A Basic Greek Besamel (Bechamel)

Bechamel sauce
Philippe Desnerck / Getty Images
  • Total: 15 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 10 mins
  • Servings: 16 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
74 Calories
5g Fat
5g Carbs
2g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 74
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 3g 13%
Cholesterol 24mg 8%
Sodium 125mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Protein 2g
Calcium 49mg 4%
*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.)

Béchamel is a standard white sauce and one of the five mother sauces of French cuisine but is found in recipes from other cultures as well. A bechamel is a combination of milk, butter, and flour and can be seasoned with onion or other flavorings. The Greek version, besamel (in Greek μπεσαμέλ, pronounced beh-sah-MEL) includes the addition of egg yolks, which gives the traditionally white sauce a light yellow color.

This is the basic, medium-thick white sauce used in moussaka (a layered eggplant dish), pastitsio (baked pasta with ground meat), and melitzanes papoutsakia (little eggplant shoes). If you would like to change the consistency of the besamel, you can increase the ratio of butter and flour to the milk which will result in a thicker sauce, or use more milk to make a lighter sauce. 


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Nutmeg to taste
  • 1 to 3 egg yolks, beaten with a fork

Steps to Make It

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium-low heat until hot.

  2. In another saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. As soon as it melts, add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until there are no lumps.

  3. Increase the heat to medium-low and add the hot milk slowly, stirring constantly with a whisk, and continue stirring until the sauce begins to thicken; it should be creamy without being too thick.

  4. Remove from the heat and stir in salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the egg yolks one at a time, until the desired color is reached, and return to the heat, whisking briskly until well blended. Remove from the heat and set aside until ready to use.

Raw Egg Warning

Consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.


  • To make a thicker besamel (for use in au gratin recipes, filled pies, and croquettes), increase the butter by 1 tablespoon and the flour by 2 tablespoons. Leave everything else the same.
  • To make a thinner besamel (for use as the base for other sauces), cut the butter and flour amounts in half. Leave everything else the same.
  • To make double or more cups of besamel, increase all ingredients proportionately except the egg yolks. No more than 3 egg yolks should be used.
  • Besamel can be stored in the refrigerator for no more than 1 day. To reheat, use either a double boiler, stirring constantly, or the microwave. For the microwave, cover and vent, and heat on medium power checking every 2 minutes. Microwave heating time will depend on the amount of sauce and the oven's wattage.