The base of many classic French recipes always starts with one of the mother sauces. Whether you're looking to add a creamy element to your lasagna or give your mac and cheese a luscious texture, Béchamel Sauce is an easy but important recipe to always have on hand.
Used in everything from the decadent topping crowning a Croque Monsieur to a meaty moussaka, this French sauce brings silky and creamy texture to everything. With a few basic ingredients and tips, you will have your friends and family saying oh la la!
Bechamel Sauce combines pantry staples like flour with basics like butter and milk to create a creamy sauce that is delicious on its own, but a canvas for other sauces as well.
- Butter - The rich, decadent, creamy base that helps create the roux, the one to one butter to flour mixture that gives this sauce its texture.
- Flour - Used to thicken the sauce and give it a silky, thick texture that should hug the back of a spoon.
- Milk - Adds richness to the sauce. For the best texture you should use whole milk.
- Salt - Enhances all of the flavors of the ingredients while making the sauce savory.
- White Pepper - Classically used in béchamel to keep the sauce white. This mild pepper can have a sharp bite but also has an earthy flavor.
- Nutmeg - Another classic addition to this French mother sauce, it adds a depth of warmth.
How to Make Béchamel Sauce
With just a few simple steps, this classic sauce comes together effortlessly. Start with this as your base and then have fun with all of the variations of béchamel.
Time needed: 30 minutes.
Creamy, dreamy, and decadent, once you learn how to make this classic sauce you will feel like Julia Child in the kitchen.
Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat.
Add the butter and allow it to gently melt, continually stirring.
Once melted add the flour. Continue to stir until the flour has absorbed all of the butter. Cook the flour for 2-4 minutes until it begins to smell slightly nutty but still has a blond color. You are not looking to create a dark roux.
Slowly drizzle in a little milk at a time, whisking continuously to allow the roux to absorb the milk. Keep whisking until it is smooth and there are now lumps.
Continue to stir the sauce until it has thickened. Don't ever let it come to a rolling boil. If the sauce seems a little too thick, thin it out with an extra drizzle of milk.
Stir in your spices.
Béchamel is the mother sauce but with a few easy additions it can create other types of sauces.
- Mornay - When cheese is added to a béchamel sauce, it is considered a mornay sauce.
- Soubise - The addition of sweet yet savory onions turns this into a soubise.
Béchamel can be made ahead of time and then reheated when ready to use. Keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. When you are ready to use it reheat it on the stovetop over low heat, stirring continuously until it's reached your desired consistency. The roux in this sauce will prevent it from separating.
Top Tips for Béchamel Sauce
When making a béchamel or any type of milk-based sauce, always make sure your milk is warm. When milk is cold, fresh out of the refrigerator, it can cause the warm roux to seize up, creating a lumpy texture.
Your nose knows. There is nothing worse than a béchamel that still tastes like raw flour. To make sure the raw flour taste has cooked out, continue to cook your roux until it smells slightly nutty. You are not looking to add any color to your roux, just cook the flour through.
- 1 saucepan
- 1 whisk
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp flour
- 3 cups milk
- pinch of salt
- ⅛ tsp white pepper
- ⅛ tsp nutmeg
- Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt.
- Add the flour. Continue to stir until the flour has absorbed all of the butter.
- Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes until the mixture smells slightly nutty but the color is still blonde.
- Slowly drizzle in warm milk, continually whisking until all of the milk is absorbed before adding any more. Continue to whisk until all of the milk has been incorporated.
- Continue to whisk the sauce, allowing it to thicken. It should hug the back fo a spoon.
- If the sauce seems too thick, drizzle in a little extra milk.
- Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir to combine.