Is hollandaise sauce typically gluten-free?

Quick Answer

Hollandaise sauce is typically gluten-free. Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion sauce made mainly from egg yolks, butter, and lemon juice. It does not inherently contain any gluten-containing ingredients. However, hollandaise sauce can become contaminated with gluten through shared cooking equipment or utensils, or by using a thickener that contains gluten. When prepared properly with gluten-free ingredients, hollandaise sauce is safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

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, silky texture and a tangy, buttery flavor. The base of hollandaise sauce is egg yolks, butter, and lemon juice. Additional flavorings like cayenne pepper, tarragon, or mustard are sometimes added.

To make hollandaise sauce, egg yolks are whisked vigorously over low heat while melted butter is slowly drizzled in. The continuous whisking emulsifies the liquid butter into the egg yolks to form a thick, smooth sauce. Lemon juice is then whisked in to provide acidity and brightness. The resulting sauce is luxuriously rich yet light at the same time. It coats the palate with a velvety lushness.

Hollandaise is one of the five “mother sauces” in French cuisine. It serves as the foundation for many other sauces like béarnaise, choron, and maltaise. Classic dishes showcasing hollandaise sauce include eggs Benedict, asparagus with hollandaise, steamed artichokes with hollandaise, poached salmon with hollandaise, and more.

Common Ingredients in Hollandaise Sauce

The main ingredients that go into hollandaise sauce are:

– Egg yolks: Egg yolks provide the emulsified base of the sauce. They give it a rich texture.

– Butter: Melted butter is slowly incorporated into the egg yolks to create the emulsion. Butter contributes tremendous richness and flavor. Clarified butter is often used to keep the butterfat from separating.

– Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice gives hollandaise its characteristic tanginess and brightness. The acidity helps stabilize the emulsion.

– Salt and white pepper: Seasonings are added to enhance and balance flavors.

– Water or stock: Small amounts of liquid may be added to adjust consistency if needed.

Optional flavorings can include:

– Cayenne pepper: Adds a touch of heat.

– Dijon mustard: Provides sharpness.

– Tarragon, dill, parsley, chervil: Fresh herbs brighten up the flavor.

– Vinegar: White wine or champagne vinegar can be used instead of or in addition to lemon juice.

Is Hollandaise Sauce Naturally Gluten-Free?

Yes, hollandaise sauce is naturally gluten-free. It does not contain any gluten-containing ingredients in its basic recipe.

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Hollandaise is made without any flours, grains, or bread products that contain gluten.

The core ingredients – egg yolks, butter, lemon juice – are all gluten-free. None of the herbs, spices, or other typical flavorings contain gluten either.

So in its purest form, hollandaise sauce avoids gluten-containing ingredients entirely. Anyone following a gluten-free diet due to celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or another reason can enjoy true hollandaise sauce.

Risk of Gluten Cross-Contamination

While hollandaise sauce itself does not contain gluten, there is a risk of gluten cross-contamination during preparation and serving.

Shared cooking equipment and utensils may transfer gluten to the otherwise gluten-free sauce. For example, hollandaise can pick up traces of gluten if it’s made or stored in a pan that was previously used to cook wheat-based foods without thorough cleaning.

Likewise, if the spoon used to serve hollandaise sauce was used to dish up a glutenous food beforehand, it could contaminate the sauce with gluten.

To avoid cross-contamination, hollandaise sauce should be made using dedicated gluten-free cooking equipment and served using utensils that haven’t touched gluten-containing foods.

Thickeners That May Contain Gluten

Some cooks use starch thickeners to help stabilize hollandaise sauce and prevent it from separating. However, many common thickeners contain gluten:

– Wheat flour: All-purpose flour contains gluten and would make hollandaise unsafe for gluten-free diets.

– Bread crumbs: Dry bread crumbs are used to absorb excess moisture and thicken sauces. Bread is wheat-based and high in gluten.

