How to make white sauce

How to make white sauce

White sauce, otherwise known as béchamel sauce, might feel like something right out of the 70s. While this might be true, there’s more to this sauce than the lumpy version your granny might have poured over your veggies as a kid. Made properly, béchamel can become a secret weapon to thickening, adding richness and creaminess, all from a few standard ingredients.

What is white sauce?

White sauce, or béchamel, is one of the classic French mother sauces made by cooking together butter, flour and milk. Equal parts of butter and flour are mixed and cooked to form what’s known as a roux, then milk is whisked into it to create the saucy texture. For added flavour, onion, bay leaves and cloves are often infused into the milk and the sauce can be finished with grated nutmeg. Béchamel forms the basis of many other sauces and dishes but can also be used as a sauce all its own – although this is a relatively outdated use for it.

What can I do with white sauce?

The most common use for a classic white sauce is as the base of pasta bakes, lasagne in particular. It’s also very commonly turned into a cheese sauce for dishes such as macaroni and cheese. Once the béchamel is cooked, adding grated cheese to the mixture will turn this into what’s called a Mornay, or cheese sauce. Other variations include a soubise – where cooked and blended onions are folded into the white sauce, which makes for a great base for stews and casseroles. Another great use for béchamel is in chicken pie as it helps to thicken it and adds creaminess without adding cream. Fish pies and chowders also often use a béchamel base for the same creamy reason.

Ready to master béchamel? These are our favourite recipes using it.

The OG lasagne

Get the recipe for the OG lasagne here.

Asparagus gratin with spiced Grana Padano white sauce

Get the recipe for asparagus gratin with spiced Grana Padano white sauce here.

Family favourite fish pie

Get the recipe for family fish pie here

Creamy mushroom mac ’n cheese

Get the recipe for creamy mushroom mac ‘n cheese here.

Smoked haddock chowder

smoked haddock chowder
Get the recipe for smoked haddock chowder here.


  1. In a small saucepan, scald 2 cups of milk with 2 cloves, 1 quartered and peeled onion and 2 bay leaves. Allow to infuse for 30 minutes, then strain.

    Step 1

  2. Melt 3 T butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Add 3 T flour and increase the heat to medium. Whisk for 1 minute.

    Step 2

  3. Gradually add the milk, whisking between each addition. When the sauce begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook until the sauce thickens and the flour has cooked out.

    Step 3

  4. Season with nutmeg, salt and white pepper, then strain. Keep warm and covered until ready to use.

    Step 4

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