Tips & Techniques > Troubleshooting Hollandaise

Hollandaise can be very finicky and there are several reasons why this particular sauce can curdle or split. If the heat is too high, the egg yolks will curdle and the sauce will become grainy. When a sauce splits, this means that the fat has separated from the egg foam (the sauce has lost its emulsion). The result will look thin, greasy, and lumpy.

The list below identifies some troubleshooting tips if you encounter problems when making this sauce. If the:

sabayon curdles/coagulates: the sabayon was too hot. Start over. Curdled eggs cannot be salvaged. Do not attempt to add any butter.

sabayon is not fluffy: you may be whisking too slow. Whisk faster.

sauce is too hot: try whisking in a few drops of cold water or let the sauce cool before trying to fix it as show in Topic 7 in the lesson on How to Make Hollandaise.

sauce is too cold: try whisking in a few drops of warm water; or, warm the sauce over a bain marie.

butter was added too quickly: try to fix it as shown in Topic 7 in the lesson on How to Make Hollandaise.

sauce is on the verge of breaking: slowly whisk in 1 tbsp of cold water or heavy cream; or, place the bowl over an ice bath, whisk constantly until you can’t see the butterfat and the sauce is smooth.

final sauce is too thin: the sabayon may not have been cooked enough; or, you may need to add more butter.

final sauce is too thick: thin the sauce down with a bit of water or lemon juice. Thick sauces can easily split; thinning them down with a bit of liquid will help to stabilize the emulsion.

sauce tastes eggy: this can mean the sabayon was not cooked enough or not enough butter was added to the sabayon.