Bechamel Sauce – French Mother Sauce #1

March 22, 2012Katie

It was funny to me to read instructions on how to make this sauce.  Recipes vary according to what you read.  Some cookbooks say to use cold milk, some hot.  I realized as I read through the recipes that I’ve been making a bechamel sauce for years as the base of my Alfredo Sauce recipe.  I use cream instead of milk but it’s basically the same thing.  It’s also the same thing as making the white gravy we make here in Oklahoma,  with the addition of cracked black pepper, or sausage.  We love our white gravy here in the southwest.

Except for Mr. Wonderful who always orders brown gravy on his chicken fried steak, which is just not right!

Anyway, the most important thing to do before you start this recipe, is have all your ingredients prepped and on-hand right next to you.  You don’t want to be searching for spices while your roux burns.  So here is what you’ll need to have on hand.

One 1/2 inch slice of a white onion.  One bay leaf.  2 cloves.

Pierce the bay leaf at one end with one of the cloves and stick it right into the onion.  Take the other clove and do the same with the other end of the bay leaf.

Now your bay leaf is stuck nicely to the onion.  This is going to flavor our sauce later on.

Measure out 3 cups of whole milk. In Oklahoma, we also love our Braum’s milk.  True story – went on vacation for two weeks and the milk didn’t spoil.  It’s that fresh.

Measure out 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 t. white pepper.

Have a grater and your nutmeg close as well.  Fresh is truly wonderful if you can find it but if not, you can use the powdered stuff!

In another medium size sauce pan, add in 1/2 cup of butter (4 tablespoons).

I cubed mine up because I wanted it to melt faster.

Just as that all melts (be careful not to let it get brown!), add in 4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and begin to whisk it like crazy.

It may start to look sort of foamy or be clumpy at first but that’s okay.  Don’t panic!  Continue to whisk this into almost a paste and do not let it get brown.   If your heat gets too high, just remove the pan and keep whisking, turn it down, and keep going.

You’ll probably want to keep stirring over low heat until the flour taste cooks out of it, about 2 minutes.  Maybe three.  This, my dears, is a roux (pronounced roo), and we’ll be making a blonde roux, not a dark roux. It should like like this.  Blondish and thickish.

At this point take a ladle and pour in about one ladle full or 1/2 cup of your  milk.


Whisk it together and then add the rest of your milk right in.

Bring it to a simmer, just until it begins to bubble around the edges of the pot.  Drop your bayleaf studded onion into the sauce and keep it there, whisking often for about 5-8 minutes.

If it gets too thick, you can always add some more milk.  The onion will add in some flavor so your sauce is not just pure blandness.

Your sauce will be ready when you can dip a spoon into it.

And then taking your finger, draw a line down the back of it and instead of being thin and running off the spoon, the sauce forms a coating on the back of the spoon.

If the line stays and no milk runs over it, and the line stays clean, you’ll know you’re at the right place.

Strain your sauce over a seive to make sure you get the cloves, onion and bayleaf or any other debris out of it, or if possible just pull them out.

Add in your salt, white pepper and then, just for fun, grate on some nutmeg.  Just a touch.  You just want it to be a background flavor that people can’t really discern, but makes them wonder what that flavor is.

Taste your sauce and see if you need to add more salt.  Now you’ll have a silky smooth Bechamel Sauce.  You may have some flecks of black in it from the cloves breaking up a bit.

Seriously, that was easier than I thought.

Bechamel isn’t always used simply, and just like this.  Usually you can add cheese, or mustard or other wonderful stuff to it to use as a different type of sauce.  Sometimes it’s poured over lasagna noodles with pesto and cheese to make a lovely lasagna. Classically, it can be used in some Croque Monsieur recipes, in gratin recipes, or as the basis for a cheese souffle.

In the printable recipe below, I’ve included some additions you can add to make other sauces with Bechamel as the base sauce.  I’d love to hear what you do with your Bechamel! Please tell me in the comments below!

Katie’s Printable Recipe – Bechamel Sauce

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