Last updated on August 21st, 2023 at 05:40 pm
Mirepoix is a classic French vegetable base that is traditionally used to add depth and flavor to soups, stews, and sauces. Mirepoix is an essential element in many recipes. Once you master the technique, you’ll find that it’s an easy way to elevate the flavor of any dish.
In this post, I’ll take you step-by-step through the process of making mirepoix, and provide some tips and tricks for cutting and preparing everything. This recipe will give you the tools you need to make mirepoix like a pro.
The best part is, you can adjust the flavors according to your liking. I’ll go over the traditional method in this recipe but will outline some different methods. And, in the end, cooking is a creative process so you can mix it up any way you’d like.
So grab your cutting board and knife, and let’s get started!
What Is Mirepoix and Where Did it Come From?
Mirepoix (pronounced “meer-PWAH”) is one of the most important building blocks in French cooking. It is used to make sauces, soups, stews, braises, casseroles, and more.
A traditional mirepoix is a combination of diced onions, carrots, and celery. This mixture is sautéed together over low heat to create a flavorful base for various recipes. Its flavor profile can add depth and complexity to dishes.
The exact origins of mirepoix are not clear, since this combination of ingredients has likely been used for quite a long time.
But the term mirepoix is derived from the unnecessarily complicated name of a French aristocrat. Charles-Pierre-Gaston François de Lévis, duc de Lévis-Mirepoix.
I know, right?
And what is crazy is that it was not like it was the aristocrat doing the cooking. But I guess he liked it enough and his chef(s?) were good enough at making things based on this combination that it became a whole thing. Thus the name was born as people began describing recipes “à la mirepoix” in 18th-century France. Then I guess it just stuck.
What Is the “Holy Trinity” in Cooking?
While the mirepoix is a staple of French cuisine, a similar combination of vegetables known as the “holy trinity” is a key ingredient in Cajun and Creole cooking in the southern United States. Like the mirepoix, the holy trinity uses onions and celery. However, green bell peppers are substituted in place of carrots.
The holy trinity likely evolved from French influence on Louisiana cuisine. The French colonists who settled in Louisiana brought with them their culinary traditions, including the use of mirepoix. However, they adapted to local ingredients and flavors and began to substitute green bell peppers for carrots.
The holy trinity provides a base of aromatic vegetables that add depth and flavor to dishes just like mirepoix. However, adding green bell peppers gives the holy trinity a distinct flavor profile. The sweetness of the peppers creates a unique blend of flavors that is essential to many Cajun and Creole dishes.
This holy trinity base is used to create dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, and étouffée.
Whether you’re making a classic French dish or a Cajun/Creole favorite, understanding the role of these vegetable bases is essential to creating flavorful and delicious dishes.
What’s in a Mirepoix?
A basic, traditional mirepoix is a combination of just three vegetables: onions, carrots, and celery. While the basic formula is simple, there are a few key details that can make a big difference in the flavor and texture of your mirepoix.
Onions are an essential part of any mirepoix, providing a base of savory flavor. White onions are the most commonly used. But you can also use yellow onions, sweet onions, or shallots depending on your preference and the dish you’re making.
Carrots add sweetness and depth to the mirepoix, while also providing a splash of color to the finished dish. You can use regular or baby carrots, and it’s important to wash them before dicing. I like to use full, large carrots because they tend to have more flavor. Baby carrots tend to be watery.
Celery provides a subtle herbal flavor to the mirepoix. Be sure to wash the celery and trim the ends and any tough, stringy bits from the celery before dicing it.
The ratio of the ingredients in the mirepoix can vary depending on the dish you’re making. But a common ratio is 2 parts onion to 1 part each carrot and celery. But you can adjust the ratio to suit your tastes and the flavor profile of your dish.
By choosing high-quality ingredients and dicing them finely and evenly, you can create a flavorful and aromatic base to elevate your cooking.
Alternate Versions of a Mirepoix
Different regions and cultures have their own unique bases that are similar to a mirepoix. Usually, the differences are due to locally available ingredients.
A classic mirepoix consists of onions, carrots, and celery. There are a few variations that can add new flavors and textures to your dishes. Here are some alternate versions of a mirepoix to consider:
- The ‘holy trinity’: The cajun/creole twist on mirepoix substitutes green bell peppers for the carrots in the traditional mix
- Soffritto: This Italian version is the same mix of carrots, celery, and onion but usually cooked in olive oil versus the traditional butter
- Sofrito/refogado: The Spanish/Portuguese mix is garlic, onion, and peppers cooked in olive oil, with tomatoes or carrots optional – note that it is also usually chopped much smaller than a regular mirepoix
- Suppengrün: The German mix literally meaning ‘soup greens’ consists of carrots, leeks, and celeriac
- Włoszczyzna: The Polish version meaning ‘Italian stuff’ includes celery, parsley, carrots, and leeks
- Pinçage: Cooking a traditional mirepoix longer and adding tomato purée creates this darkened brown mixture
Remember, the ratio of the ingredients in your mirepoix can vary depending on the dish you’re making and your personal taste. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations of vegetables to create the perfect mirepoix for your dish.
