Basic White Sauce

Basic white sauce

The Spruce

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 4 mins
Total: 14 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Yield: 1 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
65 Calories
5g Fat
4g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 65
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 13mg 4%
Sodium 147mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 4g 2%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 51mg 4%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 61mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(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 has in their repertoire. It is an excellent sauce to turn plain steamed or boiled vegetables into an elegant and tasty dish.

To make a 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.


  • 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

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Basic White Sauce ingredients
    The Spruce
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.

    Melt butter in saucepan
    The Spruce
  3. Stir in flour.

    Stir in flour
    The Spruce
  4. Whisk constantly and cook for about 2 minutes. Do not brown.

    The Spruce
  5. Gradually stir in milk and continue cooking over low heat, constantly stirring, until sauce begins to thicken.

    Stir in milk
    The Spruce
  6. Cook for 1 minute longer, still stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

    The Spruce
  7. For a richer sauce, add a few tablespoons of heavy cream.

    Add cream
    The Spruce


  • If you make white sauce frequently, you may want to use a homemade white sauce mix with non-fat dry milk powder, flour, salt, and butter. You will only need to add water to make the white sauce.

Recipe Variations

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 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.

How to Use White Sauce

  • Use in your casserole, gravy, or cheese sauce.

How to Store and Freeze

  • White sauce can be kept in an airtight container for up to three days before using it.
  • Double or triple the batch, and freeze the extra sauce in freezer bags or containers; it will last for up to six months in the freezer.