that go into making a basic hollandaise sauce:

Egg yolks: Egg yolks provide the rich flavor, pale yellow color, and thickening power to hollandaise sauce. The lecithin in egg yolks acts as the emulsifier that allows the butter to smoothly blend into the sauce. Hollandaise recipes call for around 2-4 egg yolks per cup of butter.

Butter: Melted butter gives hollandaise its signature richness and creamy texture. Clarified butter is often used since it won’t separate when heated. Regular unsalted butter can also be used. Hollandaise is a butter-heavy sauce, with about 8-12 ounces of melted butter per 2-4 egg yolks.

Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice provides bright acidity to balance out the richness of the butter and egg yolks. Around 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice is added per cup of hollandaise sauce. The acidity helps stabilize the emulsification.

Additionally, hollandaise sauce is typically seasoned with:

  • Salt and white pepper for flavor
  • Cayenne pepper for a subtle heat (optional)
  • Herbs like tarragon, chervil, or parsley for freshness (optional)

But the core of the sauce begins with egg yolks, butter, and lemon juice. Hollandaise is a true emulsion sauce, relying on the mixing of fat (butter) and water (yolks) stabilized by an emulsifier (lecithin in egg yolks). This gives it its defining creamy, rich texture.

Why Hollandaise Sauce Contains Dairy

Hollandaise sauce contains dairy because two of its main ingredients are dairy products:

Egg yolks – Eggs are a dairy product, so the egg yolks used to make hollandaise sauce are derived from an animal (chicken) and contain dairy. Egg yolks contain milk proteins and lactose, making them a source of dairy.

Butter – Butter is made from churning cream or milk, so it is 100% dairy. Whether clarified butter or regular butter is used, the butter in hollandaise brings a rich creaminess and milk fat content to the sauce.

So with egg yolks and butter in every batch, hollandaise sauce always contains concentrated sources of dairy. There is no way to make a hollandaise without including these two integral dairy ingredients.

Some additional reasons why hollandaise sauce cannot be dairy-free:

  • It relies on the fat in butter and the lecithin in egg yolks to form an emulsion. Removing the dairy ingredients would make a totally different sauce.
  • Non-dairy alternatives like vegetable oil or aquafaba could potentially be used but would create a very different end result.
  • Egg yolks and butter provide signature flavors that would be very difficult to replicate with non-dairy products.
  • In French cuisine, hollandaise sauce is defined by its classic ingredients. Changing the formula would make it an entirely different sauce.

So in summary, hollandaise sauce contains concentrated dairy ingredients that are essential to its traditional flavor, texture, and preparation. Hollandaise relies on the richness of butter and emulsifying power of egg yolks, making it impossible to make a dairy-free version that resembles the classic French sauce.

Dairy-Free Substitutions

While hollandaise sauce can’t be made completely dairy-free, some substitutions can be made to reduce the dairy content:

Vegetable oil or coconut oil – For a vegan hollandaise, the butter can be replaced with vegetable, grapeseed, or coconut oil. However, this changes the flavor significantly.

Aquafaba – The liquid from a can of chickpeas can mimic egg yolks, acting as the emulsifier. This makes a vegan but not dairy-free hollandaise.

Oat milk – Non-dairy milks like oat milk contain lecithin that may help stabilize the sauce when egg yolks are removed.

Vegan butter – Replacing regular butter with vegan butter eliminates the milk butterfat. But most vegan butters still contain soy or other non-dairy versions of milk proteins.

Nutritional yeast – Adds savory, cheesy notes similar to egg yolk flavor. Not an exact flavor match but can help compensate when yolks are removed.

However, even with these substitutions, the end result will not taste exactly like a true hollandaise sauce. The dairy ingredients are essential for the classic flavor and texture that hollandaise is known for in French cuisine.

Suitable for Lactose Intolerance?

Hollandaise sauce is not suitable for people with lactose intolerance due to its high dairy content:

  • Egg yolks contain lactose sugars, about 0.6-0.7% by weight.
  • Butter is almost pure milk fat, with trace amounts of lactose.
  • In a 1/4 cup serving of hollandaise, there can be up to 0.2g lactose.
  • The lactose content may be low enough that some lactose intolerant individuals can tolerate small amounts.
  • But for those with severe lactose intolerance, even small amounts can cause digestive issues.
  • There is no good way to remove or reduce the lactose content of hollandaise sauce.

Some options for lactose intolerant individuals:

  • Consume only 1-2 tablespoons of hollandaise sauce at a time.
  • Take lactase enzyme pills to help digest the lactose.
  • Substitute Hollandaise sauce with an alternative sauce or dressing that does not contain dairy.

