Bechamel Sauce – Basic White Sauce Recipe


In France, Bechamel Sauce (bay-shah-mel) is one of the four basic sauces called “meres” or “mother sauces” from which all other sauces derive.  Bechamel Sauce is also know as “white sauce” to most cooks.  Although bechamel sauce is often referred to as a cream sauce, there is rarely any cream in it.  It is a smooth, white sauce made from a Roux (made with flour, milk, and butter).  It is usually served with white meats, eggs, and vegetables.  It forms the basis of many other sauces.  Learn more about the history of Sauces and the four theories on the origin of Bechamel Sauce.


Bechamel Sauce


Since this Bechamel Sauce or also called White Sauce is a basic of cooking and is really very easy to make, every cook should know how to make it.  The sauce starts with the base of a roux which is equal parts butter and flour.  Flour is whisked into melted butter and cooked until bubbly to form the roux which acts as the thickening base for a white sauce.  Milk is then added and cooked slowly over low heat until thickened as a sauce.

The key is to cook the roux slowly so it does not brown.  If your butter starts to brown during the roux phase, throw out your roux and start over because the flavor of the sauce will be ruined!  Customary seasonings for a white sauce are salt and pepper.  In Italy, a pinch of nutmeg is also added.

A good white sauce is very versatile as it is the basis of many other sauce variations that can be served with white meats (chicken or fish), eggs, and vegetables.


Bechamel Sauce - Basic White Sauce Recipe:
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
30 mins
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: French
Keyword: Basic White Sauce Recipe, Classic Bechamel Sauce Recipe
Servings: 2 cups
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups milk, room temperature
Equipment Needed:
  • Heavy Saucepan
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Heavy-Duty Whisk
  1. In a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter.

  2. Add flour, whisking a few minutes until the flour mixture becomes bubbly (this is the roux).  Do not allow the roux mixture to brown or darken!

  3. Gradually add the milk, while whisking constantly, until the mixture is well blended and smooth.

  4. Bechamel Sauce

    Continue to cook, stirring constantly (so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan and begin to burn), until the sauce begins to boil and then thickens.  It usually takes 10 to 15 minutes to develop (I like to turn my heat to very low).  Immediately remove from heat.  

  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  6. Bechamel Sauce

  • Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce) can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one day before using.  Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top to prevent a "skin" from forming.  If it does, whisk vigorously when you reheat the bechamel and the sauce should be as smooth as it was when you made it. Thin out if necessary with milk or stock.

  • Vegan White Sauce:  Substitute vegetable oil for the butter, and soy or almond milk for the milk in the recipe.

  • Makes approximately 2 cups.

  • Microwave Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce) Directions:

    Bechamel SauceUse the same ingredients listed above.

    In a medium-size microwave-safe bowl, melt butter for approximately 30 to 45 seconds. You do not want to brown the butter (check after 30 seconds to make sure butter has melted and is not browned).

    Add flour and stir/whisk into the melted butter until smooth.  Return to microwave and heat for 40 seconds to 1 minutes (check after 40 seconds to make sure the mixture is not browning).  Whisk until bubbles have calmed down.  You now have created a Roux.

    Add milk and whisk into the roux mixture (butter and flour).  It may be a little clumpy at this stage. Microwave for 1 minute until the sauce just begins to boil; remove from microwave and whisk until sauce is smooth with no lumps.  The sauce must actually boil or the sauce will taste like flour.

    Return to microwave and heat for 2 additional minutes until the sauce bubbles again, becomes thickened.  Whisk the sauce until bubbles have calmed down.  If the sauce has not thickened yet, heat for an additional 1 minute, then whisk again.

    Season with salt and pepper to taste.


    Proportion of roux and milk determine thickness of the sauce:

    The above recipe is the Basic Bechamel or White Sauce recipe.  White sauce is one of the most versatile things you can learn to make.  By changing the proportions of the roux mixture, you can change the thickness of the sauce.  The amounts of butter, milk (or broth) and flour can be altered for different amounts and thicknesses of sauce.  There are many variations to the basic recipe:

    Thin White Sauce Recipe:
    1 tablespoon flour
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 cup milk

    Medium White Sauce Recipe:
    2 tablespoons flour
    2 tablespoons butter
    1 cup milk

    Thick White Sauce Recipe:
    3 tablespoons flour
    3 tablespoons butter
    1 cup milk

    White Sauce Variation Ideas:

    Brown Sauce:  When making the flour and butter roux, keep stirring constantly until the mixture starts to turn brown.  You can also use chicken or beef stock in place of the milk.  Different roux are dictated by the amount of time they spend in the pan and categorized by their color.  As your roux gets darker, it gains flavor and color but loses some of its thickening power.  Learn how to make a Louisiana Roux.

    Cheddar Cheese Sauce:  Make the Basic White Sauce recipe. After the white sauce has thickened, remove from heat and stir in 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, 2 teaspoon dry mustard, and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce until the cheese is melted and smooth.

    Cream of Chicken:  Using basic white sauce recipe, replace the 2 cups of milk with 1 cup milk and 1 cup chicken stock (can also substitute vegetable, mushroom, or celery stock instead of chicken stock to change the flavor variation).

    Creme Sauce:  Heavy cream is used in place of the milk in the Basic White Sauce recipe.

    Curry Sauce:  When making the Basic White Sauce, add 1 to 3 teaspoons curry powder (or to taste) to the melted butter.  Let simmer for about 1 minutes before adding the flour.  Continue with the recipe as directed.

    Milk Gravy:  Substitute bacon or sausage pan drippings for the butter in the Basic White Sauce recipe.  Check out our recipe for Milk Gravy and also Mom’s Biscuits and Gravy and Chicken-Fried Steak.

    Mornay Sauce:  Make the Basic White Sauce recipe.  After the white sauce has thickened, remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup grated Swiss, Gruyere, or Emmanthal cheese until melted and smooth.

    Mustard Sauce:  Make the Basic White Sauce recipe.  After the white sauce has thickened, remove from heat and stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons prepared mustard or mustard seeds.

    Onion Sauce:  When making the Basic White Sauce recipe, saute 1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup minced onion in the melted butter until translucent.  Then add the flour and continue with the recipe.  This is my favorite way to make and use a white sauce, where minced onion is cooked in butter before adding flour.  This variation is wonderful mixed with cooked vegetables such as German Creamed Spinach.

    For people that do not like the texture of onions, but enjoy the flavor:  In a small sauce over medium-low heat, combine 1/2 to 1 small minced onion with 1 to 2 cloves of chopped garlic in the milk required in the recipe.  Simmer in the milk, stirring constantly.  Strain the onions/garlic mixture out of the milk before adding the milk with the roux.

    Veloute Sauce:  Use chicken stock/broth or fish stock instead of milk in the Basic White Sauce recipe.


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