We Tried 6 Ways of Making Hollandaise and the Winner Delivers the Creamiest, Dreamiest, and Easiest Sauce

published Apr 7, 2023
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various methods of making hollandaise sauce lined up and labeled on surface
Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

If you’ve ever had a great hollandaise sauce, draped over a plate of eggs Benedict or ladled atop perfectly steamed spring asparagus, you know that it can be absolutely divine: Supremely rich and buttery, with a smooth, creamy texture. Its main ingredients are butter and egg yolks (hence the richness), with supporting flavor notes from lemon juice, salt, and optional cayenne pepper. 

Hollandaise is one of the classic French mother sauces, as traditional — and as tricky to make — as mayonnaise. The idea of whipping up homemade hollandaise sauce strikes fear in the hearts of many, as tales of the sauce “breaking” (or separating into a curdled mess) are common, even among the most accomplished cooks.

I must admit to being something of a born-again hollandaise newbie, as it had been at least 10 years since I had made the sauce. So I was excited to reacquaint myself with the golden-hued concoction, scouring the internet for helpful resources to guide me through the most popular methods to test.

I am delighted to report that with one exception (which I basically corrected with a slight adjustment), I had fantastic luck with all of my hollandaise tests, turning out one smooth, creamy batch after another. Maybe it was beginner’s luck. Or maybe it’s all about one key move. Read on to find out which methods worked quite well and to find out which one won my heart as the standout, hands-down winner. 

So, What Is the Best Way to Make Hollandaise?

While I only had one method that felt like a flop, the rest were good, solid techniques that will all produce good hollandaise, some thicker or thinner than the others. But one method truly stood out as a winner, rewarding me with the most luxuriously creamy, dreamy sauce, and that was the blender method.

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

A Few Notes on Methodology

The ingredients: I used the exact same ingredients and amounts to test each method: 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 3 large egg yolks, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. To keep things as equal as possible, I used the same brand of butter (Cabot) and eggs (Vital Farms). I separated the eggs using my new favorite method and Iet the yolks sit at room temperature for 20 minutes to take the chill off before proceeding with each test. 

The tests: After preparing each version of hollandaise, I tasted it on its own as well as draped over some steamed asparagus. I measured the volume of each finished sauce and had consistent results, 3/4 cup — with one exception, which I note below.   

The times: All of the methods were relatively quick (10 minutes or less). The time stated is for making the hollandaise itself and does not include the 20 minutes that I allowed the egg yolks to stand at room temperature before starting.

Ratings: I judged each method on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing perfection. The main criteria upon which I based my ratings on included texture, flavor, and ease or difficulty of the method. 

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Hollandaise Method: Microwave

  • Time: 3 minutes
  • Rating: 3/10 

About this method: For guidance, I used a recipe posted on Food.com. I cut the butter (see above for ingredient amounts) into 1-tablespoon pieces and placed them in a 4-cup glass measuring cup. I microwaved the butter on high until softened (for me this took 30 seconds) and in a separate bowl whisked together the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, and cayenne. When the butter was soft, I poured the yolk mixture on top and let it stand for one minute. I then microwaved the mixture in 15-second intervals, whisking after each interval.

Results: My first test with this method was a bust. After the third 15-second interval, I had a completely curdled mess. The yolks had coagulated and were completely separated from the liquified butter. There was no integration, no emulsion. Now, my microwave is a new-ish 1100-watt model, so I figured that perhaps it was too powerful. I tried the method again, cooking at 70% power for the 15-second intervals (for a total of 45 seconds). That time, I had better luck and achieved a smoother sauce, but there were still a few small curds of egg in the mixture.

Microwave ovens vary tremendously, based on the brand and wattage. I feel that with enough trial and error, you could definitely find your sweet spot — and I feel that I got close with my second test. Unfortunately, you might have to go through several rounds to get there. I don’t feel that this method is reliable as is; you risk ruining a few batches of sauce as you search for that ideal power level.

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Hollandaise Method: Food Processor

  • Time: 4 minutes
  • Rating: 7/10 

About this method: I used the instructions and helpful photos from Inquiring Chef to guide me through this test. I started by gently melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. While that was going, I placed the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, and cayenne pepper in the bowl of a food processor (I have a Cuisinart) and pulsed 5 times to combine them. I then turned the processor on high speed and slowly drizzled in the butter through the feed chute until the sauce was emulsified.

