What Is Mirepoix?

This humble vegetable combination lays the foundation for big flavor in a dish.

Mirepoix
Photo: Hannah Zimmerman
Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
15 mins
Yield:
1 pound

Wondering what that complex and rich underlying flavor is in a dish? The one that you just can't put your finger on? Chances are it's mirepoix.

The culinary term refers to the combination of diced onion, carrots, and celery, gently cooked in fat. Mirepoix is a foundation for many classic dishes, including sauces, soups, braised meat dishes, and other recipes. This combination of aromatic vegetables, sautéed in a fat like butter or oil, provides deep flavor notes and a building block for the seasoning of the rest of a dish.

From the humble chicken noodle soup to fancy Boeuf Bourguignon, mirepoix is a common starting point.

What Is Mirepoix?

Mirepoix, pronounced MEER-pwah, is a French culinary term derived from the name of an 18th century French aristocrat whose cook popularized its usage. To this day, culinary students around the world learn how to make mirepoix in the first few weeks of culinary school. The combination of diced onion, celery, and carrots, sautéed in a fat like oil or butter, is the first step in many recipes, from classic French dishes to more contemporary and mainstream recipes found in many cuisines.

These three ingredients, combined and cooked, create subtle foundational flavors in a dish; you may not taste the onion, the carrot, or the celery, but their presence gives a complex earthy and savory note to any recipe.

What Is Mirepoix Made Of?

Mirepoix includes a trio of aromatics—that is, vegetables known in cooking to offer deep flavors and aromas when cooked. The combination includes yellow or white onion, carrot, and celery.

The vegetables are diced into uniform pieces and then sautéed in butter or oil until they're softened and translucent, though not yet browned.

Traditional French cuisine uses a specific ratio of the ingredients: two parts onion to one part each carrot and celery. But in most modern recipes, the proportions are not as precise.

carrot, onion, celery on cutting board
Hannah Zimmerman

Mirepoix Variations

While traditional mirepoix is the aforementioned trio of onion, carrot, and celery, other cuisines have their own combinations of aromatic vegetables (that is, those vegetables that offer a flavorful base for a recipe) that they use in similar ways. Within French cuisine, mirepoix becomes pincage when tomato paste is added to the mixture as it cooks, forming the base for certain mother sauces, such as Sauce Espagnole.

Soffrito
Italian cuisine calls the same combination soffrito, and it's usually cooked in olive oil. Sometimes fresh herbs or diced cured meat like pancetta is added.

Sofrito
The similarly named sofrito is a staple in Spanish and Latin cuisine. Different versions of sofrito include ingredients like onion, garlic, bell pepper, and tomato, and it's the starting point for paella, pernil, cooked beans, and a variety of other Latin dishes.

Suppengrün
Germans use suppengrün (translation: soup greens), which combines carrot, celery or celeriac, and leek.

Holy Trinity
Another well-known riff on mirepoix is the Cajun and Creole variation called Holy Trinity, which is onion, green bell pepper, and celery. You'll find it used in traditional dishes like etouffee and jambalaya.

Aerial view of a dutch oven containing diced onion, celery, and green pepper (known as Holy Trinity in Creole cuisine)
Photographer: Jen Causey, Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle, Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn

How Large Should the Vegetables Be in Mirepoix?

When preparing vegetables for mirepoix, it's most important that they are cut to a relatively uniform shape and size. This ensures that all the vegetable pieces cook at the same rate and to an even degree of doneness.

Generally, the size that you cut your ingredients is determined by the recipe. If you're making something where the vegetables will be strained out, such as a broth or consommé soup, you can chop them roughly. If you're making something that has a short cooking time, it's better to chop them to a smaller size so that the flavors and aromas will be released more quickly.

A longer-cooking recipe should start with larger pieces so they don't get too mushy during cooking.

How To Make Mirepoix

Making mirepoix at home is easy if you follow these instructions.

Step 1. Prep the vegetables

Begin with a yellow onion that weighs about 8 ounces, and a carrot and celery rib that weigh about 4 ounces each.

