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How to Make Béchamel Sauce

How to Make Béchamel Sauce

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Learn how to make Béchamel Sauce, one of French cuisine's "mother sauces," with our step-by-step guide.

How to Make Béchamel Sauce

While its French name may sound intimidating, learning how to make a béchamel sauce is easier than you might think. Known as one of the "mother" sauces in classic French cuisine, Béchamel is versatile: It's used in dishes such as lasagna, macaroni and cheese, and moussaka, and it can also serve as the base for soufflés, soups, and savory pie fillings. What's more, add a little Swiss cheese, and voilà—you've got Mornay Sauce. We call for white pepper so it isn't visible in the sauce. If it's unavailable, you can omit it.

Step 1

Combine milk, onion, grated nutmeg, and bay leaf in a saucepan; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 15 minutes.

Flavor Boost: Onion lends the sauce a faintly sweet note. For an even more aromatic béchamel, add a crushed garlic clove to the steeping milk.

Step 2

After the milk mixture stands for 15 minutes, strain it through a fine sieve over a bowl to catch the onions and bay leaf.

Step 3

Wipe the pan clean with paper towels. Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Add flour to pan and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly to form a roux that will thicken the sauce.

Step 4

Gradually add strained milk mixture, stirring with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. The resulting béchamel, also known as white sauce, will bring out the rich creaminess in a dish without resorting to saturated fat-laden cream.

Recipe Summary

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 cups milk, heated just until steaming
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Melt butter in a heavy-bottom, medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes do not let roux brown.

Whisking constantly, add about 2 tablespoons hot milk to saucepan.

Pour half of the remaining hot milk into the saucepan in small increments, whisking the mixture constantly, until a smooth paste forms.

Whisk remaining milk into pan add nutmeg and salt. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, making sure to scrape bottom and sides, until sauce is thick and creamy, about 15 minutes if any lumps form, stir sauce rapidly with a whisk. Season with pepper remove from heat. Let sauce stand until lukewarm, about 30 minutes, before assembling lasagna.

    1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don't let it brown — about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat. To cool this sauce for later use, cover it with wax paper or pour a film of milk over it to prevent a skin from forming.
    1. Stir in 1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese during the last 2 minutes of cooking, along with a pinch of cayenne pepper.
    1. Warm the milk on low heat just until little bubbles begin to form at the edges. Then remove from heat.

    Excerpted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of America's Great Classic Cookbook by Marion Cunningham. Copyright © 1996 by Marion Cunningham. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved.

    Béchamel Sauce

    Béchamel is a basic white sauce and one of the five mother sauces of classical cuisine. That means it's the starting point for making other sauces, like the cheddar cheese sauce, the mornay sauce, cheesy sauce, and several other variations. You can also season it and serve it as is. Or try making it with bacon or sausage fat for an amazing white gravy.

    The reason for using a fresh bay leaf as opposed to dried is that it allows you to attach the bay leaf to the onion using the cloves like thumbtacks. A dried bay leaf will tend to crack and crumble if you try this. This is not the end of the world, since you'll be straining the sauce anyway. But since a clove can crack a tooth, it's nice to confirm that the same number come out as went in.

    It's traditional to use white pepper to season béchamel because some chefs prefer not to see specks of black pepper in a white sauce. But if you can't find white pepper and/or don't mind specks of pepper in your béchamel, you can use black.

    Finally, while clarified butter is ideal for making béchamel, béchamel is not nearly as fussy as hollandaise, so you can make it with ordinary unsalted butter. Just make sure you use a little bit more, because whole butter contains water, while clarified butter doesn't.


