When I’m trying to up my dinner game, I look to sauces as a way to transform traditional dishes. This creamy peppercorn sauce recipe is my go-to for that — it makes any dinner feel like a special occasion.
Using a medley of peppercorns gives the sauce more dimension. While it may be tempting to rely on that handy shaker of black pepper, do yourself a favor and invest in a jar of the peppercorn medley — it really takes any dish you use it in up a notch.
While a traditional creamy peppercorn sauce calls for Cognac, I rarely keep it around. Instead, I’ve swapped it for a more accessible and affordable ingredient that imparts deep flavor in this sauce — you won’t even miss the Cognac (or you can save it to pair with your meal).
No Brandy Peppercorn Sauce
Many peppercorn sauces use brandy or cognac to flavor the sauce, both offer intense and bold flavors. To counteract this, I used Worcestershire sauce.
Another bold flavor, this adds the warmth and robust taste you lose when making this sauce without alcohol.
If you do want to include it, feel free to just add it on in by substituting 1/2 cup of the beef broth. The alcohol will burn off, leaving behind sweet and heady notes. White wine can also be used.
What is Creamy Peppercorn Sauce?
Creamy peppercorn sauce is a classic savory, rich sauce made with super simple ingredients. The creaminess comes from heavy cream which gives the sauce a luxe smoothness.
Using a medley of peppercorns gives the sauce a flavor profile far more complex than a sauce that only incorporates ground pepper. It’s amazing how one ingredient can elevate this sauce so much.
The silkiness of this delicious sauce makes it an ideal accompaniment for a sumptuous strip steak (or filet mignon) straight from the pan or grill. You can use it for other meats and vegetables, too.
It can also act as a base for different types of gravies (like sausage) or it can be added to soups to thicken them.
This sauce, while it is creamy, should only just coat the back of a spoon. If the sauce gets too thick while you are cooking you can add a couple of tablespoons more of the beef broth to thin it.
Also, if it’s not thick enough, you can continue to simmer so that it reduces further. Alternatively, you can add a small amount of slurry (a mixture of a little water and cornstarch or flour).
One more pro-tip for achieving the perfect peppercorn sauce: be sure not to keep the sauce on low and not to overheat it. This will prevent the sauce from separating.
What is a pepper medley?
A peppercorn medley is a mixture of black, white, pink, and green peppercorns along with allspice berries. The latter brings a spicy earthiness to the mixture while the others impart their own unique individual notes of spice.
The whole peppercorns are various colors because of harvesting and processing nuances. This contributes to the spice’s complex flavor profile that incorporates notes of citrus, berry, and pine and aromas that can range from fresh and astringent to pleasantly musky.
Because there is so much depth to a peppercorn medley’s flavor profile, black pepper is not an ideal substitute. Consisting only of ground black peppercorns, black pepper has a more singular flavor by comparison.
There are only a handful of ingredients necessary to make this pan sauce. Many of these items are pantry staples so you’ll likely have them on hand.
- Whole peppercorn medley – You can find a jar of this in the spice section of the grocery store or order it online. Some come with a built in pepper mill but if not, you can use a rolling pin to crush the peppercorns in a plastic bag — you can also use a spice grinder if you have one handy.
- Unsalted butter – You’ll be adding Kosher salt so you don’t want to over-salt by using salted butter as well.
- White onion – Mince the onion finely so that there aren’t chunks of it in the sauce.
- Garlic clove – Use a garlic press to press the cloves or mince them extremely finely.
- Flour – All-purpose flour acts as the thickener for this creamy sauce.
- Heavy cream – Make sure to use heavy cream so that the sauce is silky smooth and rich.
- Low-sodium beef broth – You can use a full-sodium beef stock but I prefer to use low-sodium so that I can better control the saltiness of the sauce.
- Worcestershire sauce – This adds rich umami flavor.
- Coarse kosher salt – I like to use a high quality salt to get the best results.
- Sugar – Granulated sugar will work well for this because it dissolves quickly when heated.
How to Use Creamy Peppercorn Sauce
There are tons of uses for this sauce from drizzling over proteins and veggies to upgrading other dishes.
- Meat – While drizzling this sauce over a juicy steak might be the most popular preparation, you can also use it with lamb, chicken, or even on pork chops.
- Seafood – Salmon and tuna are two great pairings for peppercorn sauce.
- Veggies – Drizzle this over mushrooms, asparagus, or any of your favorite veggies.
- Green beans – Use this sauce instead of the typical soup-based sauce for an elevated green bean casserole.
- Breakfast – Swap out hollandaise for this sauce for a new take on eggs Benedict. You can also make it thicker to act as stand-in for your standard gravy over biscuits (or add sausage in for a new take on sausage gravy).
- Potatoes – This sauce is a perfect accompaniment to any type of potatoes whether they’re mashed, smashed, baked, or fried. You can also use it as a dipping sauce for your french fries.
I love this homemade peppercorn sauce just as it is, but you can add or change the flavors to customize it how you like it.
- Powders – While I always prefer to use fresh ingredients, you can substitute garlic powder or onion powder in a pinch.
- Minced garlic – Similar to the powder, if you already have store-bought minced garlic handy you can use that instead.
- Bay leaf – For more earthy flavor, add a bay leaf while simmering. Just remember to discard it when you are finished cooking.
- Green onions – If you love the look and flavor of green onions, you can use those instead.
- Parsley – You can add finely chopped parsley after the sauce is finished.
- Heat – For a touch of spiciness you can add crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne, or chili powder. You can also try using finely minced chipotle peppers.
- Earthiness – To add even more rich, earthy flavor try adding a dash of cumin.
- Olive oil – You can try subsituting olive oil for some of the butter.
- Broth – Instead of beef, for a lighter flavor (or to go with chicken dishes) you can use chicken stock instead.
- Herbs – Choose any that you have on hand that you like to include when you prepare gravy — fresh thyme, sage, and rosemary are all great options.
- Lemon juice – Brighten the gravy with just a dash of citrus.
- Dijon mustard – Whisk some dijon into the sauce for a touch of tang.
- Madeira wine – If you do want to use alcohol in your sauce this Portuguese fortified wine will work well.
- Apple juice – If serving the sauce with pork chops, you may find that the addition of a bit of apple juice will pair well.
Storage, Make Ahead and Freezing
Once the sauce has cooled you can cover the saucepan with plastic wrap or you can transfer it to an airtight container before refrigerating or freezing.
Make ahead: Since you can store it for a couple days, you can make it the day before you intend to serve it.
Storage: Creamy peppercorn sauce can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container or ziploc bag for up to 3 days.
Freezing: You can freeze this sauce for up to 3 months in freezer bags or a freezer-safe container. You can also freeze it in an ice cube tray.
Other Savory Sauces
Creamy Peppercorn Sauce
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorn medley
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons white onion minced
- 1 large garlic clove minced or pressed
- 1 teaspoon flour
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup low-sodium beef broth
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- Crush peppercorns using a pestle and mortar or place in a plastic bag and crush using a rolling pin. Set aside.
- Over low heat, melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onion and garlic, sauteing until soft and fragrant.
- Whisk in the flour to form a paste. Whisk in the cream until the mixture is smooth and bubbling.
- Whisk in the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, salt, sugar and crushed peppercorns.
- Bring to a simmer, still over low heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture starts to thicken and coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove from heat and serve.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know it was in the comment