What is Mirepoix?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Mirepoix is a blend of vegetables used as the base for many French dishes. Mirepoix forms the base for soup stocks, sauteed meals, stews, and a wide variety of other foods, and it is sometimes referred to as the “holy trinity” of French cooking. Many cuisines have some sort of vegetable and spice blend similar to mirepoix, reflecting the fact that national cuisines are often built upon a small group of familiar flavors used in a wide variety of innovative ways.

Onions, which are included in mirepoix.
Onions, which are included in mirepoix.

In its purest form, mirepoix consists of onions, celery or celeriac, and carrots in a 2:1:1 ratio. The vegetables are diced or minced finely and as evenly as possible, and they are sauteed in butter in the pan before any other ingredients are added, creating a rich depth of flavor which will develop as the dish is cooked. Some cooks add herbs to their mirepoix, and it is also possible to see cubed meats, typically fatty cuts of meat which will brown and crisp in the pan.

Browning vegetables in butter is a key to mirepoix.
Browning vegetables in butter is a key to mirepoix.

According to legend, mirepoix is named for an 18th century chef who cooked for a French ambassador. However, documented use of this seasoning mixture is much older, and while Mirepoix the chef may have popularized it, he certainly wasn't the first to use it. Francophone cooks in the American South such as the Cajuns use a version of mirepoix made with celery, onions, and bell peppers instead of carrots for their own version of the holy trinity.

While these vegetable ingredients might sound simple, the browning in butter generates a Maillard Reaction, triggering a cascade of events. This reaction is responsible for the browning and tenderizing of the vegetables, but it also releases their natural sugars, allowing them to develop a complex caramelized flavor. A rich assortment of aromas and flavors develop as the vegetables are browned, and these flavors are incorporated into the finished dish. In addition to being used at the beginning, mirepoix may also be added into a dish at the end to refresh the flavors.

In French restaurants, mirepoix is a common item in the mise en place, the assortment of prepped food items which are placed near a chef's station. Mirepoix is used so much that preparing it ahead of time makes much more sense than having to freshly chop vegetables for each dish which requires it. Some French home cooks also keep mirepoix ready for use in the refrigerator, as the vegetables will keep for several days after chopping.

Celery is a basic ingredient in mirepoix.
Celery is a basic ingredient in mirepoix.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I have always created a mirepoix in my recipes for various soups and stews. The funny thing is I never knew that particular combination of vegetables had a name.

It wasn't until after my second marriage that I found out what it was. My husband made a comment on the mirepoix I had created and the technique I used to chop the vegetables.

He went to culinary school so I had no reason to doubt him, even though he does like to joke around about my cooking. One of my favorite things about the mirepoix is the delicious aroma it fills in the air when your sauteing it. Yum!


The ambassador was a french field marshal and a member of the royal family of Levis since the eleventh century. He was the ambassador to Louis XV and was Duke of Mirepoix. The ambassador's name was Gaston Pierre de Levis.

His chef blended and sauteed the three vegetables and served them in honor of The Duke of Mirepoix. The correct pronunciation for it is meer-pwah.

It has been quoted that the Duke of Mirepoix was "an incompetent and mediocre individual who owed his vast fortune to the affection Louis XV felt for his wife and who had but one claim to fame, the sauce."


Italy's version of a mirepoix is called a soffritto in which the vegetables are fried in virgin olive oil rather than butter. Often it includes garlic, herbs and shallots.

In Tuscany, the word soffritto refers to "underfried" meaning the preparation of the vegetables are lightly browned but are not to be served as a dish. This is the foundation to all Tuscan sauces and many other Italian dishes.

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