    Make a white roux with the butter and flour

    In a medium size sauce pan ( on low heat) melt the butter gently.
    when the butter is melted add all of the flour in and mix well using a wooden spoon, making sure the butter and flour are perfectly blended together.
    when both the flour and butter are blended keep stirring gently for 3 minutes keeping the heat very low making sure your mix get no coloration (it has stay a creamy white color) when its cooked leave it on the side to cool down

    Warm up the milk with the favouring ingredients

    in order to get a tasty bechamel sauce we need to infuse the milk with some flavours.
    place a saucepan on the stove on low heat, pour the milk in followed by all the seasoning: salt, pepper, nutmeg, bay leaf and the onion with cloves. when done bring the milk to the boil very slowly. as soon as the milk boil turn the heat off and leave to infuse for a few minutes.

    Make the bechamel sauce

    Place the pan you used to make the roux on the stove on low heat and using a sieve to filter, pour all of the warm milk over the cold roux.
    when all the milk is in, use a whisk to stir and and incorporate the milk with roux you. (will get a rather liquid white sauce to start with which is normal).
    Now turn up the heat on low to medium and keep on stirring your sauce slowly (using a whisk) until the sauce thickens and reaches the boil.
    Once the white sauce reached boil point, put the heat back on very low and keep on cooking the sauce for a few minutes, stirring continuously. ( to make sure you remove any of the floury taste left in the sauce)
    once cooked turn the heat off and use immediately.

    Besciamella (Béchamel Recipe)

    Besciamella, or béchamel, is a creamy "mother sauce" that adds deep but delicate flavor to some of our favorite dishes, such as lasagna. Keep this béchamel recipe close any time you're in the mood to whip up the famed layered pasta dish!

    Besciamella (Béchamel Sauce)
    Recipe courtesy of Eataly

    5 tablespoons butter, cubed
    4 tablespoons flour
    3 cups milk
    2 teaspoons salt
    ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

    In a medium saucepan, heat the butter until it has melted. Add the flour and stir until the consistency is smooth. Over medium heat, continue to cook until the mixture turns a light golden brown, about 6-7 minutes.

    Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until it is just about to boil. Add the milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously, until it is very smooth and is brought to a boil. Cook the sauce for 30 seconds and then remove it from the heat. Season the besciamella with salt and nutmeg, to taste and set aside until ready to use.

    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1-1/4 cup whole milk
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
    1. In a 10-inch skillet, over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter.
    2. Sprinkle in flour and whisk, cooking for 1 to 2 minutes.
    3. While whisking, pour in milk. Whisk slightly aggressively to break up any lumps until smooth.
    4. Heat, while continuing to whisk until the sauce begins to thicken. About 2 to 4 minutes.
    5. Remove off of the heat and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

    Nutrition Information:


    Serving Size:

    Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

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    Béchamel Sauce - large quantity

    A béchamel sauce is one of the four “mother” sauces in the traditional French cooking repertoire. The others — although we're sure you know them already — are sauce velouté (a white sauce made with stock), sauce espagnole (a brown sauce made with stock), and sauce allemande (a velouté that has been thickened with egg yolks). The béchamel sauce is simply a milk-based white sauce. And the good news is, it is incredibly easy to make.

    Now, you can be much fancier with your preparation, and the classic French chefs would like you to be because it produces more flavor. You can add a small onion, a bay leaf, and a clove to the milk and simmer it for 15 minutes before straining it and adding it to the roux, or you can add them to the sauce once it has been mixed and simmer that very gently for 15 to 30 minutes before you strain out the onion, bay leaf and clove.

    You can also throw a peeled carrot, a celery stalk, and a bouquet garni into the mix, which, of course, you also strain or fish out before you use the sauce. It is also quite traditional to use a pinch of nutmeg in the sauce, although you must use a light hand, because you don't want that flavor to dominate the sauce.

    Bechamel Sauce – Basic White Sauce Recipe

    In France, Bechamel Sauce (bay-shah-mel) is one of the four basic sauces called “meres” or “mother sauces” from which all other sauces derive. Bechamel Sauce is also know as “white sauce” to most cooks. Although bechamel sauce is often referred to as a cream sauce, there is rarely any cream in it. It is a smooth, white sauce made from a Roux (made with flour, milk, and butter). It is usually served with white meats, eggs, and vegetables. It forms the basis of many other sauces. Learn more about the history of Sauces and the four theories on the origin of Bechamel Sauce.

