Basic White Sauce Recipe

Basic White Sauce (Bechamel)
Philippe Desnerck/Photolibrary/Getty
Ratings (64)
  • Total: 14 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 4 mins
  • Yield: 1 Cup (6 Servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
157 Calories
9g Fat
15g Carbs
4g Protein
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This basic white sauce, or béchamel, is a good base for a casserole, gravy, or cheese sauce. White sauce is one of the standard sauces that every cook have in their repertoire. It is an excellent sauce to turn plain steamed or boiled vegetables into an elegant and tasty dish.

To make white sauce, you will be making a roux, which is a base of a fat and flour cooked together that will thicken the sauce. You will need to use a wire whisk to get a smooth sauce. While you could try to use a wooden spoon, you won't be able to get rid of all of the lumps.

White pepper is usually used so the sauce remains white, without specks of black pepper, but you can use either. You can lighten white sauce by using half chicken stock or vegetable stock or make it richer with half-and-half or about 1/2 cup of cream with the milk. There are many variations of classic white sauce, some of which have their own French names.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt, to taste
  • White pepper, to taste (black pepper can be substituted)

Steps to Make It

Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat; stir in flour. Whisk constantly and cook for about 2 minutes. Do not brown.

  1. Gradually stir in milk and continue cooking over low heat, constantly stirring, until sauce begins to thicken. Cook for 1 minute longer, still stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

  2. For a richer sauce, add a few tablespoons of heavy cream.

Variations of White Sauce

You can use these versions of white sauce to complement different dishes.

  • Cheddar Sauce: Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground mustard along with the flour and when the sauce has thickened, add about 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Serve over vegetables or poached eggs.

  • Mornay Sauce: For this classic Swiss cheese sauce, add 1/2 cup of grated Swiss, Gruyere, or Emmental cheese to the sauce after it has thickened, stirring it in until it is melted and the sauce is smooth. It is a good sauce over pasta or vegetables.

  • Dill Sauce for Fish: Add 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh dill and a dash of grated or ground nutmeg along with the flour.

  • Mustard Sauce: Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard (or a similar mustard) or 1 to 2 teaspoons of prepared mustard to the sauce just before serving. This is an excellent sauce to accompany ham, vegetables, or beef.

  • Velouté Sauce: Substitute chicken broth or fish stock for the milk. This will be a lighter sauce and is suitable for poultry, fish, or seafood.

  • Onion White Sauce:  Mince 1 tablespoon onion and sauté it in the butter at the start of the white sauce recipe. When it is translucent, add the flour and continue with the white sauce instructions.

  • Brown Sauce (Gravy): In this sauce, you continue to stir and cook the butter and flour mixture until it begins to turn brown. You then add chicken or beef stock rather than milk.

  • Curry Sauce: At the start of the white sauce recipe, add 1 to 3 teaspoons of curry powder to the melted butter and simmer them together for 1 minute. Then add the flour and continue with the recipe.

If you make white sauce frequently, you may want to use a homemade white sauce mix with nonfat dray milk powder, flour, salt, and butter. You will only need to add water to make white sauce.