Kitchen Basics: A Simple Bechamel Sauce {White Sauce} Recipe (2024)

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If you only learn to make one sauce, make it this Bechamel Sauce recipe. Bechamel (also known as White Sauce) is so simple to make, is incredibly useful and it also freezes brilliantly. Stash a batch in the freezer for a quick meal.

Total Time Investment: 15 Minutes

Kitchen Basics: A Simple Bechamel Sauce {White Sauce} Recipe (1)

I have this notebook that my Nana gave me many years ago for Christmas. The quizzical look on my face as I opened the present must have said it all. “It’s for your recipes” she told me. At that point in my life the majority of my recipes consisted of ‘open jar, add meat, serve’. If I couldn’t remember that without writing it down I was in trouble. Slowly though, over the years, I have added to the book. It is reserved for trusted favourites, those recipes that have proved themselves time and time again. Recipes I make regularly. This simple bechamel sauce recipe (known to some as white sauce) was one of the first written in its blank pages.

Bechamel sauce is considered to be one of the mother sauces of French cooking, and is infinitely useful within the kitchen. To me, bechamel sauce is classic comfort food, so I pull this recipe out whenever something soothing is required. And the more cheese you add to the sauce, the more comfort it provides. If you only manage to master one sauce in the kitchen, make it this one. It is well worth the page in my treasured book.

How To Use Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce)

Bechamel sauce is incredibly useful in the kitchen. I use it in lasagnas, gratins, cauliflower cheese, pie fillings or as the binding ingredient in stuffed crepes. And stir in a lot more cheese, add a good dollop of grain mustard, boil some pasta and voila … a quick and easy mac & cheese.

Most foods can be greatly improved by a thick layer of cheese sauce, so its use is really only limited by your imagination.

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How To Freeze Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce)

People are always surprised to learn that white sauce freezes extremely well. It is so handy that even if I only require a cup of sauce for a recipe, I always make a full batch and freeze the leftovers for a quick meal or side dish. The sauce can be frozen for up to three months, although if I am completely honest I have unearthed a small tub during a fridge clean up that was 12 months old and still fine.

Upon defrosting, the bechamel sauce will appear grainy and unappetising, and will seem to have separated. Trust me, and resist that urge to throw the whole lot in the bin. Reheat the sauce slowly over a low heat, and stir the saucepan frequently to prevent the sauce catching on the bottom. As it warms, the sauce starts to come back together. When it is again thick and glossy, your bechamel is ready to use.

Bechamel (white) sauce will also keep in the fridge for up to five days, and just needs to be gently reheated prior to use. Whilst very handy if you want to get ahead on your meal plan, if you have no immediate use for the sauce, or have leftovers from a meal, stash the sauce in the freezer instead.

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Ingredient Substitutions

The best way to make this bechamel sauce your own is to mix up the cheese. I tend to use whatever cheese I happen to have in the fridge at the time, and find this sauce a great way to use up little odds and ends in the cheese drawer.

My preference is for a sharp cheddar, which gives a dominant cheesy flavour to the sauce. For a more subdued sauce that will allow other ingredients in the dish to shine I’ll substitute a mild Swiss cheese or just use a little less. Pecorino works well in place of the Parmesan, and I have been known to add a little blue cheese from time to time. I probably wouldn’t use feta or fresh goats cheese, or ripened cheeses such as Camembert or Brie, however if you try it and think it works well then please let me know.

Make the sauce gluten free by using a gluten free flour in place of the plain flour. I have also used spelt flour in place of the wheat flour, although I find that spelt flour requires a little more cooking to remove the floury taste in the sauce.

I only use a full-fat dairy milk to make this sauce, however can see no reason why it wouldn’t work with non-dairy milks. I see no point in using low fat dairy milk for a sauce loaded with cheese and butter.

Did you know you can #freeze White Sauce? Stash some in the #freezer for a quick meal. Click To Tweet

Tips & Tricks for the Best Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce).

Bechamel sauce does need a bit of attention as it is cooking, lest it catch on the bottom of the saucepan leaving you with burnt flecks through your sauce. Not a desirable outcome. Just keep an eye on it, and stir it frequently as it cooks. If you have a Thermomix, use that to make your bechamel sauce, following the instructions in the Everyday Cook Book.

This recipe makes a lovely, thick, full-bodied white sauce. However some recipes do require a slightly thinner consistency, and if I feel the sauce is too thick for the purpose I just add a touch more milk to thin it out.

Treat the amounts of cheese I have detailed in my bechamel sauce recipe as a suggestion. Use more or less cheese depending on the end use of your sauce, and how cheesy you like it. I typically just throw in handfuls of cheese until it tastes right.

Some people infuse the milk with onion and bay before making the sauce. I have done this, and it is worth the effort. However late in the day, when all I want to do is get dinner in the oven, infusing my milk is the furtherest thing from my mind. Rest assured the sauce will still be good.

Kitchen Basics: A Simple Bechamel Sauce {White Sauce} Recipe (4)

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Kitchen Basics: A Simple Bechamel Sauce {White Sauce} Recipe

Bechamel (also known as White Sauce) is so simple to make, is incredibly versatile and it freezes brilliantly. Stash a batch in the freezer for a quick meal.

Prep Time 5 minutes

Cook Time 10 minutes

Total Time 15 minutes

Servings 2 cups

Calories 267kcal

Author Tania @ The Cook's Pyjamas


  • 60 g (1/4 cup) butter
  • 50 g (1/3 cup) plain flour
  • 500 mls (2 cups) milk
  • 125 g (1 1/4 cups) grated cheddar cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper


  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat.

  • Add the flour and whisk into the butter until smooth.

  • Cook the flour & butter for 2 minutes, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and changes to a lighter colour. This ensures that the flour is cooked.

  • Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly to stop lumps forming.

  • Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

  • Cook the sauce over a low - medium heat for about seven minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens.

  • Allow the sauce to come to the boil (it should just start to blip quietly) then remove from the heat.

  • Stir in the cheeses.

  • Use as required.


If lumps start to form as you are adding the milk, remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk until the mixture smooths out. Put the saucepan back on the heat and continue to add the remainder of the milk.

This sauce will keep in the fridge for a few days and freezes well. Just reheat before using.

Bechamel can be readily made in the Thermomix. Use this recipe but follow the method given in your Everyday Cook Book.

P.S. Looking for some ideas to use your sauce? Why not try:

  • Easy Lasagna Cups
  • Creamy Silverbeet Gratin

* This recipe was originally published in June 2014. I have substantially updated and rewritten the original post to add in lessons I have learnt since it was first published.

Kitchen Basics: A Simple Bechamel Sauce {White Sauce} Recipe (2024)
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