Cheesy Bechamel Sauce

Cheesy Bechamel Sauce
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Ratings (38)
  • Total: 20 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 10 mins
  • Yield: 2 cups (4-6 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
289 Calories
21g Fat
16g Carbs
9g Protein
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This cheesy version of the classic béchamel sauce is perfect for many dishes that need a mild-flavored sauce. You can use it for macaroni and cheese, cheesy rice, vegetables, and many different pasta dishes.

The basic technique is to make a roux, which is a way to thicken sauces by cooking flour with a fat in equal amounts by weight. In this case, the fat is butter, as is typical in French-inspired sauces. The roux is then blended with milk, cheese, and seasonings to make the cheesy sauce.

You can use your preferred milk, although whole milk will result in a creamier sauce. There is some debate over whether the milk should be cold, room temperature, or warmed. Ultimately, choose your side, but ensure you aren't starting with hot or scaled milk. You can heat the milk briefly in the microwave or on the stovetop.

Pay attention to your sauce as it cooks. It will need stirring pretty much throughout the recipe to ensure there aren't lumps and everything is blended together well and not scorching on the bottom of the pan.

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk (warmed, whole milk or you can use 2 percent if preferred)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • Optional: dash hot sauce

Steps to Make It

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour to make a roux. Allow the roux to cook for 1 to 2 minutes while stirring. 

  2. Add the milk a little at a time, whisking it continuously, allowing the mixture to blend and thicken. This will take about 10 minutes, although 20 minutes is recommended by cooking school instructors.

  3. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, and hot sauce. Continue stirring until the cheese has melted.

  4. Remove the sauce from the heat and use it immediately.

  5. Serve and enjoy!

Kitchen Notes

  • If you are making the sauce ahead of time, it should be refrigerated and used within two days. The mixture will thicken while in the refrigerator. To prevent a skin forming, place a sheet of wax paper or plastic on top, in contact with the surface of the sauce. But not to worry, you can disperse the skin into the sauce when you reheat it, using vigorous whisking. Add a little milk to the saucepan when you are reheating the béchamel sauce to thin it to the desired consistency.
  • This cheesy sauce can be considered a variation of Mornay sauce, which originally was made with white cheeses including Gruyère and Emmental. You can vary the type of cheese if you want to use something other than sharp cheddar. Add more or less hot sauce to boost the spice level or tone it down.