– Roux: A wheat flour and butter roux can be whisked into hollandaise to thicken it. But this adds lots of gluten.

– Beurre manié: A paste of butter and flour may also be blended into the sauce as a thickener. Regular flour contains gluten.

To keep hollandaise sauce gluten-free, cooks need to avoid using wheat flour, bread crumbs, roux, beurre manié, or any other starch thickeners made with gluten-containing grains.

Safe Gluten-Free Thickeners

There are several good gluten-free options for thickening hollandaise sauce:

– Cornstarch: This popular thickener is naturally gluten-free and ideal for delicate sauces like hollandaise. It dissolves smoothly into the sauce.

– Arrowroot: Also gluten-free, arrowroot creates a glossy look in liquid-based sauces. It can replace cornstarch as a thickener.

– Gluten-free flour: Rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch flour, and other gluten-free flours can be used to make a roux.

– Xanthan gum: This additive helps stabilize emulsified sauces and prevent separation. A pinch of xanthan gum can boost the consistency of hollandaise.

– Egg yolks: For a natural way to thicken hollandaise, extra egg yolks may be incorporated. The higher yolk ratio results in a richer, thicker sauce.

– Reduction: Simmering the sauce for a bit allows moisture to cook off, reducing and naturally thickening the sauce.

How to Make Gluten-Free Hollandaise Sauce

Making traditional hollandaise sauce that’s gluten-free is easy to do at home. Here are step-by-step instructions:

– 3 large egg yolks
– 1 tbsp lemon juice
– 1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and still hot
– Pinch of cayenne pepper, salt, and white pepper
– 1⁄2 tsp gluten-free flour (optional thickener)


1. Fill a medium pot with a few inches of water and bring to a bare simmer over low heat. This will create a double boiler for the sauce.

2. Whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice, and a tablespoon of water in a heatproof bowl until light and frothy.

3. Place the bowl over the simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.

4. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the hot melted butter while the yolks cook. Whisk vigorously to fully emulsify the sauce.

5. Once all the butter is incorporated, continue whisking over low heat for 1-2 more minutes until the sauce has thickened to your desired consistency. Remove from heat.

6. Whisk in preferred seasonings like cayenne, salt, and white pepper. For a thicker sauce, whisk in the gluten-free flour after removing from heat.

7. Serve the hollandaise sauce immediately while warm. Leftovers can be refrigerated but the sauce may break when reheated.

This simple recipe relies on gluten-free core ingredients. Proper cooking technique creates a rich, decadent hollandaise without the need for wheat-based thickeners.

For flavor variations, try adding dijon mustard, tarragon, parsley, or other gluten-free ingredients. The lemon juice can also be substituted with vinegar.

Buying Gluten-Free Hollandaise Sauce

Pre-made hollandaise sauce is available for purchase from some grocery stores, specialty food shops, and online retailers. This offers a convenient shortcut to enjoying hollandaise at home.

When selecting a pre-made hollandaise sauce, check the ingredient label carefully to verify it is gluten-free. Avoid products listing wheat flour, bread crumbs, wheat starch, barley malt, and other typical gluten sources.

Instead, look for brands that specifically advertise their hollandaise sauce as “gluten-free.” This gives you assurance that it was produced in a facility free from cross-contamination and doesn’t contain prohibited ingredients.

Some reputable gluten-free brands to look for include:

– Stonewall Kitchen: Their hollandaise sauce is certified gluten-free.

– François Payard: Choose their gluten-free hollandaise sauce jars.

– Cello’s: They make canned hollandaise sauce that’s gluten- and dairy-free.

– Sweet Dell’s Bakery: Their dairy-free hollandaise sauce is also gluten-free.

When in doubt, reach out to the manufacturer to confirm the gluten-free status of a product before purchasing. Never make assumptions about what is safe.

