Making a classic Béchamel (white sauce) 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.
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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. It is considered one of the mother sauces as it’s the base of many other sauces and is essential in many recipes.
- Flour. All purpose flour works best.
- 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 basic white sauce into a Mornay sauce. I like using a combination of sharp cheddar and Parmesan cheese but gruyere, gouda, etc will all work.
How to make Béchamel sauce
- Make the roux: Melt butter in a saucepan set over medium heat. Stir 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.
Is Velouté sauce the same as bechamel sauce?
Velouté is made with roux and stock or broth. The sauce is lighter, both in color and richness, than Béchamel.
Tips for making the best Béchamel
- Always use enough butter as this coats the flour and helps to prevent lumps from forming. However, using too much as the fat can cause the sauce to split. If this happens just make a slurry of milk and flour and whisk in to the sauce and continue cooking until smooth.
- Using warm milk will prevent lumps from forming, resulting in a silky smooth sauce.
- Keep your whisk close at all times. Using a wooden spoon is fine (mostly when the cheese has been added), but a whisk makes light work of lumps and ensures the spices are distributed evenly. Use a 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 lumpy sauce after whisking, go in with a stick blender or transfer the sauce 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!
Can I make white sauce ahead?
You cam make this sauce then transfer to an airtight container or bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap or cling wrap right onto the surface of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming. Place the sauce in the fridge for up to 3 days then reheat gently in a pot or saucepan before using. I wouldn’t recommend freezing the sauce as it might split once thawed.
How to serve white sauce
The best way, in my opinion, to serve a white sauce recipe is by using it for Mac and cheese. Stir cooked macaroni (or other pasta of your choice) through the sauce (add cheese) and bake until golden and bubbling. Other options include using the thick, creamy sauce in Welsh rarebit, lasagna or use it in a chicken pot pie recipe.
No, Alfredo is a sauce made with butter, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. Bechamel is a white sauce made with a roux and milk.
Equal parts butter and flour with 4-6 parts of milk, depending on the thickness you require. For croquettes you’ll want a thicker béchamel sauce whereas lasagna will be delicious with a slightly thinner consistency.
Belhamel is often referred to as “White sauce”.
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.