Cutting the Onion
I’m not crying, you’re crying. Cutting onions for a mirepoix is a simple but important task. Follow the steps below for the simplest way to get an even dice every time.
Start by cutting off the non-root end of the onion. Then cut the onion in half from the top to the root end. Peel the skin off of each onion half, being careful not to remove too much of the onion flesh.
Place each half flat-side down on the cutting board.
Use a sharp knife to make vertical cuts into the onion, cutting down to but not through the root end. Make the cuts about a quarter-inch apart and try to be evenly spaced. This will help you get similar-sized pieces.
Turn the onion halves 90 degrees and make horizontal cuts across the onion. The size of the pieces will depend on how finely you want to dice the onion for your mirepoix.
As I noted before in my post on how to caramelize onions, there are some methods to avoid eye irritation:
- #1 – Cut the onions under your stove vent with the fan running
- #2 – Freeze the onions for 10 to 15 minutes before removing them from the freezer and cutting them
Once you’ve diced the onions, you’re ready to chop the other vegetables to create a flavorful mirepoix.
Cutting the Carrot
Cutting carrots for a mirepoix is another important task in kitchen prep. Here’s how I do it:
Start by thoroughly washing your carrots. You can peel them if you’d like to. Then begin cutting by trimming off the stem end of the carrot and the pointed tip at the other end. If the carrot is long, cut it in half to make it easier to handle.
Carefully slice the carrot into quarter-inch thin strips. Place the strips flat-end down on the cutting board.
Cut the strips in halves or thirds to get roughly quarter-inch carrot cross-sections. Then line all of them up and cut them into thin slices. See the photos above for general guidelines.
Now that you’ve mastered cutting the onions and carrots, it’s time to move on to the celery and start creating your delicious mirepoix.
Cutting the Celery
Cutting celery for a mirepoix is the final step in preparing this flavorful base for many dishes.
Start by trimming off the root and tip ends and any brown or damaged parts of the celery. Cut the celery into 3 to 5 thin strips lengthwise. Make the strips about a quarter-inch thick.
Then line up all of the celery strips and chop them into pieces.
Try to get roughly equal sizes for the onion, carrot, and celery. Even sizes will help everything cook at the same rate so that nothing gets under or over-cooked compared to anything else.
Now that you’ve mastered cutting the onions, carrots, and celery, you’re ready to start creating your delicious mirepoix.
Recipes to Use Mirepoix
Now that you know how to make a mirepoix, you’re ready to start using it as the base for a variety of delicious dishes. Soups, stews, sauces, and casseroles. Mirepoix can add depth and flavor to any recipe. In this section, we’ll explore some of the most popular dishes that use a mirepoix base and provide you with easy-to-follow recipes that you can try at home.
As you experiment with different recipes, you’ll find that the proportions of each ingredient can be adjusted to suit your taste and the dish you’re making.
So, let’s get started and explore some of the delicious dishes that you can create using a mirepoix base:
- Simple Chicken Noodle Soup
- From Scratch Chicken Pot Pie
- Rotisserie Chicken and Lentil Soup
- Garbanzo Lemon Orzo Soup
- Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
- Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
- Traditional Lobster Bisque
That’s it! Making a mirepoix is a simple but essential technique for any home cook. With just a few ingredients and some basic cooking skills, you can add depth and flavor to all of your favorite recipes.
How did yours turn out?
I’d love to hear when you try making a mirepoix! Take a pic of your food and share your success with me by adding it to your Instagram stories or feed, and tagging me @doyouroux, or by using #doyouroux.
Plus, leave a rating to let me know how you liked the recipe. It helps me out a lot to know how things worked out… or didn’t.
How to Make the Perfect MirepoixCourse: Soups, Sauces and CondimentsDifficulty: Easy
A perfect mirepoix is an essential mix of chopped onions, carrots, and celery that is used as the base building block for a variety of other recipes
2 parts onion
1 part carrot
1 part celery
- Wash the celery and carrots thoroughly and peel the onion
- Dice the onion, carrots, and celery into small, evenly-sized pieces
- Heat about 1 tablespoon of butter for every two cups of chopped vegetables in a large skillet or Dutch oven over low heat
- Once the butter is melted, add the chopped onion, carrots, and celery to the pan and stir to coat in the butter
- Cook the vegetables for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and fragrant
- The mirepoix is now ready for the next steps to use as a base for a variety of dishes
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