How to Make a Bechamel Sauce
Meals that Feature Bechamel
Every cook needs to know how to make a béchamel sauce. It’s the big daddy of easy cream sauces and the sauce that brings forth tasty macaroni and cheese casseroles…in short, an essential and not at all difficult sauce that you can make using ingredients that you’ll pretty much always have on hand.
This classic French sauce requires a few minutes to make, but it’s really tasty. Here are easy to follow instructions to make a basic béchamel sauce (see below for variations and flavor combinations)
A Classic Bechamel Sauce Recipe
- 1 quart of milk (use whatever kind of milk you have or like – skim, low fat, whole, whatever)
- 1/2 cup of butter
- 1/2 cup of all purpose or bread flour
- A small onion, cut in half
- 1 bay leaf
- A few thyme sprigs (or ½ tsp dried thyme) (as an alternative to the thyme and bay leaves, you can add a couple of cloves or a pinch of nutmeg instead)
- Salt and pepper
- Add the milk, onion, bay leaf and thyme to a pot and bring it just to a simer, and let it simmer very gently for about 10 minutes. This is to infuse the milk with the tastes of the onion and the herbs.
- Once you have your infused milk all ready to go, get out another heavy saucepan and heat it over medium.
- Add in the butter and when it has melted, stir in the flour. Stir continuously until the butter and flour have incorporated into a smooth mixture (called a roux) and keep stirring for about a minute.
- Now hold a strainer over your butter pot and strain in your hot milk all in one go. Stir the milk/roux mixture very well, until there are no remaining lumps of roux left in the milk.
- Bring the mixture up to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once you reach the boiling point, reduce the heat to a simmer, and let it percolate for a further 15 minutes or so.
- Season with salt and pepper
You now have a medium thin, delicious, béchamel sauce!
For a thinner sauce, such as you might use for soups, use 3 Tbls of flour per quart of milk.
Once you’ve got the technique down, you can start exploring a world of flavor possibilities, such as:
- Using chicken stock instead of milk, to make a veloute sauce
- Adding sharp cheddar cheese to your finished béchamel to make a cheese sauce that goes great with mac n’ cheese or broccoli
- Add a spoonful of Dijon mustard to your finished sauce to make a very easy mustard sauce
- Add fresh chopped parsley to a béchamel sauce to make a classic English parsley sauce for ham (try dill as well for an easy dill sauce)
- Curry sauce, add in curry powder to taste
A video demo on making a bechamel sauce
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