This béchamel sauce recipe is a classic French white sauce which is 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.
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- 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.
Top tip for making Bechamel sauce
If you’re not going to use the sauce straight away, cover the surface closely with greaseproof paper to prevent a skin forming. The sauce will keep in the fridge for 24 hrs.
Béchamel sauce and white sauce are very similar as they both use butter, milk and flour. White sauce is a basic version of béchamel sauce using only butter, milk and flour whereas bechamel sauce is flavoured with onion, cloves, bay leaf, parsley and peppercorn.
Bechamel sauce also takes a little longer to cook as it is a richer sauce overall. This French sauce is a base for other more complex sauces.
Béchamel sauce should classically be smooth and creamy. If the sauce is too thick you’ll want to add a bit more milk and whisk thoroughly. If the sauce is too thin, you’ll want to add a little more flour at a time and whisk. You’ll want the sauce to be just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.