What Is Mirepoix and How Do You Use It?
Here’s what you need to know about the French flavor base.
"Mirepoix" may sound like a fancy cooking term reserved for trained chefs, but you're likely already using the aromatic recipe base in your own kitchen. Here's everything you need to know about mirepoix, from its rich history to its many modern culinary uses:
What Is Mirepoix?
Mirepoix is a recipe base made from diced vegetables that are cooked slowly (usually with some sort of fat, like butter or oil) to sweeten and deepen the flavors of a dish. The mix is cooked over very low heat, as the intention is to intensify the vegetables flavor — not to caramelize them.
French mirepoix is made with celery, onions, and carrots. The traditional ratio is 1:2:1 (one part celery, two parts onions, and one part carrots). The trio serves as the foundation for many Western soups, stews, and sauces.
What Is Pinçage?
Pinçage is simply mirepoix with tomato paste. The mixture is cooked until the tomato paste turns brown, and becomes more savory than sweet. You'll often find pinçage in vegetarian recipes, as it adds a bit of umami flavor to meatless dishes.
Mirepoix is pronounced "meer-PWAH." Head to Merriam-Webster.com to hear the correct pronunciation.
There are truly countless ways to use mirepoix. Of course, it's absolutely essential in plenty of soups, stews, and sauces — but it's also found in hamburgers and casseroles. Here are a few of our favorite ways to use mirepoix:
Though the use of carrots, onions, and celery as a flavor base is likely more than a few hundred years old, mirepoix is likely named after the 17th century Duke of Mirepoix (a town in Southwestern France), whose cook was known for popularizing the mixture. The duke was "an incompetent and mediocre individual," Pierre Larousse wrote in The Oxford Companion to Food in the late 19th century, "who owed his vast fortune to the affection Louis XV felt toward his wife and who had but one claim to fame: he gave his name to a sauce made of all kinds of meat and a variety of seasonings."
Mirepoix vs. Cajun Holy Trinity
Unlike French mirepoix, which uses a 1:2:1 ratio of carrots to onions to celery, the Cajun Holy Trinity is made from equal parts celery, onions, and bell peppers.
Cajun cuisine is famously inspired by French methods and flavors, as French Catholics and Acadians (or "Cajuns," as pronounced by English-speaking Louisianians) settled in New Orleans in the early 18th-century. The settlers quickly realized that, while the Louisiana ground wasn't suitable for growing carrots, it was ideal for growing bell peppers.
Can You Freeze Mirepoix?
Yes, you can freeze uncooked mirepoix. If you use the trio of vegetables frequently, it might be a smart time-saving move. Just follow a series of simple steps:
- Dice your carrots, onions, and celery (remember, the ratio is 1:2:1).
- Lay the diced vegetables flat on a lined baking sheet. Cover with foil or plastic wrap. Freeze overnight.
- The next day, transfer the frozen veggies to freezer-safe bags labeled with the date. Freeze up to six months.
Thaw the mirepoix overnight in the fridge or cook from frozen with olive oil or butter.