    Since this Bechamel Sauce or also called White Sauce is a basic of cooking and is really very easy to make, every cook should know how to make it. The sauce starts with the base of a roux which is equal parts butter and flour. Flour is whisked into melted butter and cooked until bubbly to form the roux which acts as the thickening base for a white sauce. Milk is then added and cooked slowly over low heat until thickened as a sauce.

    The key is to cook the roux slowly so it does not brown. If your butter starts to brown during the roux phase, throw out your roux and start over because the flavor of the sauce will be ruined! Customary seasonings for a white sauce are salt and pepper. In Italy, a pinch of nutmeg is also added.

    A good white sauce is very versatile as it is the basis of many other sauce variations that can be served with white meats (chicken or fish), eggs, and vegetables.

    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 2 cups milk, room temperature

    In a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter.

    Add flour, whisking a few minutes until the flour mixture becomes bubbly (this is the roux). Do not allow the roux mixture to brown or darken!

    Gradually add the milk, while whisking constantly, until the mixture is well blended and smooth.

    Continue to cook, stirring constantly (so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan and begin to burn), until the sauce begins to boil and then thickens. It usually takes 10 to 15 minutes to develop (I like to turn my heat to very low). Immediately remove from heat.

    Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce) can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one day before using. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top to prevent a "skin" from forming. If it does, whisk vigorously when you reheat the bechamel and the sauce should be as smooth as it was when you made it. Thin out if necessary with milk or stock.

    Vegan White Sauce: Substitute vegetable oil for the butter, and soy or almond milk for the milk in the recipe.

    Makes approximately 2 cups.

    Microwave Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce) Directions:

    Use the same ingredients listed above.

    In a medium-size microwave-safe bowl, melt butter for approximately 30 to 45 seconds. You do not want to brown the butter (check after 30 seconds to make sure butter has melted and is not browned).

    Add flour and stir/whisk into the melted butter until smooth. Return to microwave and heat for 40 seconds to 1 minutes (check after 40 seconds to make sure the mixture is not browning). Whisk until bubbles have calmed down. You now have created a Roux.

    Add milk and whisk into the roux mixture (butter and flour). It may be a little clumpy at this stage. Microwave for 1 minute until the sauce just begins to boil remove from microwave and whisk until sauce is smooth with no lumps. The sauce must actually boil or the sauce will taste like flour.

    Return to microwave and heat for 2 additional minutes until the sauce bubbles again, becomes thickened. Whisk the sauce until bubbles have calmed down. If the sauce has not thickened yet, heat for an additional 1 minute, then whisk again.

    Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Proportion of roux and milk determine thickness of the sauce:

    The above recipe is the Basic Bechamel or White Sauce recipe. White sauce is one of the most versatile things you can learn to make. By changing the proportions of the roux mixture, you can change the thickness of the sauce. The amounts of butter, milk (or broth) and flour can be altered for different amounts and thicknesses of sauce. There are many variations to the basic recipe:

    Thin White Sauce Recipe:
    1 tablespoon flour
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 cup milk

    Medium White Sauce Recipe:
    2 tablespoons flour
    2 tablespoons butter
    1 cup milk

    Thick White Sauce Recipe:
    3 tablespoons flour
    3 tablespoons butter
    1 cup milk

    White Sauce Variation Ideas:

    Brown Sauce : When making the flour and butter roux, keep stirring constantly until the mixture starts to turn brown. You can also use chicken or beef stock in place of the milk. Different roux are dictated by the amount of time they spend in the pan and categorized by their color. As your roux gets darker, it gains flavor and color but loses some of its thickening power. Learn how to make a Louisiana Roux.

    Cheddar Cheese Sauce: Make the Basic White Sauce recipe. After the white sauce has thickened, remove from heat and stir in 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, 2 teaspoon dry mustard, and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce until the cheese is melted and smooth.

