Béchamel sauce is a classic French white sauce, often used as the basis for many other sauces such as cheese or parsley.
Béchamel sauce is made by the roux method where butter and flour are cooked together then blended with an onion and herb infused milk and gently simmered until smooth and thick. Don’t be tempted to skip the infusing stage – this is when the milk absorbs plenty of flavour. Add a small knob of butter to the finished sauce to give it an extra glossy finish and rich flavour. Originally meant to be a starter course all on its own, but it’s now typically used as the creamy base for other sauces as well as in famous European dishes like lasagne and moussaka.
- 450ml milk
- 1 small onion, peeled and studded with 4 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 black peppercorns
- A few fresh parsley stalks
- 40g butter
- 40g plain flour
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Pour the milk in a pan and add the studded onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and parsley stalks. Slowly bring the milk to simmering point then remove it from the heat. Cover the pan and set aside for 30 mins to allow the flavours to infuse.
- Strain the milk into a jug and set aside. Clean the pan and return to the heat. Add the butter and heat until melted then add the flour and cook over a gentle heat for 1-2 mins, stirring with a wooden spoon.
- Gradually add the milk, whisking all the time with a balloon whisk. Once all the milk has been added, simmer gently, for 5-10 mins, still whisking, until you have a smooth and thick sauce. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Tips for making béchamel sauce:
To check the roux has thickened enough, coat the back of a spoon with the sauce and see if a fingertip wipes the mixture away cleanly. If it does, it’s ready for the milk mixture.
What's the difference between béchemel sauce and white sauce?
There isn't a whole lot of difference between these two sauces, and they can be used pretty much interchangeably. Traditionally, a white sauce is more quickly and simply made, adding cold milk with no aromatics to the roux, instead of warm milk that has been infused. White sauce often contains a little dijon mustard as well.
Is white sauce the same as Alfredo?
No, Alfredo sauce is richer, with double cream, cheese and garlic added. However, may recipes that call for Alfredo can be made with a white sauce, with grated cheese sprinkled on top.
Help! My béchemel sauce is too thick - or too thin.
Béchemel is a really easy sauce to fix if it goes wrong - just add more ingredients. If it's on the thick and claggy side, add more milk a splash at a time. If it's too thin just keep stirring and simmering until it thickens.
How do I fix a lumpy béchemel sauce?
If you find your sauce is lumpy as you're adding the milk, pause and add a splash of icy cold water instead. Then you need to whisk and whisk like crazy for a bit, and you should find the lumps melt away.
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Jessica Dady is Food Editor at GoodTo and has over 11 years of experience as a digital editor, specialising in all things food, recipes, and SEO. From the must-buy seasonal food hampers and advent calendars for Christmas to the family-friendly air fryers that’ll make dinner time a breeze, Jessica loves trying and testing various food products to find the best of the best for the busy parents among us. Over the years of working with GoodTo, Jessica has had the privilege of working alongside Future’s Test Kitchen to create how-to videos exclusively for GoodtoEat - as well as writing, testing, and shooting her own recipes. When she’s not embracing the great outdoors with her family at the weekends, Jessica enjoys baking up a storm in the kitchen with her favourite bakes being chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, and a tray of gooey chocolate brownies.
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