Home » Posts » Home Cook 101 » How to Make Bechamel Sauce
Home Cook 101 Mastering the Art of Bechamel sauce, photo of sauce covering spoon and graphic of bowl and whisk

How to Make Bechamel Sauce

We recommend products we would use ourselves and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links, which means we might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep the blog running. See our full disclosure here.

What is Bechamel Sauce?

Béchamel sauce, often referred to as the “mother sauce” in French cuisine, is a fundamental skill every home cook should master. This white, creamy, versatile sauce serves as the canvas for a wide range of dishes, from luscious lasagna to velvety macaroni and cheese. I’d like to show you how to make bechamel sauce and give you some ideas on how to use it as a base in your weekly cooking.

A Brief Dip into Bechamel Sauce History

Before we dive into the kitchen, let’s take a moment to appreciate the rich history of bechamel sauce. Originating from 17th-century France, this sauce is named after the French Marquis Louis Béchamel. It swiftly became a cornerstone of classic French cuisine and eventually made its way into kitchens worldwide. Its enduring popularity lies in its simplicity and ability to build flavors of countless sauces and dishes.

How To Guide to Making Bechamel

Ingredients and the Art of Roux

Creating béchamel sauce requires just a handful of basic ingredients: butter, flour, and milk. You will also need a stove-top, sauce pan, and a whisk. The magic begins with a roux, a mixture of equal parts butter and flour. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter until it froths gently. Then, add the flour, whisking continuously to create a smooth paste. Allow this roux to cook for a minute or two, letting it develop a subtle golden color.

The amount of roux per milk depends on the use of the sauce. Thick versions, used for lasagna or soufflé recipes will call for more roux per milk, whereas bechamel based soups will cause for much less. Know where you want the sauce to go. If you want to make various derivatives of the sauce after you make it, think about making a medium-thick sauce and then thinning it if needed. Our recipe below is for a medium-thick béchamel sauce.

Bechamel roux ready to incorporate liquid

Whisking in the Liquid

Now, it’s time to introduce the liquid component—typically milk, but sometimes cream or a combination of both. It’s best to start with warm or room-temperature milk. Gradually pour in the milk 1/2 cup at a time, whisking the roux vigorously as you do. This process ensures a lump-free sauce. Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens and reaches a velvety consistency. Be patient; this step may take around 10-15 minutes. Your bechamel sauce should smoothly coat the back of a spoon.

Bechamel roux incorporating milk
Bechamel roux incorporating milk slowly with no lumps
Bechamel sauce simmering
Bechamel sauce with milk added, ready to simmer and thicken
Checking bechamel sauce is ready by coating spoon
Bechamel sauce check shows readiness when sauce coats spoon

Seasoning and Flavor Enhancements

Béchamel is a blank canvas. Season it with a pinch of salt, a dash of freshly ground black pepper, a big pinch of mustard powder, and a hint of nutmeg for depth and complexity. This basic béchamel is incredibly versatile, ready to serve as a base for many dishes.

How to Customize Bechamel Sauce for Your Culinary Creations

One of the joys of mastering béchamel sauce is the ability to customize it to suit different recipes. Use a thick bechamel for gratin-type dishes. A classic gratin includes blanched sliced vegetables layered in a baking dish, covered with béchamel and perhaps cheese/breadcrumbs. Bake until a brown crust forms on the surface. For a classic macaroni and cheese, blend generous handfuls of sharp cheddar cheese into the sauce until it melts into a luscious cheese sauce. For a lasagna, layer it between sheets of pasta, meaty Bolognese sauce, and grated Parmesan and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for a decadent masterpiece. A thinner bechamel can be used for soups or sauces.

Bechamel Sauce Tips

Make sure to start slow and with small amounts when adding the liquid to the roux so that you do not end up with lumps. It’s a good idea to use your whisk or a wooden spoon to occasionally rub around the bottom and corners of the saucepan to prevent the sauce from scalding. If your béchamel sauce ends up too thin, continue to cook and whisk it until it thickens. On the other hand, if it becomes too thick, add a little more milk and whisk until it reaches the desired consistency. Béchamel sauce is forgiving and can be adjusted to your liking. Stir the bechamel as it cools to prevent a skin forming on the surface.

