I'm looking to make a 'paleo version of Bearnaise Sauce. Can you substitute olive oil for butter when making Bearnaise sauce?

  • 5
    I wonder which humanity learned first- to harvest milk or press olives. I would think the only fat that would be truly 'paleo' would have to be rendered mammoth lard. Jul 14, 2014 at 19:17
  • 2
    You can make sauces like Bernaise with olive oil instead of butter, but they won't be Bearnaise, they'll be something else entirely. It may taste good, but it won't taste like Bernaise. Look at this Google Search I used the name hollandaise, just because that's the most basic sauce of that type.
    – Jolenealaska
    Jul 14, 2014 at 19:23
  • I'd give it a shot after looking at some of the links @Jolenealaska's search turned up. I've made plenty of bearnaise in my day... And I'd probably make "paleonnaise" the same way with the bowl over simmering water, whisking, while slowly drizzling warm oil into the mixture until the desired consistency is achieved. No citrus or cayenne, add shallots and tarragon reduction. Actually sounds tasty (to me).
    – Michael E.
    Jul 15, 2014 at 0:57
  • I agree with @Sobachatina, there's nothing remotely paleo about olive oil, or butter for that matter. Paleo refers to foods that humanity ate as hunter-gatherers, before animal husbandry.
    – GdD
    Jul 15, 2014 at 8:37

3 Answers 3


Don't make any emulsion sauces with olive oil. The high speed of dispersion, especially with an electric blender, creates unpleasant bitter compounds in the oil. But frequently, even the speed of a hand whisk is high enough to ruin the taste. Either that, or you are too slow to create the emulsion at all.

You can form yolk-fat-emulsion sauces with practically any fat, and olive oil is an unfortunate exception with its taste change. Just choose another fat compatible with your diet. From a purist's point of view, they won't be a Bearnaise, the French sauces are very tightly classified. You will also get an obvious difference in taste (only butter tastes like butter), and, if you are using a liquid oil, a slight difference in handling - you can let a liquid-oil-emulsion cool down, while a butter or lard based sauce will harden into an unpleasant grainy mass.

If your base food is very plain/bland tasting, you can play with subtle oil tastes to create an interesting effect where the main "seasoning" is the oil in the sauce.

  • I didn't know that about olive oil. Weird, since it's so common in vinaigrettes.
    – Jolenealaska
    Jul 14, 2014 at 23:26
  • @Jolenealaska I'm not sure I find it quite this easy to ruin. Maybe I'm less sensitive.
    – Cascabel
    Jul 15, 2014 at 2:17
  • I've heard for mayo that you can add olive oil towards the end, but you want to start with a light oil when you're first setting up the emulsion ... I don't know if that would reduce the bitterness simple because of scaling, or if there's something about when you're initially beating it harder.
    – Joe
    Jul 15, 2014 at 3:16
  • I don't know exactly what makes it that way, but I can imagine that prolonged beating and oxidation play a role, so both vinnaigrettes and drizzling at the end shouldn't present a problem (or not much).
    – rumtscho
    Jul 15, 2014 at 9:35

Yes, you can make a "light Bearnaise" with olive oil, in fact Gordon Ramsay has done it before and it's featured in a recipe somewhere. Just warm the oil slightly (as you would warm the ghee/clarified butter in an actual Bearnaise sauce,) to keep the temperature correct.

I usually make it this way, as I have more olive oil than I do ghee, also the smell of ghee gets to me a bit. The sauce comes out lighter and you can taste the sourness a bit more, so it would be advisable to ease up on the vinegar a bit.

Since most Bearnaise recipes use a volumetric amount of ghee, you can simply substitute for the same volumetric amount of olive oil (which you may or may not use all of, since you have to judge by eye whether the mixture is about to split or not.)

Source: me. Also Gordon Ramsay did it.


It wouldn't be bearnaise then. Can you make hollandaise with olive oil? It would taste so different that it wouldn't be hollandaise.

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