This classic white sauce uses three simple ingredients, plus a few spices to give incredible flavor, and is perfect for lasagnas or even mac and cheese! You will find that it is so easy to make this creamy béchamel sauce.
If you are looking for a versatile sauce to keep up your culinary sleeve, this is a great one to have in your recipe box!
There are two great things about this recipe- it’s dead simple and it is a perfect addition to so many dishes.
Add this to soup or use it to make au gratin potatoes. You can even add it as a delicious layer to your lasagna.
Think of this as a great way to elevate any simple dish that needs a bit of richness.
What Is Béchamel Sauce?
Béchamel sauce is one of the classic French mother sauces.
Any other sauce in French cuisine (and many others) can be made by simply making small changes to one of these five versatile sauces!
Béchamel sauce is often called “white sauce” or “cream sauce” – but it doesn’t actually use cream at all.
Why You’ll Love This Béchamel Sauce
- It’s the simple base to so many more complex dishes. Once you learn this white sauce recipe, you can apply it to a wide variety of dishes! It’s very similar to the sauce used in my creamy white sauce chicken pasta.
- It uses simple ingredients. You probably have all of them on hand already!
- It’s a great way to add extra fats and proteins to a dish that might typically rank low nutritionally. If macaroni and cheese is a favorite of your children, make your own cheese sauce using béchamel sauce as your base, and you’ll boost the nutrient density of the macaroni significantly!
Tell Me About This French Sauce
- Taste – The butter and milk add richness, and a pinch of nutmeg adds flavor. It has a light taste that is enjoyable without being the star of the show.
- Texture – If you’re looking for a sauce that doesn’t rely on cheese for it’s creaminess, look no further! My recipe creates a thick, creamy, smooth sauce.
- Ease – This bechamel sauce recipe may seem technically difficult, but the key to almost all of it is thorough whisking!
- Time – You may be whisking throughout most of the entire recipe, but don’t worry – the sauce comes together in under 10 minutes.
Ingredients For My Classic Béchamel Recipe
- Butter – Use unsalted butter, if possible. Otherwise, be sure to taste test before adding more salt to the sauce later! To avoid dairy, you could use olive oil.
- Flour – All purpose flour is perfectly fine, as the flour is only used to help form the roux.
- Milk – Use whole milk for peak creaminess! If you need to avoid dairy, you can use almond milk, coconut milk, or soy milk instead – although, your sauce may not be quite as thick.
- Salt + Pepper – If you can use freshly cracked black peppercorns, so much the better!
- Nutmeg – Classic béchamel sauce uses a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg. Some recipes use whole cloves or a bay leaf instead, which are removed after the sauce is finished. Try the traditional sauce with nutmeg first, and then feel free to change it up next time!
How To Make This Delicious Cream Sauce
- Make a roux. – Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Add flour. – Add the flour to the butter to make a white roux. Whisk the flour continually for 2 minutes. This cooks the flour without browning or burning it, so that you remove the raw flavor of the flour.
- Add milk. – Slowly add the milk, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps. Slowly is the key word when it comes to adding milk! Keep whisking and simmering over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens and can coat the back of a wooden spoon.
- Add spices. – Add a pinch of nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Whisk while simmering for a few more minutes.
How To Fix A Lumpy Sauce
Sometimes, even a professional chef winds up with lumps in their sauce! Here are some tips to avoid getting lumps, and to get rid of them if they show up anyway.
- Take the time to really whisk your roux. Most lumps are created by a roux not being smooth enough prior to adding milk.
- Simply run your sauce through a mesh strainer! It doesn’t get much easier than that!
- If lumps appear as you’re slowly adding the milk, add about a tablespoon of ice cold water instead. Whisk that in vigorously until the sauce becomes smooth, then go back to adding the milk.
- It will dirty up an extra pot, but a great trick to help prevent lumps is to use warm milk! Adding cold milk to a hot roux can prevent the two from combining thoroughly.
Top Tips For A Creamy White Sauce
- Never bump the heat higher than medium-low. This sauce is quick to burn on the bottom of the pot! This is also why you need to whisk it continually.
- Be sure not to brown the flour as you make the roux. Béchamel sauce is light in color. You can even swap to using white pepper to keep it completely white!
- My recipe makes a pretty thick sauce, but if you need a thinner consistency for a particular recipe, add a cup of milk. If you need a thicker sauce, keep simmering the liquid away – or use extra roux from the beginning. But keep in mind that béchamel sauce thickens as it cools!
Uses For My Béchamel Sauce Recipe
The creamy texture of this thick sauce is used in many recipes, from traditional French cuisine to Greek moussaka and American macaroni-and-cheese!
It serves as a great pasta sauce on it’s own, but adding just a few ingredients to it greatly broadens it’s uses.
Here are just a few ideas!
- Every great cheese sauce starts as a béchamel sauce.
- Classic lasagna recipes mix béchamel sauce into the cheese layer.
- Many casseroles and vegetable gratins use this creamy sauce to bind the other ingredients together.
- For savory soufflés, use this base sauce as a starting point.
- Use béchamel sauce to make richer sausage gravy for breakfast biscuits.
How to store leftover Béchamel Sauce
Put your leftover sauce in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
How to reheat Béchamel Sauce
In a small saucepan, bring the sauce up to heat slowly. If your sauce isn’t as fluid as you would like, add a little milk to loosen it up a bit.
Béchamel Sauce Recipe
- 1 small saucepan
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- Melt butter in a 2 quart saucepan on low.
- Whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes- don’t let it brown/burn.
- Slowly add in the milk and whisk constantly until there are no lumps and the sauce begins to thicken.
- Add in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Enjoy!