Make a Low Fat White Sauce Without Butter

Chicken and zucchini pasta in a cream sauce

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Creamy white sauce, known as a bechamel in the culinary world, is made by using equal amounts of butter and flour, which are cooked together to form a roux. Once the roux has formed, milk, cream, or broth is slowly added to complete the sauce. This basic white sauce is one of the five mother sauces and is the starting point for many other sauces. Classic bechamel is a rich, creamy, lump-free sauce that is very high in fat.

How to Make a Lower-Fat White Sauce

If you are looking to reduce fat intake or just prefer a lower-fat version of this classic sauce, you can easily make a lower fat white sauce with only two ingredients. Eliminating the butter successfully reduces the fat levels. You'll need to gather the following:

  • 2 1/4 cups of low-fat or nonfat milk
  • 3 tablespoons of cornstarch

Simply follow these steps:

  1. Warm 2 cups of low-fat or nonfat milk on medium-low heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  2. Mix 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 1/4 cup milk in a small bowl.
  3. Add cornstarch mix to the warming milk and stir until smooth. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring continuously so the sauce doesn't burn.

White Sauce Variations

Once you have mastered the basic low-fat white sauce recipe, you can begin to experiment with some classic variations. 

  • To make a cheese sauce known as Mornay, stir in 1/2 to 3/4 cups of your favorite grated reduced-fat sharp cheese and 1 teaspoon of dry mustard or 1 teaspoon of other dried herbs and seasonings to the finished white sauce, stirring until the cheese has melted.
  • To make an onion white sauce known as a soubise, sauté 1/2 cup of finely chopped onions or shallots in the saucepan before adding the cornstarch-milk mixture and then proceed with the lower-fat white sauce recipe. 

The Many Uses for White Sauce

The sky is the limit with how you can use the white sauce. Starting with simple preparations, you can spoon the white sauce over your favorite vegetables. It’s particularly delicious overcooked or roasted leeks, cauliflower, asparagus, and broccoli. If you want to incorporate the sauce into other dishes, look no further than a casserole. Using a white sauce or soubise as a base for a casserole provides a deep, rich flavor and pairs especially well with root vegetables. 

Bechamel sauce is a key ingredient in classic lasagna and Greek moussaka. Both of these are all-in-one layered dishes that are perfect when you need to feed a crowd. Rich and satisfying, both of these can include any number of vegetables, such as zucchini, potatoes, or spinach.

White sauce is not just for dinner. A Mornay sauce is tasty over poached eggs. In fact, eggs Mornay is a French classic and a variation on eggs Benedict (traditionally made with hollandaise sauce). For a different flavor profile, add crumbled breakfast sausage to your white sauce for a twist on classic Southern-style gravy. 

White sauce is a versatile base for many types of dishes. It is easily altered from a rich, high-fat sauce to a lower-fat version.