A Basic Greek Besamel (Bechamel)

A Basic Greek Besamel (Bechamel)

The Spruce / Rachel Riesgraf

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 15 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
70 Calories
5g Fat
3g Carbs
3g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 70
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 7%
Saturated Fat 3g 14%
Cholesterol 57mg 19%
Sodium 46mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 3g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 42mg 3%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 58mg 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.)

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

This sauce is 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 bechamel to accommodate certain dishes, 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.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • Nutmeg to taste

  • 1 to 3 large egg yolks (lightly beaten)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    A Basic Greek Besamel (Bechamel) ingredients

    The Spruce / Rachel Riesgraf

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

    heat the milk over medium-low heat in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Rachel Riesgraf

  3. In another saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.

    melted butter in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Rachel Riesgraf

  4. As soon as it melts, add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until there are no lumps.

    butter and flour mixture in saucepan

    The Spruce / Rachel Riesgraf

  5. Increase the heat to medium-low and add the hot milk slowly, stirring constantly with a whisk.

    adding milk to the flour butter mixture

    The Spruce / Rachel Riesgraf

  6. Continue stirring until the sauce begins to thicken; it should be creamy without being too thick.

    milk, flour and butter sauce whisked together

    The Spruce / Rachel Riesgraf

  7. Remove from the heat and stir in salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

    Remove the white sauce from the heat and stir in salt, pepper, and nutmeg

    The Spruce / Rachel Riesgraf

  8. Stir in the egg yolks one at a time, until the desired color is reached.

    white sauce in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Rachel Riesgraf

  9. Return to the heat, whisking briskly until well blended.

    A Basic Greek Besamel (Bechamel) in a saucepan

    The Spruce / Rachel Riesgraf

Raw Egg Warning

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

Variations

  • 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.
  • To make a thinner besamel (for use as the base for other sauces), cut the butter and flour amounts in half.
  • To make double (or more) 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.