The Culinary Journey Continues

I hope you’re ready to experiment with different variations, explore recipes, and discover all the possibilities this foundational sauce offers. Whether creating a comforting bowl of mac and cheese or a sumptuous lasagna, béchamel sauce is your trusted ally in the kitchen.

bechamel recipe: Spoon showing thickened bechamel sauce in saucepan

Béchamel Sauce

Master the art of making the perfect bechamel sauce with our step-by-step guide. This creamy, versatile base sauce is a culinary essential. Whether you're crafting a comforting mac and cheese, a fluffy soufflé, or a rich lasagna, our bechamel sauce recipe unlocks a world of culinary possibilities. This recipe is for a medium-thick sauce, so adjust the roux amount of milk amount as needed for your particular bechamel use (i.e. more flour and butter for a thicker sauce or more milk for a thinner sauce).
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Main, Side Dish, Soup
Cuisine: French
Diet: Vegetarian
Keyword: batch cooking, leftovers, sauce, versatile
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Cooling Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 12 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 80kcal
Author: juiceofsevenlemons
Cost: $2.25

Ingredients

  • 1 liter milk 1 quart
  • 60 milliliter butter 2 oz
  • 60 grams flour 1/4 cup
  • Seasonings to taste (pinches of salt, pepper/white pepper, mustard powder, freshly grated nutmeg)

Instructions

Roux

  • Bring milk to room temperature or warm the milk (simmer in a saucepan, whisking it keep skin from forming).
  • In a 2-quart saucepan on medium-low, gently melt the butter and add the flour.
  • Stir the roux for about 2 minutes until the flour has a toasty smell.
  • Turn the heat down to low to cool slightly.

Sauce

  • Whisk vigorously 1/2 cup (120ml/4 ounces) milk into the roux until incorporated into a paste.
  • Keep adding milk a little at a time to incorporate the milk while whisking to keep lumps from forming.
  • Bring the sauce up to a simmer by increasing the heat to medium.
  • After you achieve a slow simmer, turn down the heat and gently cook the sauce for 20-30 minutes while skimming off any skin that forms.
  • When the sauce thickens (coating the back of a spoon) and the starchy taste is cooked out, add seasonings and taste.
  • Turn off the heat and allow the sauce to cool, stirring during the cooling process to prevent a skin from forming on the surface.

Notes

Bechamel sauce can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat it gently on the stovetop, whisking continuously, to restore its creamy consistency.
After the sauce is made, cooling to room temperature can take almost an hour.
Experiment with different types of milk, such as whole milk, 2%, or even plant-based options like almond milk, to customize the flavor and richness of your bechamel sauce.
Nutmeg is a traditional spice used in bechamel sauce, but you can also add a touch of cayenne pepper for a subtle kick or fresh herbs like thyme or parsley for added complexity.
If you prefer a lighter version of bechamel, you can use olive oil instead of butter and skim milk.
When using bechamel sauce in a recipe (like lasagna), make sure it’s at room temperature and not cold to avoid slowing down the cooking process.u
Don’t rush the roux. Cooking it until it achieves a golden color helps remove the raw flour taste and adds a nutty aroma to your sauce.
If you’re making a large batch of bechamel, a heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven works best to prevent scorching. Also remember to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan as you cook the sauce.
To avoid lumps, add the milk gradually, whisking continuously, and make sure there are no visible bits of roux before adding more.
Bechamel sauce is incredibly versatile and can be used in savory dishes like casseroles, pot pies, soups, and gratins, as well as in sweet dishes like creamy dessert sauces or custards.
Once you’ve mastered the basic bechamel sauce, don’t hesitate to explore variations by adding ingredients like grated cheese, sautéed onions, or roasted garlic for unique flavors.

Nutrition

Serving: 60g | Calories: 80kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 50mg | Potassium: 80mg | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 200IU | Calcium: 80mg | Iron: 0.5mg

1 thought on “How to Make Bechamel Sauce”

  1. Pingback: Meal Ideas for the Week- 2023 September 11-17th - Juice of Seven Lemons

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




Scroll to Top
Subscription Form

Subscribe To Our Free Newsletter & Never Miss Out!

Stay in the loop with our latest recipes, tips, and exclusive offers! Simply enter your name and email below.