This béchamel sauce recipe is a 10-minute white sauce made with butter, flour, milk, and a pinch of salt. It's a popular sauce used in French and Italian cuisine, like this lasagna with béchamel.
Béchamel sauce is one of the most versatile sauces- you can use it to thicken up crustless chicken pot pie or as a base for truffle mac and cheese. One thing is for sure, you want your béchamel sauce smooth and creamy.
Béchamel is one of the mother sauces of French cuisine, so I referenced one of my favorite books, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This sauce turns out perfect every time.
What You Will Love
This classic white sauce only takes about 10 minutes, and it's very easy to make. The hardest part of this cream sauce is the continuous whisking involved. Once you've mastered this basic white sauce, you will be pulling it out for many different dishes: sausage gravy, savory soufflés, mac and cheese sauce, and chicken pot pie.
- All purpose flour: Just regular all-purpose flour.
- Regular butter: Use either salted or unsalted butter. Adjust the salt to taste depending on the butter used. I don't recommend using any sort of butter substitute.
- Milk: I recommend using whole milk (full-fat milk), but 2% milk (reduced-fat milk) can be used.
- Salt: I prefer a pinch of flaked salt or sea salt.
See the recipe card at the bottom of the post for quantities.
Steps 1, 2 & 3: Gather the ingredients. Melt the butter and add the flour.
Steps 4, 5, & 6: Add the milk continuing to whisk until the sauce thickens up.
How To Make Creamy Béchamel Sauce
On medium heat, add the butter.
Once the butter is melted, add the flour.
Mix the flour and butter together for about a minute or two to form a white roux.
Pour the milk into the flour-butter mixture.
Continuously whisk to avoid a lumpy sauce.
Keep stirring until the sauce is thick and can coat the back of a wooden spoon (about five to six minutes on medium-high heat).
Tips and Tricks
- Stir the entire time. The biggest tip for a smooth sauce is to continuously stir the sauce with a whisk. Once the sauce no longer has clumps, you can continue stirring with a wooden spoon. The total stir time is about five to six minutes of stirring until the sauce thickens up.
- Traditional bechamel recipes recommend using hot milk. I've made this recipe with hot milk, warm milk, room temperature milk, and cold milk, and this delicious sauce has turned out the same every time.
- The perfect ratio for this classic béchamel is one tablespoon of butter to one tablespoon of flour to one cup of milk. You can scale this up and down as you like.
Variations and Substitutions
- Make this a bechamel cheese sauce for mac and cheese by adding shredded cheese. My favorite mix as of the moment is gruyere cheese and cheddar cheese.
- Another great option is to add shredded parmesan cheese and convert it to pasta sauce.
- The easy way for a thinner sauce is to gradually add a little more milk at the end. This helps you control how thick or thin the sauce is.
- For a thicker sauce, add more flour. Instead of a one-to-one ratio of butter to flour, use a 2:3 ratio which is two tablespoons of butter to three tablespoons of flour. The 2:3 ratio is what Julia Child recommends in her French cookbook.
- The flavor of the sauce is quite simple. Add ground nutmeg, crushed black peppercorns, or a combination of shredded cheese.
Store this béchamel sauce recipe in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat the sauce on the stovetop or in the microwave. The surface of the sauce might have a film as the sauce cools. You can add a piece of plastic wrap directly in contact with the top of the sauce to prevent the film from forming.
Bechamel sauce is made up of three main ingredients: milk, flour, and butter.
Bechamel sauce is a classic white sauce used in many Italian and French dishes.
If you don't continue whisking, it can get lumpy.
Recipes with Bechamel Sauce
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Creamy White Bechamel Sauce
- 4 tablespoon butter
- 4 tablespoon all-purpose flour ** see note 2
- 4 cups milk whole milk or 2% milk
- pinch of salt
- In a pot on medium heat, add the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the flour. Whisk the butter and flour continuously for about a minute to two minutes.
- Add the milk, continuing to whisk the sauce until it thickens up (about 5 to 7 minutes). The sauce is ready to remove from the stovetop when it's thick and can coat the back of a wooden spoon.
- Add salt to taste.
- Store this béchamel sauce recipe in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. The sauce might be thicker once cooled down. The top of the sauce might form a layer.
- For a thicker sauce, add more flour. Adjust the butter-to-flour ratio from 1:1 to 2:3. So for every two tablespoons of butter, use three tablespoons of flour.
- Enrichments for white sauces: add melted butter or whipping cream. Another option is to add shredded cheese, like sauce Mornay, which has grated Swiss and grated Parmesan.