White Sauce and Variations

White Sauce
Will Heap/Dorling Kindersley/Getty
  • 25 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins,
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 1 cup (2 portions)
Ratings (17)

Basic white sauce is also known as béchamel. You can make many other sauces as well using the variations below the main recipe. This is a standard recipe that every cook should know. White sauce forms the base for gravies, soups, and other recipes.

The most important thing about making a white sauce is to stir the flour and butter mixture with a wire whisk. If you stir with a wooden spoon, the sauce will never be completely smooth. A whisk will dissolve any lumps and ensure that the sauce is creamy. Then when you add the milk, keep using the whisk. The milk will be absorbed into the roux and the sauce will slowly thicken.

If you use a lot of white sauce in your kitchen, you can make my Homemade White Sauce Mix to cut corners and save some time.

This sauce can be flavored any way you'd like. The variations below give you the technical terms for each sauce. 

What You'll Need

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • Dash salt
  • Dash white pepper

How to Make It

  1. In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt butter.
  2. Stir in flour with a wire whisk.
  3. Cook over low heat for three minutes, stirring constantly (this mixture is called a roux).
  4. Do not allow the mixture to brown.
  5. Gradually stir in milk, whisking constantly.
  6. Cook over low heat for 3-5 more minutes until sauce begins to thicken.
  7. Season to taste. 

Variations

The recipe above makes a traditional white sauce which should serve as a solid foundation for any meal that requires it.

In cooking, iteration is the rule! There are a number of variations on the basic white sauce that serve to accent and complement different flavors.

Veloute Sauce

Use chicken broth or fish stock instead of milk.

Mornay Sauce

Add 1/2 cup of grated Swiss, Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese after sauce thickens. Remove from heat and whisk until melted and smooth.

Onion White Sauce

Cook 1 Tbsp. minced onion in the butter until translucent. Then add the flour and continue with the recipe.

Mustard White Sauce

Whisk in 1-2 tsp. prepared mustard after the sauce is thickened.

Brown Sauce

When cooking the flour and butter mixture together, stir constantly and cook until the mixture begins to turn brown. Use chicken or beef stock instead of the milk. This is also called gravy.

Curry Sauce

Add 1-3 tsp. of curry powder (to taste) to the butter and simmer for 1 minute before adding the flour. Continue with the recipe as directed.