Traditional Bechamel Sauce Recipe

Bechamel sauce


  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 onion, left whole
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 whole clove
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • Salt
  • White pepper


  1. Lay one bay leaf on top of the other and pin them to the onion using the clove.
  2. In a small heavy saucepan, combine the milk and onion/bay leaves/clove combo, and bring to a simmer over very low heat, taking care not to scald the milk.
  3. Let the mixture simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. While the milk mixture is heating, melt the butter in a medium-size heavy saucepan over low heat.
  5. When the butter is just melted, use a wooden spoon to stir in the flour.
  6. Continue stirring over the heat for about two minutes until the butter and flour form a roux and then remove from the heat.
  7. Remove the onion/bay leaves/clove combo from the heated milk and discard.
  8. Slowly add the hot milk to the roux, stirring constantly with a wire whisk to break up any lumps.
  9. Return the pan to the stove and continue whisking as you bring the mix to a simmer over low heat.
  10. Continue cooking over a low heat until the sauce turns thick and creamy, about 10 minutes.
  11. Stir in salt and pepper to taste, if you wish.

Yields about 2 cups of sauce.

Bechamel Sauce With Gruyere

Make the sauce as directed, but when the sauce thickens, stir in 1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese. Stir over low heat until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth.

Uses for Bechamel Sauce and Variations

Bechamel is delicious on its own, but it's also the base for many other sauces. Try one of the variations below. The basic sauce is often used to make scalloped potatoes.

  • Turkey Divan
    Mornay Sauce is made by adding grated cheese, along with 1 to 2 teaspoons mustard and a drop of Worcestershire sauce. Use this sauce to make macaroni and cheese, or spoon it over ham on an English muffin and broil. It's also delicious served over hot cooked pasta.
  • Veloute Sauce is made by substituting chicken or beef stock for the milk. Pour this sauce over baked chicken and broil. Or use it to make Turkey or Chicken Divan.
  • Mustard Sauce is made by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard. Serve this sauce with sliced ham or chicken.
  • For a Brown Sauce, brown the butter and flour mixture; just don't let it burn. This sauce is used in Cajun and Creole cooking, such as Chicken Etouffee.
  • You can change the consistency of the sauce by changing the amount of butter and flour. Use more flour for a thicker sauce, or less for a thinner sauce. Additional butter will also help thin the sauce.
  • Use these sauces as a substitute for canned cream soup in recipes.
Traditional Bechamel Sauce Recipe