My quick and easy peppercorn sauce recipe. It’s made without cream, instead using milk and other common store cupboard and fridge ingredients so you can whip it up whenever you want.
When I first decided to try making my own peppercorn sauce I wanted to find a recipe which could be made with ingredients I always have at home. I found that most recipes have a cream base, which I only have in when I know I’m going to need it.
Then I came across this recipe for Quick & Simple Peppercorn Sauce on Stu’s Food (unfortunately this site is no longer available) which is made without cream. Instead it combines a roux base and milk to give it it’s rich creamy texture and flavour.
My own peppercorn sauce recipe has grown from this idea and is the perfect accompaniment to steak, gammon or chicken
Peppercorn Sauce FAQs
If it’s your first time making this recipe or you have a question, please take a moment to have a read through my FAQs for some extra tips and allergen information.
- What can I serve peppercorn sauce with?
- Can I prepare the peppercorn sauce in advance?
- Can I use cream instead of milk to make this sauce?
- Can I use a different type of alcohol to brandy in peppercorn sauce?
- Do I have to use alcohol in peppercorn sauce?
- Can I add meat juices to this sauce?
- Can I add onions or garlic to the peppercorn sauce?
- What peppercorns are best to use for peppercorn sauce?
- Is peppercorn sauce spicy?
- Is this peppercorn sauce recipes suitable for vegetarians?
- Can I make vegan peppercorn sauce?
- How can I make peppercorn sauce lower in fat?
- What is this peppercorn sauce free from? Who is it suitable for?
What can I serve peppercorn sauce with?
Peppercorn sauce is most classically served with (beef) steak as steak au poivre, a classic French dish but is equally delicious served with lamb, pork or even chicken.
Used sparingly it can also be used as a creamy pasta sauce, in a layered potato bake or anywhere that a béchamel (white) sauce would usually be used but needs a little more kick!
Can I prepare the peppercorn sauce in advance?
This sauce can be prepared in advance and then reheated just before serving.
The sauce will thicken as it reheats so you’ll need to add a little extra milk to get it back to its original thickness.
In the meantime, the sauce can be kept in the fridge in an airtight container or covered with cling film. If you make sure the cling film touches the top of the sauce, this will stop a skin from forming.
❄️ Suitable for freezing
This sauce is suitable for freezing, simply store it in an airtight container until you want to use it. It will separate a little in the freezer but you’ll find it’ll come back to its original consistency as it’s heated.
Can I use cream instead of milk to make this sauce?
This isn’t something I would recommend. In many peppercorn sauce recipes the thickness of the sauce comes from cream. In this recipe it comes from the roux base to the sauce. Using both cream and a roux base will give you a sauce that is too thick.
Can I use a different type of alcohol to brandy in peppercorn sauce?
Brandy is the classic flavour for peppercorn sauce but you can easily substitute another spirit. Readers have used both whiskey and vermouth with success.
I would try to stick with rich warming spirits, something like vodka or gin is likely to be less successful.
Do I have to use alcohol in peppercorn sauce?
No, you can either leave out the alcohol entirely or use a non-alcoholic substitute.
Can I add meat juices to this sauce?
Yes you can add any meat cooking juices to the sauce for extra flavour. Be mindful that juices will make the sauce thinner so you may need to reduce the amount of stock that you are using to take account of this.
Can I add onions or garlic to the peppercorn sauce?
Yes, you can add onion and/or garlic to the sauce at the beginning stage of the process. Soften diced or sliced onions in the butter before adding the flour.
You can either leave the onions chunky in the sauce or use a stick blender to blitz it after the milk has been added.
Minced/grated garlic can also be added to the butter – be careful that it doesn’t catch and burn as this could ruin the sauce.
What peppercorns are best to use for peppercorn sauce?
I use regular black peppercorns. I always start with whole peppercorns and grind them myself. This ensures that the flavours are fresh and fragrant which will impact the flavour of the sauce.
Pink and green peppercorns are milder and a little more fruity in flavour. You can use these to make a milder flavour sauce or mix them with black peppercorns for a more fragrant sauce.
Is peppercorn sauce spicy?
Pepper does have a spicy kick to it but it is not overpowering in this sauce. If you want to make the sauce spicier, you can increase the amount of peppercorns, use Szechuan peppercorns or even add some dried chilli flakes.
If you don’t want your sauce with too much of a kick you could reduce the amount of peppercorns but then you run the risk of it not having enough flavour and not really being a peppercorn sauce anymore. Using green or pink peppercorns with just a little black peppercorn may be a better solution.
Is this peppercorn sauce recipes suitable for vegetarians?
I use chicken stock to make the sauce as I like the rich flavour that this gives but you can easily switch this to a vegetable or mushroom stock to make a vegetarian peppercorn sauce if you prefer.
Can I make vegan peppercorn sauce?
Yes! In addition to using vegetable or mushroom stock, you will need to make a few simple swaps from dairy products to dairy free/plant based alternatives.
The butter is easy to switch for a plant based butter and the milk can be substituted with an unsweetened plant-based milk. I would try to choose something more neutral in flavour like soy, almond or cashew milk rather than something with quite a distinct flavour like coconut milk.
How can I make peppercorn sauce lower in fat?
I have created a whole separate recipe with a lower calorie and lower fat version of this sauce. Have a look at my recipe for Peppercorn Sauce… with a healthy makeover for more details.
What is this peppercorn sauce free from? Who is it suitable for?
The ingredients I used to make this recipe are all free from the following allergens. However, please check any labels carefully for allergens you need to avoid as brands can vary, and product recipes can change over time.
- Tree Nut-Free
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- 35 g butter
- 35 g plain flour
- 200 ml milk - I use skimmed but any type is fine
- 100 ml chicken stock - or ½ chicken stock cube with 100ml water
- 1 tbsp brandy
- 15 g (4 tsp) black peppercorns - vary this according to how powerful you want your sauce to be
- Crack the black peppercorns (15g) in a pestle and mortar (if you don’t have one, put them in a plastic bag, wrap in a tea towel, and hit a few times with a rolling pin) – You want to make sure that the peppercorns are cracked, but do not over-grind otherwise the sauce will lose its intense peppery flavour.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter (35g) on a low heat.
- Once the butter is fully melted, gradually add the flour (35g). After each addition mix well to ensure it is fully combined with the butter. Once all the flour is added you should have a thick smooth paste.
- Cook the butter and flour mix for a couple of minutes stirring regularly – Cooking the butter and flour mix for a couple of minutes before adding the other ingredients ensures that the flour is cooked. If you skip this step your finished sauce may have an odd floury taste.
- Add the brandy (1 tbsp) and mix well to combine with the butter and flour – adding the brandy at this stage ensures that the alcohol is cooked off.
- Gradually add the milk (200ml), mixing well after each addition to combine with the butter and flour – I like to switch to using a whisk at this stage as it helps to break down any lumps.
- Once all the milk is combined, add the chicken stock and black peppercorns and season with salt (I use approx. ¼tsp)
- Simmer gently until the sauce has reduced to your required consistency.
If you’re making the sauce in advance
- Once the sauce has cooked, pour it into a jug or bowl and immediately cover with clingfilm. It’s important that you push the clingfilm down into the dish so that it is in contact with the top of the sauce. This will prevent a skin forming.
- Just before serving, pour back into a saucepan and heat gently until warm. If you find that the sauce is becoming too thick, add a little milk to loosen it the the required consistency.
Any nutritional information provided is the estimated nutritional information per serving. Please refer to my guide to Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen nutritional information if you would like to learn more about how this is calculated.