Wash and peel the carrot and scrub the celery. Peel the onion. Trim the ends of the carrot and celery, and dice all the vegetables to the desired size: a smaller dice for quick-cooking sautéed dishes, or a large dice for dishes that will simmer for a long time. Make sure the vegetable pieces are relatively uniform in size.

carrot, onion, celery trimmed
Hannah Zimmerman

Step 2. Prep the pan

In a heavy stainless steel skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat, tipping the skillet to coat the entire bottom of the pan with the fat. When the butter begins to shimmer with heat, add the onion, carrot, and celery.

melting butter in skillet for mirepoix
Hannah Zimmerman

Step 3. Sauté

Cook the vegetables over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent them from browning or burning.

Cook the vegetables until they are softened and translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. When vegetables are softened and translucent, they are ready to use in a recipe.

mirepoix
Hannah Zimmerman

How To Cook With Mirepoix

Making mirepoix is the first step in many recipes. After the vegetables are cooked to their softened state, proceed with adding the rest of your ingredients.

If you're making a pot pie, for instance, you might then sprinkle flour over the mixture to make a roux, then add vegetable stock to simmer and thicken into a gravy. Mirepoix could be cooled and mixed into ground beef, along with egg and breadcrumbs, for meatloaf. Or add broth and other ingredients for a flavorful soup.

FAQs

Can you freeze mirepoix?

If you want an easy flavor bomb that you can quickly add to a dish, batches of mirepoix can be frozen. You can either freeze the raw vegetables so that you save the chopping time when you're about to make dinner or freeze cooked mirepoix.

To freeze the uncooked vegetables, dice the onion, carrots, and celery to uniformly sized pieces and spread them out on a baking sheet. Freeze the vegetables on the baking sheet, and when they're frozen solid, transfer them to a ziplock plastic freezer bag, making sure to press out as much air as possible to minimize freezer burn. Freezing them on a baking sheet first will enable you to scoop out the portion you need from the bag, since pieces will be individually frozen rather than frozen in a solid chunk.

mirepoix
Hannah Zimmerman

To freeze cooked mirepoix, cool the mixture completely, then transfer it into a portioned container, such as an ice cube tray, a freezer-safe plastic container, or a plastic zip-top freezer bag.

Like with frozen uncooked mirepoix, minimizing the amount of air in contact with the mixture will help reduce freezer burn.

To use, thaw the mirepoix overnight in the refrigerator, or simply drop the frozen mixture directly into simmering broth or soup.

scooping mirepoix into silicone molds
Hannah Zimmerman

What kind of onion is used in mirepoix?

Yellow onions, with their balanced flavor, are the most traditional type of onion to use in mirepoix. But in a pinch, the sharper-tasting white or sweeter Vidalia onions could be used.

What other ingredients could I substitute in mirepoix?

While classic French cuisine dictates that the three vegetables in mirepoix are onion, celery, and carrot cooked in butter or oil, you can get creative with the mixture of ingredients you use. The point is to use aromatic ingredients that will create a foundation of flavor for your dish, and root vegetables and alliums are all good candidates.

Try subbing leeks or shallots for the onion, celeriac or fennel for the celery, and parsnips or turnips for the carrots. For the fat, try ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil, or any other cooking fat that has a medium to high smoke point.

Whatever ingredients you experiment with, using mirepoix or one of its many variations is bound to create a dish that has complex, rich flavors.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion (about 8 oz.)

  • 1 large carrot (about 4 oz.)

  • 2 stalks celery (about 4 oz.)

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or olive oil

Directions

  1. Peel and remove the top of the onion. With the root end still attached, cut it into ½-inch pieces.

  2. Wash, peel, and trim the ends of the carrot. Cut into ½-inch pieces.

  3. Wash and trim the ends of the celery. Cut stalks into ½-inch pieces. Note: For blended soups and stocks you can chop all of the vegetables into larger pieces, anywhere from 1-2 inches.

  4. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat; once melted, add vegetables. Adjust the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, but not browned, about 10 minutes.

Tips

Make about 1 pound of mirepoix for each gallon of stock you'll be using for soup. A large batch of soup typically has 8 cups, or 64 ounces, or a 1/2 gallon of liquid, so this mirepoix recipe could be used for two batches of soup.