Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce)

5 from 7 votes

Learn how to make Classic Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce) at home using my super simple recipe. One of the classic French mother sauces, this perfectly smooth and creamy white sauce is great for making casseroles, souffles, and pasta dishes.

Bechamel sauce in bowl.
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About Bechamel Sauce

Made with 3 main ingredients – all-purpose flour, milk, and butter, Bechamel Sauce (popularly called White Sauce in the USA) is one of the most versatile sauces used in various recipes.

This white sauce is one of the 5 French mother sauces extensively used in the kitchen to dress up many dishes.

Bechamel Sauce forms the base of many other sauces like mornay sauce, Nantua sauce, cheddar cheese sauce, etc. It is used to make the base of savory souffle, holds the casseroles together, and can be used as the pasta sauce along with a few other ingredients added to it. I also use it in some of my sandwich fillings; it makes them extra creamy.

So basically, if you don’t want to use a ton of cheese and still want a creamy, silky texture, this is the sauce you want to add to your dishes.

While making a perfect Bechamel sauce recipe is fairly easy, there is a fine line between making a perfect sauce and breaking it beyond repair. If not made properly, it can curdle and become a goopy mess.

The key to a perfectly smooth, silky, and medium-thick sauce is to add hot milk to butter and flour (roux). It will use an extra pot, but you can heat the milk on another burner while preparing the roux.

Serve this versatile sauce as a creamy dip with an appetizer, or use it as a base for your pasta, casserole, savory soufflé, sausage gravy, baked macaroni, or other similar recipes. This one is super easy, made with simple ingredients, and comes together quickly.

Here are some more homemade sauce recipes for you

Ingredients

Bechamel sauce ingredients

Milk – Milk is the key ingredient of this creamy sauce, making it rich, creamy, and delicious. Use whole milk (full-fat milk) for the best results.

To make it dairy-free, you can use non-dairy milk options such as almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, or coconut milk.

Butter – Use the best quality unsalted butter with a high-fat content, and do not compromise on the quantity. The butter makes the white sauce recipe so rich and good. You can also use ghee (clarified butter) instead of regular butter.

For a vegan or dairy-free version, use olive oil or coconut oil instead.

Note – Use enough butter; otherwise, the sauce tastes pasty.

All-Purpose Flour – When mixed with milk and butter, flour thickens this sauce.

The traditional bechamel sauce is seasoned with salt, black pepper, and nutmeg.

To make it more flavorful, you can add some dried herbs to it. You can replace black pepper with white pepper, too.

How To Make Bechamel Sauce

Preparation

Before you start to cook the sauce, gather the ingredients.

This is a very important step as you need to be quick while adding some of them to the pan at the right time. If not, your sauce could become lumpy.

Make The Sauce

Heat 4 tablespoon unsalted butter in a pan over medium heat.

Butter heating in a pan.

Once the butter has melted, add 4 tablespoon all-purpose flour and stir using a silicone spatula to form a smooth, glossy paste. This paste is called a roux.

Flour added to the pan.

Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the roux is light golden and has a slightly nutty smell, stirring continuously.

Note – Do not overcook the roux. We are only aiming to remove the raw flavor.

Ready ROUX.

Switch off the heat.

Now, very slowly, pour 4 cups of hot milk into the pan and whisk continuously with a wire whisk using the other hand. Whisk vigorously until smooth.

Note – If you pour the milk all at once, the sauce might turn out lumpy, and lumpy sauce is a big no-no.

Whisking the milk into the pan.

Switch on the heat to low.

Add

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg powder

and mix well.

salt, pepper and nutmeg added to the pan.

Cook the sauce on low heat until it coats the back of a spoon or spatula, stirring continuously.

Sauce coating the spatula.

Remove the pan from heat and cover it with cling film to avoid the formation of skin on top of the sauce.

Once the sauce has cooled, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Use as desired.

Ready bechamel sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if my sauce has lumps?

Even after following the steps carefully, if your sauce still has lumps, pass it through a fine-mesh strainer.

Adding a little ice-cold water instead of the next splash of milk and whisking vigorously also brings the sauce back from lumpy to smooth. Add the remaining milk once the sauce is back to being smooth.

What are the five mother sauces?

The five mother sauces are Béchamel Sauce, Veloute Sauce, Tomato Sauce, Brown or Espagnole Sauce, and Hollandaise Sauce. It is said that modifying these sauces can make any other sauce.

How to make gluten-free Bechamel sauce?

To make the gluten-free sauce, you can substitute all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour or use a combination of cornstarch and rice flour.

How to make vegan Bechamel sauce?

If you are looking for a vegan version, use almond milk or coconut milk instead of dairy milk. Also, use olive oil to roast the all-purpose flour instead of butter.

