Sorrel Sauce

4.60 from 10 votes
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finished sorrel sauce, in a gravy boat
photo by Holly A. Heyser

Sometimes simple is best. Sorrel sauce is a bedrock sauce in classic French cuisine, and while not quite a “mother sauce,” it is as versatile as it is easy to make. After all, there are only really four ingredients to it.

First off, however, I need to tell you about sorrel. Rumex acetosa, common garden sorrel, is one of my favorite things to grow in my garden. Why? For starters, it’s ridiculously easy to grow. It’s basically a weed with a deep root network. Drought tolerant, good to eat all year round, self sowing — hell, it’s borderline invasive.

garden sorrel growing
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

What do you do with it? Well, sorrel is a hybrid herb and vegetable. It looks like a lettuce, but it tastes like lemonade in a leaf. That tartness comes from oxalic acid, the same stuff in rhubarb. But sorrel does indeed make a cool salad green. I love it in sandwiches, as an accent in salads, in sorrel soup, another French standby, and of course in this sauce.

Garden sorrel also has wild relatives. Oxalis is one — here in California there is a non-native oxalis with shamrock leaves and warm yellow flowers — there is also wood sorrel, a common weed, as well as sheep sorrel. Both of these last two grow wild all over the United States and Canada. You can absolutely use these sorrels in the kitchen, too, although they are a lot smaller.

Once you have your sorrel, you really ought to make this sauce. The cream tames the sometimes harsh acidity of sorrel, and the result is a lush, balanced sauce that is absolutely ideal for light meats and eggs. It’s the yin to the subtle yang you get with a piece of poached fish or poultry.

pouring sorrel sauce on turkey breast
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

The ultimate classic is salmon with sorrel sauce, but sorrel sauce is wonderful with any white fish, with poultry like turkey, pheasant or chicken, as well as with egg dishes.

There are lots of versions of this sauce, but here I adapt a stripped down classic that I first read in Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. My advice: If you catch fish or hunt wild turkeys, or if you like poached meats or eggs, memorize this sauce. You will not be sorry.

sorrel sauce recipe
4.60 from 10 votes

Classic French Sorrel Sauce

Sorrel can be tricky to find in markets, although I do see it in farmer's markets occasionally. Your best bet is to grow it. Sorrel is indestructible in the garden and grows really easily. I planted a few plants in 2004 and they're still going strong, and expand every year. You can buy sorrel seeds online or in most seed catalogs. Or you can use wild sorrel. 
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: French
Servings: 10
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 pound sorrel leaves, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons vermouth, or chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

Instructions 

  • Chiffonade the sorrel by curling up a few leaves at a time and slicing them very thin.
  • Pour the cream in a small pot and bring it to a simmer. Doing this will prevent it from curdling when it hits all that acidic sorrel in a few minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in another small to medium pot, heat the butter over medium heat and add the sorrel. Cook the sorrel, stirring often, until it melts -- it will cook down a lot and turn Army green. When it does, stir in the cream and bring the sauce to a bare simmer. It will be pretty thick, so you'll want to add the vermouth or stock to thin it out. You can add another tablespoon if you want the sauce even thinner. Add salt and white pepper to taste and serve.

Notes

Once you make this sauce, you'll need to use it; it doesn't keep well, although it will be OK on the stovetop kept warm for an hour or two.

Nutrition

Calories: 90kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 7mg | Potassium: 12mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 610IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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36 Comments

  1. Have a patch of sorrel that I rarely use, but made this and we will make it again and again. I hate to substitute the first time I make a recipe, but with sheltering in place (Covid 19) I used Icelandic skyr non fat instead of cream and also used a stick blender at the end to puree nice and smooth. I can imagine a lot of uses for this – we topped some white runner beans / farro/broth with the sauce and both of us loved it. Thanks for a great and quick recipe.

  2. I’ve grown sorrel for years and don’t make half enough use of it. This and the sorrel soup recipe should start to make dents in my crop.

  3. Delicious every time! Love this classic sauce over salmon! I don’t always get access to fresh sorrel but Polish and other Eastern European specialty markets often carry jars of it that substitutes nicely.

  4. I made this with half and half, skipped the vermouth/vegetable stock and it turned out perfect and absolutely delicious!

  5. Due to the small size of our single French sorrel plant, I halved your recipe as an excellent companion to the bass BIL caught the day before.

  6. Hank…

    I go out foraging with your old friend, Pascal, here in L.A. and was wondering if curly dock would be a good substitute for sorrel in this sauce. It’s very plentiful around here right now.

    Thanks,
    Brian

  7. I’m confused as to how this makes 2 cups of sauce when you start with only 2/3 c. heavy cream and a couple of tbls. of vermouth or stock?

    1. Nina: Sorry, I go by weight here because there are many kinds of sorrel, all different sizes. You might want to pick up a kitchen scale if you get a chance. They are always useful.

  8. This sauce is ridiculously easy and ridiculously delicious. We planted sorrel in the garden three years ago and it comes back early and often, so we make this a lot. Tonight I used shallots in the butter before adding the leaves and threw in some lobster stock to thin. Using it over hstuffed filet of sole. Thanks, Hank!

  9. The plant you are descibing in the rumex genus isnt related to the clover-looking plant called wood sorrel. It’s also known as dock, and you can usually find it growing in ditches or fields.

    1. Jack. Nope. I know all about dock, and I am not talking about that rumex. I am talking about the rumex that is commonly known as sheep sorrel.

  10. I was looking for a way to use these giant bags of sorrel that I picked up at the farmers market today. This is just perfect to go with our mother’s day brunch with potatoes and goose eggs.

  11. As kids growing up in Marin we successfully foiled scurvy in the spring and early summer chewing on Oxalis – sour grass, we called it. The wife of a friend visiting 30 years later made a great takeoff on sorrel soup with it. Don’t see it here in the foothills, though.

  12. I also grow sorrel in my backyard but I have not tried making a sauce. Salmon with sorrel sauce sounds very delicious right now.