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How to Make a Bechamel Sauce

Updated on November 17, 2009

Meals that Feature Bechamel

Mac N Cheese
Mac N Cheese
Croque monsieur
Croque monsieur
Cheddar Soup
Cheddar Soup
Classic Italian lasagna
Classic Italian lasagna

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
  1. 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.
  2. Once you have your infused milk all ready to go, get out another heavy saucepan and heat it over medium.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Season with salt and pepper

You now have a medium thin, delicious, béchamel sauce!

Thickness Variations

For a thinner sauce, such as you might use for soups, use 3 Tbls of flour per quart of milk.

Flavor Variations

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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    • Emilina profile image

      Emilina 8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      This is yum! I'll be making it pretty soon, see how i go!

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 8 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      I'm bookmarking this one! Yum, that looks good! I need to get some Bay leaves in this house!

      Thanks John!

    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 8 years ago

      Thanks for all the kind words. This is definitely a sauce that everyone should learn how to make, really expands your culinary universe...and it's so easy too!

    • profile image

      Kathleen 8 years ago

      Great hub! I just made a bechamel to go in my Shepards Pie. There is no end to the uses of this classic sauce!

    • Katherine Baldwin profile image

      Katherine Baldwin 8 years ago from South Carolina

      Delicious recipe, John. You left out uses for us Southerners. Down here, we serve this over biscuits. Just kidding. Sauces are really easy to make and add real elegance to your meals. I think a lot of people are afraid to try them, but they really are simple. Julia would have been proud.

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      I bookmarked this one too, John. Thanks as always.