how to make peppercorn sauce from scratch | Family Cuisine

Peppercorn sauce is a condiment made from ground peppercorns and other ingredients such as vinegar, sugar, salt, and sometimes garlic. It has been used in France since the Middle Ages.

Peppercorn sauce is a great steak sauce that is easy to make and tastes absolutely perfect on steaks as well as chicken. It’s a classic steakhouse sauce that will only take you 5 minutes to make and features crushed peppercorns, shallot, cognac, beef stock, and cream.

The quickest way to dress up a steak or a piece of chicken is with a delicious sauce, but it doesn’t have to take hours of simmering on the stove. In fact, some of the best pan sauces will only take you about 5 minutes.

Just like this classic peppercorn sauce, which only needs a handful of ingredients, and it’s ready to serve in just 5 minutes. You will make it right in the pan where you cooked those beautiful steaks and take on even more flavor.

Depending on the temperature that you like your steaks, the whole dish can take you about 15 minutes to prepare. Just don’t forget to rest your steaks and let them warm up for 30 minutes before cooking them!

Ingredients for Peppercorn Sauce:

  • Whole peppercorns – I highly recommend toasting whole spices before using them, since it enhances both the flavor and aroma of the recipe. Feel free to use multi-colored peppercorns if you are feeling adventurous, or try green peppercorns if you want it less spicy.
  • Shallot – A relative of onion and garlic, this bulb vegetable has a sweeter and more delicate overall taste.
  • Cognac – you can also use brandy.
  • Beef stock – Use your favorite brand or try my homemade version.
  • Heavy whipping cream – I do not recommend substituting this!
  • Salt – Taste the finished product first before adding any salt and adjust as needed.

What if I can’t use alcohol?

Cognac or brandy will add a lot of deep flavor to the sauce but if you absolutely have to, you can substitute non-alcoholic red wine or reduced beef stock mixed with 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce.

To reduce beef stock, simply simmer 1 cup of beef stock until it gets down to 1/4 cup. When beef stock is reduced, it has a much deeper and richer flavor, which will be good in the sauce.

Serving Suggestions

Not only is this peppercorn sauce perfect on your favorite steak, but the rich flavors complement plenty of other dishes.

Spoon some over chicken, pork, Portobello mushrooms, or even roasted vegetables!

pepper sauce being poured over cooked steak

How To Make Peppercorn Sauce

Prepare the steaks.

Make sure to take the steaks out of the refrigerator and out of the package 30-45 minutes before cooking. Let them rest on the cutting board.

Dice shallot and measure out all other ingredients before starting to cook.

Toast whole peppercorns.

First, warm a dry skillet on the stove and add the whole spices. Give the pan a shake every so often to prevent burning and remove from heat once there’s a strong aroma.

Take the peppercorns out, let them cool, and place them into the pepper grinder or spice mill. Grind it in coarse setting and set aside.

toasting whole peppercorns in a skillet

Cook the steaks.

Use the same pan to cook the steaks as you will to cook the pepper sauce, the drippings from the meat will make the sauce extra rich.

Pat the steaks dry and generously season with salt and pepper on both sides right before adding them to the pan to cook!

Spread some oil in the pan and pan-sear the steaks until they reach the desired temperature and take them out of the pan. Take them out and set aside to rest while you prepare the sauce.

Sauté minced shallots.

Add the shallots to the pan with steak drippings and cook until they start to soften and turn a golden brown color.

Deglaze the pan.

Pour in the cognac slowly, since it will bubble up immediately.

Scrape up any bits that are stuck.

This is where all of the flavor is, so be sure to run your spatula along the bottom of the entire pan and stir everything together.

Simmer with beef stock.

Stir until everything is well combined, then simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half.

beef stock mixture simmering on the stove

Add ground pepper and cream.

Reduce the heat, then stir in the remaining ingredients until well combined.

pouring heavy cream into brown sauce

Cook until thickened.

Let it gently simmer over medium to medium-low heat for just about a minute or two. The pepper sauce is ready to serve when you can drag a spatula through the mixture and the space doesn’t close back up immediately.

wooden spatula being pulled through thickened peppercorn sauce

Helpful Tips and Tricks

  • Cool the peppercorns first. Otherwise, the residual heat will create steam inside the grinder and cause the spice to clump.
  • Don’t have a spice grinder? Crush the pods with a rolling pin or mortar and pestle. I’ve even converted my small coffee grinder into a spice grinder.
  • Skip the drippings. If you’re not cooking steak in the pan first, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a clean pan before adding the shallots. Proceed with the rest of the sauce steps as it states in the recipe.
  • Use room temperature cream. When cold dairy is combined with hot ingredients, it could often curdle. Allowing it to warm on the counter first will result in a smoother consistency.
  • Don’t let the cream boil hard – this could also cause cream to curdle. So lower the heat before adding cream to the pan and let it gently simmer.

Storage and Reheating

Homemade peppercorn sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Allow it to cool slightly before transferring to a container with an air-tight lid or a glass jar with a lid.

If you’d like, you can even whip some up ahead of time and cook your steaks in the oven or if the weather permits, make grilled ribeye steaks instead.

Warm it on the stove, over medium-low heat and stirring frequently, to prevent any scalding or separation.


Creamier options, like alfredo and vodka sauce, can also be made right at home and taste better than anything from a jar.

While these are often mixed with pasta, you can easily spoon some over grilled meats, seafood, and roasted vegetables as well. Both taste great on pizza as well!

For another steak night, impress your loved ones with Steak Diane and the amazing sauce it comes with.

Or, try my homemade teriyaki to include some Asian flavors into your next meal. Use it as a marinade, for simmering, or as a tasty dip!


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