What is the difference between Bechamel and white sauce?

There is no difference between Bechamel and white sauce. Bechamel sauce is also called white sauce, which is made from all-purpose flour, butter, and milk.

But Béchamel sauce is different from cheese sauce, as grated cheese is added to the Béchamel sauce to make the cheese sauce. Check out my Parmesan Cheese Sauce.

Is Béchamel sauce the same as Alfredo sauce?

No, it is not the same as Alfredo sauce.

While Béchamel Sauce is a simple white sauce that uses only all-purpose flour, milk, and butter, Alfredo sauce uses heavy cream, butter, garlic, fresh parsley, and parmesan or cream cheese.

Variations

You can make different variations once you have mastered making the basic sauce. Here are a few examples.

Mornay Sauce – Add grated cheese (such as Gruyere or Parmesan) to the almost-ready bechamel sauce. Stir until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth.

Dijon Mustard Sauce – Add a tablespoon or more of Dijon mustard to the white sauce. Stir until well combined and smooth. Add a dash of honey to balance the flavors.

Herb and Garlic Sauce – Add minced garlic and chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, thyme, or basil) to the sauce.

Mushroom Sauce – Sauté sliced mushrooms in butter until they release moisture and become tender. Add them to the ready sauce with chopped herbs like thyme, oregano, etc.

Lemon-Dill Sauce – Add freshly squeezed lemon juice and chopped fresh dill to the white sauce. Add a pinch of lemon zest for extra brightness.

Usage Ideas

My favorite way of using this silky and smooth Bechamel sauce is in casseroles, pasta, and souffle recipes. I use it to make various dishes like Au Gratin Potatoes, Broccoli Rice Casserole, Mac and Cheese, Greek Moussaka, Creamed Spinach, Croque Monsieur, Classic Lasagna, and Baked Vegetables.

It makes the filling base for my Creamy Corn Sandwich and Spinach and Cheese Sandwich.

Sometimes, I add this classic French white sauce to my continental gravy recipes to make them rich and creamy.

You can top your roast chicken, roasted veggies, or shrimp with this sauce.

Storage Suggestions

You can store this white sauce in the fridge for about 5 days in a clean and dry airtight container and gently heat it again when you want to use it next. Make sure to bring it to room temperature before storing it.

If you do not have any immediate use for the bechamel sauce, you can stash the sauce in the freezer for later use in a freezer-safe container or food bag.

This sauce thickens once cooled. Add some milk to it while reheating to get the perfect texture.

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Learn how to make Classic Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce) at home using my super simple recipe. One of the classic French mother sauces, this perfectly smooth and creamy white sauce is great for making casseroles, souffles, and pasta dishes.
5 from 7 votes

Classic Bechamel Sauce Recipe (White Sauce)

Learn how to make Classic Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce) at home using my super simple recipe. One of the classic French mother sauces, this perfectly smooth and creamy white sauce is great for making casseroles, souffles, and pasta dishes.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients 

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk (full-fat milk) (hot)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg powder
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Instructions 

Preparation

  • Before you start to cook the Bechamel sauce, gather the ingredients.
  • This is a very important step as you need to be quick while adding some of them to the pan at the right time. If not, your sauce could become lumpy.

Make The Sauce

  • Heat butter in a pan over medium heat.
  • Once the butter has melted, add all-purpose flour and stir using a silicone spatula to form a smooth glossy paste. This paste is called a roux.
  • Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the roux is light golden in color, stirring continuously.
  • Note – Do not overcook the roux. We are only aiming to remove the raw flavor.
  • Switch off the heat.
  • Now VERY SLOWLY, pour the hot milk into the pan and keep whisking continuously with a wire whisk using the other hand. Whisk vigorously until smooth.
  • Note – If you pour the milk all at once, the sauce might turn out lumpy.
  • Switch on the heat to low.
  • Add salt, black pepper, and nutmeg powder and mix well.
  • Cook the sauce until it starts to coat the back of the spatula, stirring continuously.
  • Remove the pan from heat and cover it with cling film to avoid the formation of skin over the sauce.
  • Once the sauce has cooled, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Use as desired.

Video

YouTube video

Notes

You can use non-dairy milk options such as almond, soy, oat, or coconut milk to make it dairy-free.
The sauce will thicken once cooled. Add some milk to bring it to desired consistency.

Nutrition

Calories: 242kcal, Carbohydrates: 15g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 18g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Cholesterol: 49mg, Sodium: 82mg, Potassium: 248mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 654IU, Calcium: 215mg, Iron: 1mg
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4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hi!
    Great article…. And… as a French person I will tell you there is a difference between béchamel and white sauce. White sauce is made with broth and béchamel is made with milk. Sometimes people will add crème fraîche to white sauce but not milk. Milk makes it béchamel.