    Cream of Chicken: Using basic white sauce recipe, replace the 2 cups of milk with 1 cup milk and 1 cup chicken stock (can also substitute vegetable, mushroom, or celery stock instead of chicken stock to change the flavor variation).

    Creme Sauce: Heavy cream is used in place of the milk in the Basic White Sauce recipe.

    Curry Sauce: When making the Basic White Sauce, add 1 to 3 teaspoons curry powder (or to taste) to the melted butter. Let simmer for about 1 minutes before adding the flour. Continue with the recipe as directed.

    Milk Gravy: Substitute bacon or sausage pan drippings for the butter in the Basic White Sauce recipe. Check out our recipe for Milk Gravy and also Mom’s Biscuits and Gravy and Chicken-Fried Steak .

    M ornay Sauce: Make the Basic White Sauce recipe. After the white sauce has thickened, remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup grated Swiss, Gruyere, or Emmanthal cheese until melted and smooth.

    Mustard Sauce: Make the Basic White Sauce recipe. After the white sauce has thickened, remove from heat and stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons prepared mustard or mustard seeds.

    Onion Sauce: When making the Basic White Sauce recipe, saute 1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup minced onion in the melted butter until translucent. Then add the flour and continue with the recipe. This is my favorite way to make and use a white sauce, where minced onion is cooked in butter before adding flour. This variation is wonderful mixed with cooked vegetables such as German Creamed Spinach .

    For people that do not like the texture of onions, but enjoy the flavor: In a small sauce over medium-low heat, combine 1/2 to 1 small minced onion with 1 to 2 cloves of chopped garlic in the milk required in the recipe. Simmer in the milk, stirring constantly. Strain the onions/garlic mixture out of the milk before adding the milk with the roux.

    Veloute Sauce: Use chicken stock/broth or fish stock instead of milk in the Basic White Sauce recipe.

    The Ratio

    The ratio of flour and butter to milk is the biggest decision you have to make when making a batch of béchamel, since that determines the sauce's thickness.

    The answer often depends on the dish. If you're making a gravy, for instance, you'll want a sauce that's more on the pourable end of the spectrum, made with somewhere between one and two tablespoons of flour per cup of milk (about eight to 15 grams per 240 milliliters). A soufflé or moussaka, on the other hand, generally requires a thicker béchamel, made from about three tablespoons (22 grams) of flour per cup of milk—that's thick enough for the béchamel layer to remain distinct atop the ground meat in moussaka, and for the soufflé base to have enough structure that it can rise properly.

    In a lot of cases, the ratio you choose just comes down to personal preference: How thick do you want the sauce to be? My go-to ratio is a tablespoon and a half (about 12 grams) of flour (cooked with an equal quantity of butter) per cup of milk, which makes a sauce that's pourable, yet, with just a little simmering, thick enough to evenly coat the back of a spoon.

    Remember, though, that béchamel is so easy and forgiving, even if you get the ratio wrong, it's incredibly easy to fix: If yours comes out too thick, just whisk in more milk until the desired consistency is reached if it's too thin, either simmer it down, allowing evaporation to thicken the sauce up, or cook a little more flour and butter in a small saucepan on the side, then whisk it into your too-thin sauce.

    Helpful Tips:

    Bechamel can be made thicker or thinner, depending on the recipe in which you want to use it.

    If your bechamel becomes too thick add some more cold milk and mix until it reaches the right consistency you want it.

    If it is too runny, and you want it thicker, dissolve a tablespoon of corn flour (starch) with 1/4 cup of milk and add it to the sauce and stir until it sets.

    To make béchamel healthier I always use olive oil instead of butter.

    If you have cholesterol:

    Instead of butter use olive oil.
    Add less eggs or only egg whites. You can also go without the eggs altogether.
    Use low fat milk, low fat cheese or skip the cheese altogether.

    For dishes like moussakas and pastitsio, sprinkle some cinnamon on top of the bechamel and you will be amazed by the taste.

    Watch the video: Pinoy Style Baked Macaroni with White Sauce (May 2022).