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What Is a Béchamel Sauce and How to Make It

Updated on September 29, 2011

A Béchamel Sauce is basically just a white sauce, and is the foundation for many classic recipes, such as a Mornay Sauce. A Béchamel is made with milk and a roux. Adding a half of a bay leaf or a whole clove to simmer at the end can give it a certain flavor profile if needed. Any spice or flavoring shouldn't overwhelm the Béchamel.

Remember that this sauce is generally used as a base for another sauce or a foundation for a recipe. Adjust the seasoning and flavoring to suit the final recipe. The bay leaf, clove and nutmeg listed above are optional, and are examples of what you could use to give the sauce some flavor highlights.

Recipe for Béchamel Sauce


  • 2 tablespoons whole butter, for best flavor no substitutions like margarine or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour, all purpose
  • 2 cups milk
  • Salt
  • White Pepper
  • Nutmeg, optional
  • Small bay leaf, broken in half, optional
  • 1 whole clove, optional
  1. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed, stainless steel saucepan. Add in the flour and stir until incorporated, and cook over low heat for a few minutes.
  2. Whisk in the milk, and increase the heat. Whisking constantly, allow the sauce to come to a soft boil and add in a pinch of salt.
  3. Lower heat and allow the sauce to simmer for about 30 minutes. If you want to give the sauce a different flavor profile, add in a half of bay leaf or a whole clove to the sauce now, and continue to simmer for about 10 to 15 more minutes, or until it is thickened. Add in a pinch of nutmeg if desired, and correct for taste with additional salt and white pepper.
  4. Strain the sauce to remove lumps, if there are any, and the clove or bay leaf or any whole spice, if they were used.


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