Béchamel sauce is a classic French sauce made with flour, butter, milk, and a sprinkle of nutmeg. This post will reveal the saucy secrets behind this classic creamy sauce that any home cook (yes, you) can make.
Béchamel sauce is one of the five basic sauces in French cuisine. There are many variations, but the most common version is made with butter, milk, and all-purpose flour. Bechamel is also known as white sauce and is a classic ingredient in French cooking.
The five classic French sauces are:
It’s often referred to as a cream sauce, but it’s not made with cream. It’s commonly used as a pasta sauce, a base for egg souffles, and in lasagna as a substitution for ricotta cheese.
What’s the correct ratio of butter to flour?
Bechamel is made with equal parts butter and flour. My bechamel sauce recipe calls for 1 stick of butter and 1/3 a cup of white flour. (1 stick of butter is 1/3 a cup). I then add 4 cups of whole milk (1 liter of milk).
Rules for the best Bechamel Sauce
Rule 1: Only cook the flour long enough for the flour taste to be cooked out. Unlike classic rouxs, you don’t want to brown the flour or butter. If it begins to brown, remove the pan from the heat.
Rule 2: Stir the milk constantly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan and to stop any annoying lumps from forming. (Annoying Lumps was my wrestling name in middle school).
How to Make Salsa Bechamel Sauce
Making this sauce is pretty straightforward. The key to this recipe’s success is cooking the flour just long enough to eliminate raw flour texture and flavor without browning it too much.
Here are the main ingredients in classic béchamel sauce. If you don’t have nutmeg, it’s okay. That’s a traditional ingredient, but it’s not commonly used in the States.
- 8 tablespoons of butter (1 stick unsalted)
- 1/2 cup flour (95 ml)
- 4 cups milk (1 liter)
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
- salt and black pepper to taste
- bay leaf (optional)
Step 1: Warm Your Milk (Optional)
Warming your milk in the microwave before adding it to the butter and flour mixture can help speed up the process of thickening your sauce. Adding hot milk can also help reduce splattering. That said, 9 times out of 10, I don’t bother doing this when I’m making a bechamel sauce. Cold milk is just fine.
Step 2: Make The Roux
Melt butter (1 stick) over low heat in a medium saucepan or dutch oven. Add 1/2 a cup of all-purpose white flour to the melted butter and stir for 2-3 minutes using a wooden spoon or a whisk.
Note: You might be used to a dark, golden brown roux. These rouxs are common in southern cooking. But, since this is a white sauce, we need a lighter roux.
Step 3: Add Milk
Once the roux has turned into a light golden paste, it’s time to add the milk.
Turn off the heat. Pour your 4 cups of cold milk in a steady stream into the roux. Immediately begin mixing using your whisk. Whisk the mixture until all the clumps are gone. Next, add a small amount of freshly ground nutmeg and a few dashes of salt.
Once all the lumps are gone, switch back to stirring with your wooden spoon.
Turn your burner back on to medium or medium-high heat. Continue stirring for 8-10 minutes over medium heat until your sauce thickens.
Ta-da! You’ve just made one of the world’s most classic and revered sauces. Julia Child’d be so proud of you!
What Can You Make with Bechamel Sauce?
Bechamel is one of the most versatile sauces EVER. Remember, it’s a “mother sauce.” And because of that, it can be used as a base for several sauce variations! Here are some of the more common variations made with bechamel sauce.
Croque monsieur may not be as well-known in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean it’s not one of the most crave-able sandwiches around. Picture a grilled-cheese sandwich drizzled with bechamel sauce and then cooked under the broiler for a few minutes till the top is all crispy. DIVINE.
Adding cheese to your sauce turns it into a mornay sauce. Mornay sauce is traditionally made with Gruyere or Swiss cheese. It’s then served as a topping on veggies, potatoes, and eggs. You can turn the mornay sauce into mac and cheese sauce by adding cheddar cheese and cooked macaroni noodles!
Substituting creme for milk in your sauce will transform it into sauce crème, a perfect base sauce for making baked Au gratin potatoes.
Sauce soubise is a French term (just like all the other sauce names). It’s made with a base of bechamel sauce with the addition of softened or caramelized onions. This sauce is often served with rice, chicken, or risotto. A very versatile sauce, indeed!
Why does my sauce taste like flour?
Your bechamel sauce will have a raw flavor of flour if you don’t spend enough time cooking the flour in the butter. Making bechamel is an exercise in patience, for sure. While stirring the butter and flour, do what I do and watch a few TikTok videos.
How Do I Adjust the Consistency of my Bechamel?
To thin out your bechamel sauce, add a little bit of milk. To thicken your bechamel, there’s an extra step. Mix equal parts of butter and flour in a small mixing bowl until you have a paste-like consistency. This mixture is called buerre manié. Then, add a tablespoon of buerre manie and cook for a few minutes to remove the flour taste.
Coincidentally, “Desired thickness” was my linebacker name in Highschool.
How do I store bechamel sauce?
You can store the sauce in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about a week. Then, when you’re ready to re-use it, bring it up to temp over medium heat, stirring with your whisk.
You can also freeze bechamel sauce in an airtight, freezer safe container for 3-6 months. I prefer a Foodsaver since it sucks out all air from the bag. This ensures that I can freeze my sauce even longer.
Easy Salsa Bechamel Sauce
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
- Warm Your Milk (Optional)Warming your milk in the microwave before adding it to the butter and flour mixture can help speed up the process of thickening your sauce.4 cups whole milk
- Make The RouxBegin making the roux by melting 1 stick of butter over medium heat in a heavy saucepan or dutch oven. Add 1/2 a cup of all-purpose white flour to the melted butter and stir for 2-3 minutes using a wooden spoon or a whisk.Once the roux has turned into a light golden paste, it's time to add the milk.1 stick unsalted butter, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- Add Milk, Simmer, & StirTurn off the heat. Add 4 cups of milk to your roux. Immediately begin mixing using your whisk. Whisk the mixture until all the clumps are gone. Next, add a small amount of freshly ground nutmeg and a dash of salt. Once all the lumps are gone, switch back to stirring with your wooden spoon. Turn the medium heat back on. Continue stirring for 3-4 minutes over medium heat or until your sauce is thick and creamy.4 cups whole milk, 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
Your Own Notes
The Golden Lamb provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietician.Love it? Pin it! Share on Facebook