What is Rouille?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Rouille is a thick sauce that is often used as a garnish with fish or fish-based soups. The actual name for the sauce is actually the French word for rust. This is because of the reddish brown color of the sauce when it is prepared with a traditional recipe.

Bouillabaisse is a seafood soup with a rouille base that originated in France.
Bouillabaisse is a seafood soup with a rouille base that originated in France.

There are actually two different ways to create rouille. The traditional method of preparing this red sauce is to use a combination of olive oil, chili peppers, and cloves of garlic. Breadcrumbs are added to give it the proper texture. Along with these basic ingredients, the oil-based rouille may also include a wide range of spices, depending on the preferences of the chef. Saffron, orange peel and basil are examples of spices that often find their way into it.

Rouille is a spicy sauce that pairs well with seafood.
Rouille is a spicy sauce that pairs well with seafood.

A second approach to rouille makes use of mayonnaise instead of olive oil. Either chili peppers or small pieces of red pimentos are added to provide some of the rust color to the sauce. Garlic is also often used in the preparation of this variety. Because the mayonnaise has a thicker texture, the use of breadcrumbs is not necessary. Like the olive oil-based rouille, the mayonnaise-based version accommodates a wide range of spices.

Orange  peel is often included in rouille.
Orange peel is often included in rouille.

One of the more common presentations for rouille is as a garnish served along with bouillabaisse, a fish soup hailing from France. The soup contains various types of fish along with many different types of spices. Many of the same spices can be used effectively in rouille as well, allowing the garnish to compliment the taste of the soup.

Some recipes for rouille use mayonnaise as a base.
Some recipes for rouille use mayonnaise as a base.

Along with soups, rouille also is a fine accompaniment to baked or broiled fish. Since it is often made with chili or other hot peppers, the sauce is also a favorite with fried fish in some sections of the American South. It is just thick enough to apply a small amount to each bite of the fish, and adds another layer of flavor without masking the taste of the fish.

Olive oil is the traditional base for rouille.
Olive oil is the traditional base for rouille.

Making rouille at home is not difficult at all. Since the sauce requires relatively few ingredients, it is possible to prepare a batch in a very short period of time. However, preparing it at least a few hours in advance allows time for the ingredients to intermingle in the sauce, enhancing the flavor of the finished product.

For people who do prefer to purchase rouille already prepared, there are commercial versions of the sauce. Packaged sauce is often sold in high-end supermarkets as well as kitchen boutiques and food specialty shops.

Breadcrumbs may be added to rouille to give it the proper texture.
Breadcrumbs may be added to rouille to give it the proper texture.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I enjoy the taste of a good rouille sauce, and tried making it myself one time, but didn't have very good results.

My sauce was way too runny and I could not get the texture and consistency I wanted. I don't know what I did wrong, and haven't tried it since.

I have a favorite seafood restaurant where I go when I get a carving for some good seafood and rouille sauce.

This isn't far from my house, and I think I will just stick to letting the experts make the sauce for me. I have never been disappointed when I tried this in a restaurant, so there must be some good tip that I am now aware of.


I make my rouille with mayonnaise and roasted red peppers. I have found this to be a wonderful red sauce to serve with grilled shrimp.

Whenever I make up some rouille, I always make a little bit extra. It keeps for a few days in the refrigerator and makes a wonderful substitution for mayonnaise on just about any sandwich.

One thing is for sure, it will certainly spice up the taste of your sandwich, and is a nice change from mayonnaise which can become a little boring.

If I have some extra rouille sauce made up, I usually plan on having a BLT sometime that week. The combination of the mayonnaise with the roasted red peppers tastes great combined with the bacon, lettuce and tomato on the sandwich.


@SarahSon - I also enjoy making my own rouille sauce because this way I can tone down the spiciness of it if I want to.

While I like a little bit of spice, some of them have too much spice for me. When I make it myself and can tailor it to my specific taste.

If I make one cup of sauce, I usually add about 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. For me, this is just right. If someone liked a spicier taste, you could easily double this amount and it would not be too overpowering.

The secret ingredient in my rouille sauce is some freshly squeezed lemon juice. I have always found this to add an extra kick and it always complements the taste of the fish.


My favorite way of eating a rouille sauce is made with olive oil, garlic, cayenne pepper and sea salt. I love adding the bread crumbs as it gives the sauce more texture and crunch.

This is a light sauce that will go with just about any kind of fish. It enhances the flavor of the fish and never covers up the taste.

You can also easily add other spices to this sauce depending on what your tastes are.

I make this at home as it only takes a few minutes to mix up. The key is to make this a couple hours ahead of time to give all the ingredients a chance to blend.

I have even served this over chicken and have found it to be just as delicious.


I live in the deep South, and down here, we love our fried catfish. Many of the nicer restaurants serve theirs with rouille, and some even pour it right on top of a big piece of fish.

When rouille is served with catfish, there is usually a bed of rice underneath it all. The rice always has some sort of flavor, usually Cajun, or it is cooked in chicken stock. Either way, the rouille goes great with it.

The chef usually includes a small bowl of rouille on the side for people like me who like to dip forkfuls of rice in it. I even like to pour some of it on my salad as a thick dressing.


@anamur-- Bouillabaisse is actually quite very good. I think you would be surprised if you gave it a chance. I had bouillabaisse rouille several times when I was in Paris. I didn't know much about the dish and simply ordered it because I liked the server's rouille pronunciation. It sounded so dignified!

I know it's a funny reason to order something but my French is horrible and looking up the definition of rouille in the dictionary wouldn't help since it means rust. But when I tried it, I was pleasantly surprised. I don't know how to explain it, but it's a simple looking stew with a sophisticated flavor. It's comforting but also makes you feel that you're having something special.

Anyway, if you don't like bouilabbaisse and want to eat rouille with other foods, the version with mayonnaise is better for that. I think of mayonnaise rouille like an American version of rouille. It goes great with lots of things, even steak and french fries.


@ddljohn-- Thanks for that tip, that sounds like a great idea!

I've never made rouille before because I thought that it could only be made as bouillabaisse rouille. To be honest, a fish soup doesn't sound to appetizing to me. I like fish, but only salmon and that too grilled. So I couldn't imagine having this meal.

But I've always been intrigued by rouille. It sounds like a great sauce and now I know that I can use it in other ways. I'm usually scared of changing recipes. I have great respect for chefs who came up with these ideas and if I change anything I feel like I'm ruining it.

But it's not fair to be missing out on rouille just because I don't want to have bouillabaisse. So I'm definitely going to try this out on other types of fish and seafood!


Rouille is one of the most delicious sauces I've encountered. I like that it has the consistency of a dip more than the consistency of a sauce. So it's great with some fried or broiled fish as the article mentioned. I've even served rouille on top of toasted bread as an appetizer for seafood meals. It's not traditional, but I think rouille fits in with many different kinds of flavors. And I don't think we need to follow rules to make delicious food.

I do use the traditional French recipe for rouille however, instead of using only chili peppers, I use roasted red peppers instead. The reason is because chili peppers make rouille far too spicy for my taste. I don't want to replace chili peppers with regular peppers because that would take away from the flavor.

So what I do is I roast some red peppers, peel the skin and use this instead of chili pepper. If I want slight spiciness, I add in a small piece of chili pepper or chili pepper flakes. I think this comes out perfect. You get to enjoy all the flavors and herbs inside without being overwhelmed by the spiciness of it.

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