Results: This method was very quick and easy and yielded wonderfully smooth results. The texture was a bit thin, though: The sauce dribbled off a spoon, whereas I would rather have it fall off in ribbons instead. At the end, I found that some of the salt and cayenne pepper had stuck to the bottom of the food processor bowl, so the sauce wasn’t as well-seasoned as it should have been. If you like your hollandaise on the looser, thinner side, this method is for you — just be sure that the seasonings are well-integrated. 

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Hollandaise Method: Immersion Blender

  • Time: 4 minutes
  • Rating: 7.5/10 

About this method: To test this method, I followed the instructions from Recipe Tin Eats, using the ingredient amounts I listed above in methodology notes. I gently melted the butter in a small saucepan (over medium-low heat), which took just a couple of minutes. I placed the yolks, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a tall, narrow glass for blending. (I first tested to see if my stick blender, an older Braun model, would fit down into a standard Mason jar, and it was too big.)

I blended the ingredients on high speed for 10 seconds. I then poured the melted butter into a 1-cup liquid measuring cup (so that I could use the spout for drizzling), turned the blender on high speed and kept it at the bottom of the container, and gradually added the butter in a thin stream. Once all the butter was added, I moved the blender up and down for 10 seconds while still blending.

Results: This method was quick and overall pretty easy. I did find it a bit awkward drizzling the butter into the narrow container while the blender was all the way down inside it. The hollandaise was very creamy, but it got very thick. For me, it was a little too thick and almost mayonnaise consistency. If this is your jam, though, know that this method is for you. 

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Hollandaise Method: Double Boiler, in a Glass Bowl

  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Rating: 8/10 

About this method: For directions on how to test this traditional method, I used The Spruce Eats. I started by gently melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. In a medium saucepan, I brought 1 inch of water to a simmer and kept it simmering over low heat. In a medium heatproof glass bowl that fit snugly over the medium saucepan, I whisked together the egg yolks and lemon juice until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. I then placed the bowl over the simmering water and continued whisking as I very slowly drizzled in the butter. Once all the butter was added, I continued whisking over the heat until the sauce was thickened. I removed the bowl from the heat and whisked in the salt and cayenne pepper.

Results: The hollandaise was quite creamy and very smooth, with a spoonable but thick consistency. The method requires a decent bit of elbow grease, but I found it to be a fun and rewarding process. This method took the longest of the bunch, but it’s still only a 10-minute process. If you like being hands-on and enjoy a thicker sauce, this method will be right up your alley.

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Hollandaise Method: Double Boiler, in a Metal Bowl

  • Time: 8 minutes
  • Rating: 9/10 

About this method: For this method, I used the same source as above (The Spruce Eats), simply using a heat-proof metal bowl instead of a glass one. The method went the same as with the glass bowl method: Melt butter gently in a small saucepan. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Whisk together egg yolks and lemon juice in a medium heat-proof metal bowl until thickened, about 2 minutes. Place the metal bowl over simmering water and whisk constantly while slowly drizzling in melted butter. Continue whisking over the heat until the sauce thickens. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the salt and cayenne pepper.

Results: This method went a little quicker than the glass bowl method, and the sauce was wonderfully smooth and creamy, somehow ending up with a slightly looser consistency than when made in the glass bowl. For me, this was ideal, as it was great for draping over vegetables. The method did require the same amount of elbow grease, but again it was a fun process (it feels good to know you’re providing the power behind the method), and it rewards you with great results.

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Hollandaise Method: Blender

  • Time: 4 minutes
  • Rating: 10/10 

About this method: I used a recipe from Simply Recipes for guidance on testing this technique. I started by gently melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. I placed the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, and cayenne pepper in a blender (I have a Blendtec high-powered model) and blended at medium-high speed for 30 seconds. With the blender on low speed, I removed the centerpiece of the blender lid and slowly drizzled in the melted butter.

Results: The sauce was fantastically, luxuriously smooth and rich, with delectable body. It was drizzle-able and fell off a spoon in ribbons. It was supremely creamy, too, like a heavily whisked sauce that’s been masterfully aerated by the skilled hands of a Michelin-starred chef — but without any of the elbow grease (or the need for the chef). This was the sauce that yielded a little more than the 3/4 cup that the other methods consistently measured, no doubt due to the extra aeration. That extra aeration made for the most indulgent, delicious sauce, one that I can only describe as dancing on the palate. And when something dances on my palate, well, it’s unquestionably a winner.