Béchamel, sauce espagnole, mayonnaise, sauce tomate and velouté are the cinq sauces mères—the five mother sauces (or grandes sauces françaises), each categorized according to its base and thickener. Many chefs think hollandaise should be included, too, or instead of mayonnaise.
All other sauces are considered sauces dérivées or daughter sauces.
The big five were first listed in the English edition of Auguste Escoffier’s Le guide culinaire, A Guide to Modern Cookery in 1907.
Marie Antoine Carême came up with the first list in 1833, which included four (sauce allemande along with béchamel, espagnole and velouté). Chef Jules Gouffé came up with a dozen in his book in 1867. But Escoffier’s five are the ones that have become canonical.
Images by Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, D.R.