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.
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.
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.
How many cups does this make?
Approximately 8 cups.
This recipe was terrific. Surprisingly easy too. I used fresh broccoli and made it keto friendly. Definitely a dish to serve at casual and entertaining meals.
So happy to hear that.
Hi, isn’t adding the cheese not make it a bechamel sauce anymore?
Yup! As mentioned in the post, adding cheese turns it into a Mornay sauce.
If you place your cold milk, cold butter, flour in sauce pan and whisk gently over a warm heat, the sauce comes together beautifully. No lumps and smooth as. So easy.
My French grandfather (I’m 75) taught me to make bechamel decades ago. A young teen in the 50s, he taught me to make creamed codfish and new potatoes using bechamel.
Using it as a lasagna layer along with crisp prosciutto also is divine.
I like to fine-grate nutmeg pods to enhance this multifaceted sauce.
Last but certainly not least, folding a small amount into
scrambled eggs also works wonders.
Muah! (chef kiss). Perfect! I just made the family “mac” (flaxseed penne) and cheese using this bechamel recipe & it was a big hit. I have needed to learn how to make this fundamental sauce for a while & it was your recipe that led me to the promised land! I didn’t split it, it was silky smooth and it is a new tool in my cooking toolbox.
You have my gratitude!
Delicious! Especially with the veggie pot pie recipe! My only suggestion would be to cut the nutmeg in half. My wife and I felt that it really took over the flavor. Could be personal preference but apart from that, it was fantastic!
Can I jar this sauce and how long does it last
I wouldn’t recommend it.
Great no changes needed
How many cups does this make? I’m trying to make the pot pie recipe tonight 🙂
Approximately 6-8 cups.
Does anyone know if a double batch of this fits in a standard Circle shaped Dutch oven? It looks amazing but need to make for a bigger family.
Cindy Tan Mun Yee
Thank you for sharing this lovely recipe. I would like to know if we could use processed cheddar or stick back to unprocessed cheddar cheese?
It’s best to use good quality cheddar for this. Processed cheddar has a lot of stabilizers and that can change the texture of the finished sauce.
Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen
Thank God for my stretchy pants Alida, because this happens to be one of my favorite sauces! I love mixing it with my bolognese for that deliciously creamy texture!
Ooooh yum! It’s such a versatile classic, isn’t it?
That just blew my mind, Tomatoey , cheesy creamy, Meaty POW!
Your video makes it look so simple. Have you tried this with alternative milks? I’m lactose intolerant so would love to be able to make this and be able to eat it.
That’s because it is so simple. 😉 No, I haven’t but you could totally use other milks for this. I think coconut milk would be a bit odd tasting but nut milk would definitely work. You could even use chicken/veg stock which technically makes it a veloute.
Could you add other cheese to this?
Any good melting cheese will work well here. Gruyere is another favourite of mine. And you could add some finely grated Parmesan to bump up the cheesiness.
Thanks for sharing this Alida. I always struggle with my white sauce but your video has made it so easy!
I hope you love this recipe Gail. 🙂