How to Make a Béchamel Sauce

Mar 22, 2011 6:40 am

The sauce for lasagna, mac-n-cheese, and more

whisking bechamel sauce on the stove
Photo: Lindsay Hunt

In the annals of kitchen chemistry, few things are as impressively simple as Béchamel sauce. You take a mere three ingredients, a saucepan, a spoon, and a whisk, and you get a versatile sauce—what the French call a "mother sauce," one of the staples. Béchamel can be used on its own over fish or vegetables, as a base for more complex sauces, or as a tasty and textural asset in dishes like mousakka, lasagna, and mac-n-cheese.

What You Need:


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 cups whole milk


  • Saucepan
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Whisk
measuring the milk
Step 1: Measure

Measure out your butter, flour and milk. Warm the milk in a saucepan or zap it in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

melting the butter
Step 2: Melt

Place the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Slowly melt the butter completely but don't let it get brown or bubbly.

adding the flour
Step 3: Mix

Dump the flour into the butter and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula. Make sure that there are no clumps of flour. Stir for a few minutes to let the flour get saturated with the butter and a little toasty. This will keep your sauce from tasting floury. By the way, what you've got here now, once it is all mixed, is called a roux, another cooking base, which can be used to thicken sauces, stews, and frequently shows up in gumbos. Do not panic if your roux looks more like scrambled eggs at this point than a sauce. It will all be okay.

mixing ingredients
Step 4: More Mixing

Pour in a few drops of the warmed milk and stir into the butter/flour mixture. Once the liquid has been absorbed, go ahead and pour the rest in. Take your whisk and keep stirring as you add the milk.

whisking stovetop
Step 5: Whisking

Continue to whisk vigorously for a few minutes, until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Again make sure there are no floury lumps. Then reduce the hear and let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes.

pouring finished sauce to bowl
Step 6: Finish

Remove the sauce from the heat and you are done. Now you have a buttery, creamy sauce to pour over vegetables or fish, from the base of a souffle, or try it in our simple mac-n-cheese recipe


Note: If you replace the milk in this recipe with chicken, veal, or fish stock, you will have made another classic mother sauce: a velouté. Look at you, one day, three fancy sauces conquered.

Did you make this sauce?  Tell us how it turned out in the comments.

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