Making a classic Béchamel or Cheese sauce is a skill every home cook should have. It’s easy to make and one of the most versatile sauces to cook with.
What is Béchamel sauce?
Béchamel sauce is a simple sauce made with a roux (butter and flour) and milk. Often flavored with mustard or nutmeg, it’s popular in many cuisines and is an excellent sauce to have in your repertoire.
Full recipe and amounts can be found in the recipe card below.
- Milk. Full fat/Whole milk. Half and half can also be used.
- Cayenne pepper.
- Mustard. Mustard powder or Dijon mustard.
- Salt and pepper.
- Optional: Cheese, if you want to turn the Béchamel into a Mornay sauce.
How to make Béchamel sauce
- Make the roux: Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour then cook for 1-2 minutes until the roux turns a very light golden brown.
- Cook the sauce: Whisk in the milk, a little at a time, until the sauce is smooth and the milk has been incorporated. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer gently, stirring regularly, until the sauce is smooth and thick. Add the spices and cheese (if using) and stir in. Season to taste.
Tips for making the best Béchamel sauce
- Always use enough butter as this coats the flour and helps to prevent lumps from forming. However, don’t use too much as the fat can split from the sauce creating a very oily sauce (if this happens just make a slurry of milk and flour and whisk in to the sauce. This should save it.).
- Using warm milk will prevent lumps from forming, resulting in a silky smooth sauce.
- Keep your whisk close at all times. I go in with a wooden spoon every now and then (mostly when I’ve added the cheese), but a whisk makes light work of lumps and ensures the spices are distributed evenly. I use my wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot to make sure everything is well incorporated. And if you’ll be turning your Béchamel sauce into a cheese sauce, remove the pot from the heat and stir the cheese in. If the sauce boils once the cheese has been added the cheese will split and your sauce will be grainy.
- What happens if my sauce is still lumpy? If you are still left with lumps after you have whisked and whisked and whisked, go in with a stick blender or transfer to a normal blender and blend away. We all have mishaps in the kitchen and what’s the point in having fancy gadgets if we don’t use them? No-one will know your sauce didn’t start off as smooth as silk. I promise!
Easy sauce recipes
How to make Béchamel sauce
- ½ cup butter cubed
- ½ cup flour
- 2-3 cups full cream/whole milk
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon mustard powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground/grated nutmeg
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1-2 cups grated mature cheddar cheese
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour.
- Whisk until smooth then slowly pour in the milk, a little at a time. (I always reserve approximately ½ cup milk. Some flours will absorb more/less liquid so you might not need all of it and sometimes after adding cheese I like to thin out the sauce just a little with the remaining milk.)
- Whisk continuously until the sauce is thick then turn down the heat, add the spices and allow to simmer, stirring, until the sauce is thick and cooked through (this takes around 7-10 minutes on a gentle heat).
- Once the sauce is cooked (the sauce will be completely smooth tasting with no flouriness) season to taste.
- If making cheese sauce, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cheese. Season to taste.