Dining Out and Hollandaise Sauce

People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity need to use extreme caution when eating dishes containing hollandaise sauce in restaurants. Dining out poses a high risk of gluten cross-contamination.

Here are some tips for safely consuming hollandaise sauce away from home:

– Verify gluten-free status: Ask your server detailed questions to determine if the hollandaise is made gluten-free. Many restaurants overlook possible contamination.

– Request separate equipment: Ask that your dish be prepared using dedicated pots, pans and utensils that haven’t touched gluten.

– Avoid thickened sauces: Opt for dishes with a thinner, pouring-style hollandaise rather than a thickened, dense sauce which likely contains flour.

– Skip breading: Choose meat, fish, or vegetables dressed with hollandaise rather than breaded and fried items dunked in the sauce. The breading probably contains gluten.

– Check dressings: Make sure none of the side dressings or salad ingredients contain gluten, as it could contaminate your plate and get into the hollandaise sauce.

– Ask about shared fryer: If the dish contains fried components, verify the fryer oil is completely separate from gluten-containing fried menu items. Shared fryers are problematic.

Dining out with celiac disease requires significant effort to stay safe. Use your best judgment when deciding whether a restaurant can reliably provide gluten-free hollandaise sauce.

Packaged Hollandaise Sauce Nutrition Facts

Hollandaise is a high-fat, high-calorie sauce. Here is the nutrition breakdown for a typical packaged hollandaise sauce (2 tbsp serving):

Calories 145
Fat 16g
Saturated Fat 10g
Cholesterol 125mg
Sodium 171mg
Carbohydrates 0.5g
Fiber 0g
Sugar 0.5g
Protein 0.5g

As you can see, nearly all the calories in hollandaise come from fat. The high sat fat and cholesterol numbers are due to large amounts of butter and egg yolks.

Hollandaise sauce delivers a hefty dose of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin D too. But the ultra-rich sauce provides little else in the way of nutrients.

Due to its high calorie and fat content, hollandaise sauce is best enjoyed in moderation on special occasions. Regularly consuming large portions may lead to unwanted weight gain. Those on low-fat diets or watching cholesterol levels need to be mindful as well.

Is Hollandaise Sauce Dairy-Free?

No, traditional hollandaise sauce is not dairy-free. It relies heavily on butter and egg yolks sourced from animals.

Some of the core dairy ingredients in hollandaise include:

– Butter: Hollandaise is based on melted butter, making it very high in milk fat. Most butter is made from cow’s milk.

– Egg yolks: The emulsified base of hollandaise is egg yolks. Eggs are considered a dairy product.

– Milk or cream: Small amounts of dairy milk or cream may be added to adjust texture and moisture.

– Buttermilk: Occasionally used in place of lemon juice to provide tanginess. Buttermilk is dairy-based.

So those following a vegan diet or who have a dairy allergy usually need to avoid conventional hollandaise sauce.

However, dairy-free versions of hollandaise can be made by substituting plant-based ingredients:

– Vegetable oil or vegan butter: For the butter component.

– Tofu: Silken tofu can replace egg yolks as the emulsifying agent.

– Non-dairy milk: Use almond, soy or oat milk instead of dairy milk or cream.

– Lemon juice: Provides non-dairy acidity in place of buttermilk.

With these substitutions, people who are dairy-free can still enjoy the luxurious taste of hollandaise sauce. It just requires some adjustments to the traditional recipe.


When prepared properly with gluten-free and dairy-free ingredients, hollandaise sauce can be enjoyed by those with food allergies or following special diets. But dining out poses risks due to likelihood of cross-contamination. Cooking hollandaise sauce at home using your own cookware and safe ingredients is the best option for people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. With some simple recipe alterations, hollandaise can be a delicious gluten-free and dairy-free treat. Just be mindful of portion sizes, as the indulgent sauce is high in calories, fat, and cholesterol. Overall, hollandaise sauce is a versatile recipe that can be tailored to suit a variety of dietary needs.

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