Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Béchamel Sauce . . . A Mother Sauce of French Cooking

This is one of the new posts I'm writing that I hope will be of interest to my grandchildren, and maybe even great-grandchildren, one day.

Béchamel, also known as "White Sauce" is made from a roux (butter and flour) an milk.  It is one of the mother sauces of French cuisine.  It is used as a base for innumerable other sauces (such as Mornay Sauce - which is Béchamel with cheese).

Origin:  According to Wikipedia, "Béchamel" was a financier who held the honorary post of chief steward to King Louis XIV.  The sauce under its familiar name first appeared in Le Cuisinier Francois, published in 1651.

Recipe for a medium-thickness white sauce:

2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. flour
1 Cup heated milk.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat
Add the flour to the butter in the pan, stirring with a whisk for a minute or two, being careful not to
      brown the roux, as this is going to be a white sauce
Gradually add the previously heated milk (heated in another saucepan or in a microwave - just until
     it's warm to the touch
Continue to stir until the sauce has thickened and is smooth.

The proportion of roux and milk determines the thickness of the sauce, typically the ratio is 1-3 tablespoons of butter and flour to one cup of milk.  One tablespoon butter and flour to one cup of milk makes a thin white sauce, three tablespoons of butter and flour to one cup of milk makes an extra thick sauce (used for soufflé base, for example).

With a little practice this white sauce becomes the sauce base for any number of recipes.  The ingredients can be flexible; for example, using the same ratio of fat, flour and liquid, you could use two tablespoons of turkey fat drippings from your roast turkey with two tablespoons of flour to make the roux.  Then you could use homemade turkey broth (from simmering the turkey neck, wingtips, and giblets).   The ratio is not variable, though.  It's always a ratio of equal amounts of butter and flour to a cup of liquid.

Béchamel Sauce
Mimi July 2015
Antigua, Guatemala


  1. Hi Mary-Pat,
    I'm looking forward to a lot more of these!

    1. Thanks Betty, I'm excited about it myself and already had an email from my oldest granddaughter, Quinn, who said she's going to try the recipe!

  2. Thank you for the recipe! What's the difference between gravy and sauce? I use mushroom soup cans to thicken homemade soup i.e. turkey noodle soup...I add cream of chicken or mushroom. I'd love some soup recipes.

  3. HI Rita:
    Essentially, for all intents and purposes, they're the same. Gravy is the term used when meat juices are included in the sauce/gravy, either in the form of a fat, or for the liquid. A sauce doesn't have meat juices as a component. However, the measurement ratio for fat, flour, and liquid are the same for both sauces and gravies. I love reading your comments, Rita;thanks so much for taking the time to write.

  4. Thanks for the recipe, looks pretty easy.
    Very nice picture of you too.

  5. Thanks, George, have fun with the recipe. It's the beginning of all kinds of wonders produced in the kitchen.

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