Overall, hollandaise sauce is not considered lactose-free or appropriate for strict lactose intolerance. Those with a dairy allergy or sensitivity should also avoid hollandaise sauce due to its high amounts of egg and butter.

Nutrition Facts

Here are the nutrition facts for a typical 1/4 cup serving of homemade hollandaise sauce (68g):

Nutrient Amount
Calories 477
Total Fat 51g
Saturated Fat 31g
Cholesterol 437mg
Sodium 204mg
Total Carbohydrates 1g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
Protein 3g

As you can see, hollandaise sauce is very high in fat and cholesterol due to being made primarily from egg yolks and butter. Just a quarter cup provides over half of the recommended daily value for saturated fat and cholesterol.

Hollandaise has minimal carbs, fiber, sugar and protein. About 85% of its calories come from fat. Due to its very high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, hollandaise sauce should be consumed in moderation. Those with heart disease, diabetes or high cholesterol should minimize intake to small servings.

Cost Analysis

Here is a cost breakdown for making 1 cup of homemade hollandaise sauce:

Ingredient Amount Cost
Eggs 4 egg yolks $0.48
Butter 8 oz (2 sticks) $1.20
Lemon 1 lemon $0.50
Total cost: $2.18

The total cost to make 1 cup of hollandaise sauce at home is about $2.18. The most expensive ingredient is the butter. Prices may vary based on quality of ingredients and location.

Overall hollandaise sauce is relatively affordable to make at home, especially compared to buying pre-made hollandaise which can cost $5 to $12 per cup. Making your own allows you to control the quality and ingredients.

Shelf Life and Storage

Hollandaise sauce has a relatively short shelf life after being made:

  • Room temperature – Will keep for 2-4 hours
  • Refrigerated – Will keep for 3-5 days
  • Frozen – Can keep frozen for 1-2 months

To maximize freshness and shelf life:

  • Prepare only what you will use within a couple hours if leaving at room temp.
  • Transfer leftover sauce to an airtight container and refrigerate promptly.
  • Spoon a thin layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface before refrigerating.
  • Freeze extra sauce in ice cube trays or muffin tins for easy reheating.
  • Label frozen hollandaise with the date and use within 1-2 months.
  • Reheat frozen sauce gently over low heat while stirring.

Hollandaise will develop an unappetizing appearance and off flavors when it starts to go bad. Signs include:

  • Curdled or separated texture
  • Dull yellow color instead of bright yellow
  • Sour, rancid, or ‘eggy’ smell and taste
  • Grayish discoloration
  • Mold growth (if refrigerated too long)

For food safety, hollandaise sauce should be discarded if it shows any of these signs of spoilage. It’s best to make hollandaise in small batches to use up within a few days.

Common Uses

Here are some of the most popular uses for hollandaise sauce:

Benedicts – Hollandaise is the defining sauce in Eggs Benedict and its many variations like Florentine, Canadian bacon, smoked salmon, etc. It is typically ladled over the poached eggs and meat.

Vegetables – Warm, cooked vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, green beans, and artichokes are all excellent complements to hollandaise sauce.

Seafood – Hollandaise is a classic pairing with poached or grilled fish and shellfish dishes. It’s commonly served over salmon, sole and lobster.

Eggs – In addition to Benedicts, hollandaise can elevate simple scrambled eggs, omelets or baked eggs.

Meat – Tender cuts of meat like chicken breasts, pork chops or filet mignon are enhanced by a few spoonfuls of hollandaise.

Sandwiches – A spread of hollandaise can turn an average sandwich into something special. Try it on croque monsieurs, breakfast sandwiches and burger buns.

The rich, velvety consistency of hollandaise sauce complements and enhances so many foods. Warm, buttery hollandaise can instantly elevate a meal into a luxurious dining experience. It’s a versatile sauce that no French kitchen should be without.


Hollandaise sauce is a creamy emulsion sauce made from egg yolks, butter and lemon juice. It contains concentrated amounts of dairy ingredients, specifically egg yolks and butter, which provide its signature rich texture and tangy flavor.

There is no way to make a hollandaise sauce completely dairy-free while retaining its identifying qualities. Some vegan substitutions like vegetable oil and aquafaba can be used but result in a vastly different end product. Those with lactose intolerance, dairy allergies or appetite for reduced fat should minimize intake or avoid hollandaise.

When made fresh, hollandaise sauce can elevate the flavor of vegetables, eggs, seafood and meat dishes. It does have a short shelf life and requires careful storage. But when made properly, a from-scratch hollandaise sauce is relatively affordable and worth the effort to have its luxurious flavors on hand. This iconic French sauce retains its place as a “mother” sauce for good reason.

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