The Water Trick To Rescue Broken Hollandaise Sauce

Hollandaise sauce is one of those culinary ventures you may plan to make on special occasions. This decadent combination of butter, egg yolks, and lemon juice is a bit of a chore that requires patience, diligence, and a lot of whisking. The goal is to get a perfectly smooth, emulsified sauce that can easily be poured over awaiting eggs or vegetables. However, there is the chance that your hollandaise might break. Fortunately, the simple addition of water does the trick of fixing the broken sauce. 

According to The Spruce Eats, a hollandaise sauce can break in one of two ways. The first type of breakage occurs when the eggs have overcooked and scrambled, which is irreversible. The second way breakage occurs is when the emulsification separates. This results in streaks of melted butter and lemon juice, rather than a uniform sauce. This could be a result of temperature fluctuations or from not whisking the sauce enough. 

Whisking in a tablespoon of boiling water a little at a time should fix the problem, bringing the sauce back to its silky texture. But how exactly does that work? 

Add a little bit of hot water to fix your broken sauce

When you are fixing any kind of broken sauce, whether it is a hollandaise or a pan sauce like gravy, you are working to re-suspend fats and liquids. In the case of hollandaise, your main fat is melted butter, while the water content comes from the egg yolk and lemon juice. The water needs to be present, otherwise emulsification, which is fat that is suspended in liquid, cannot happen. 

If the suspension is broken by a change in temperature, the water can evaporate too quickly. Adding a little more water to the proceedings should re-suspend the fat and return the sauce to its intended texture. You can be more generous with the water, generally around a 1/4 cup, if you're cooking something like a gravy or wine sauce. Keeping it to a tablespoon or under for hollandaise sauce is a good rule of thumb.