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the basis of many other sauces and dishes but can also be used as a sauce all its own – although this is a relatively outdated use for it.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
Asparagus gratin with spiced Grana Padano white sauce
Family favourite fish pie
Creamy mushroom mac ’n cheese
Smoked haddock chowder