White sauce, also known as béchamel sauce, is a versatile sauce you can use in many recipes, from pasta bakes to savory crepes, from lasagne to oven-baked veggies.

It’s an essential recipe with four ingredients in its basic form, and it’s ready in 10 minutes.

white pot with bechamel sauce

Check out our best sauce recipes.

Ingredients

milk, oil and nutmeg

Flour

Use all-purpose flour for a perfectly smooth and velvety white sauce. If you want a more wholesome version, you can use whole-wheat flour.

Fat

Butter: unsalted butter is used in the original French and Italian bechamel recipes.

Dairy-free or vegan butter: you can substitute dairy-free butter for regular butter. It works wonderfully.

Olive oil: another great alternative is to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. Since oil is fatter than butter, use one less tablespoon of oil than butter.

Milk

Regular milk: classic white sauce calls for regular cow’s milk. You can use full fat for a richer sauce, all the way down to fat-free milk for a lighter sauce.

Dairy-free milk: we generally use unsweetened soy milk for our white sauce. You can use pretty much any plant milk as long as it’s unsweetened.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg is optional. However, it’s a key ingredient in the original Italian and French béchamel recipe. So if you don’t like nutmeg, you can leave it out.

Salt and Pepper

We recommend using sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

White sauce on crepes

Instructions

Melt butter (or warm the oil) in a saucepan with a heavy bottom on medium heat.

Warm up oil

Add the flour and whisk fast and continuously for 1 to 2 minutes until the flour-fat mixture (called a roux) starts to bubble and turn golden brown.

oil and milk in a pot

Add milk to the pot all at once, add salt, nutmeg, and black pepper, then on low heat, whisk the sauce until it thickens.

Tip: to speed up this step, you can warm the milk (up to 180°F or 80°C and never boiling) in a separate pot, then add the hot milk to the saucepan with the roux. This way, you’ll need to whisk a lot less time.

White sauce ready to use

Taste and adjust for salt and keep in mind that the white sauce will keep thickening as it cools down.

If you don’t use it immediately, remember to stir it from time to time as it cools down to avoid lumps.

white sauce in a white pot

Serving suggestions

Use this white sauce recipe with pasta, lasagna, and baked vegetables, for example, with:

Variations

Thick or thin?

Different recipes call for different types of white sauce. For instance, if you make lasagne or pasta bake, we recommend a medium bechamel sauce.

If you make croquettes or veggie meatballs make a thick one, and if you mix it with cheese like parmesan or ricotta, then we’d recommend a thinner one.

To change consistency, adjust the ratio of flour to liquids.

  • Thick white sauce: add 2 more tablespoons of flour, and keep butter and milk constant.
  • Medium or basic white sauce: 4 tbsp flour – 4 tbsp butter – 2 cups milk.
  • Thin white sauce: add 1 to 2 less tbsp of flour.

Cheese sauce

Make the white sauce, turn the heat off, and add about 1 cup of shredded cheese and stir until the cheese melts. You can also use shredded dairy-free cheese or grated parmesan cheese.

For cauliflower mac and cheese (no pasta) or mac and cheese, add shredded cheddar cheese, then toss with macaroni.

You can cut the milk with half cream or dairy-free cream for an even richer flavor.

Mushroom sauce

Add 1 cup of sautéed mushrooms and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.

Black-truffle béchamel

Make a classic white sauce, then add a tablespoon of truffle oil. This one is my personal favorite for cauliflower gratin and pasta bakes.

White sauce with sauce spoon

Tips

How to cool white sauce?

Cooling is the trickiest part because the sauce will create a patina on the surface that will break into lumps.

To avoid this, you have two options.

First, let the sauce cool down slightly while whisking it, then cover it with a piece of plastic wrap touching the sauce to avoid air getting in contact with it.

Or you can transfer the sauce from the hot pot into a cold bowl, then stir while it cools down. The sauce will not lump if you cool it down like this.

To speed up this process, you can even cool it bain-marie, submerging half of the saucepan into a bigger pot full of ice-cold water while stirring the sauce.

Questions

Is white sauce the same as Alfredo?

White sauce and Alfredo sauce are two different recipes, although both sauces are white in color.

White sauce is made with flour, butter, and milk. Alfredo sauce is made with heavy cream, parmesan cheese, and butter.

Can white sauce be frozen?

It’s easy to freeze the white sauce. First, cool down the white sauce as described above, then portion it into freezer-friendly containers and freeze it for up to 3 months.

Thaw it in the fridge until soft, then transfer it into a saucepan and warm it with some milk while stirring until you reach your desired consistency.

If it gets lumpy, blend it with an immersion blender.

Is béchamel sauce and white sauce the same?

Yes, they are the same thing. White sauce is the term used mainly in the US. Béchamel is the original french name of the sauce.

What is a Roux?

A roux is fat and flour cooked together in equal quantities. Roux thickens sauces like béchamel, stews, soups, gravy, etc. Flour is added to hot fat (like oil) and then cooked for a few minutes. There are three types of roux: white, blond, and brown. The difference in cooking time gives the color.

What do you use béchamel sauce for?

You can use the white sauce for pasta bakes, savory crepes, lasagne, pasta sauces, cauliflower gratin, soufflé, and much more.

Which fat is best for béchamel sauce?

Butter is traditionally used for béchamel sauce. However, olive oil and dairy-free butter work equally well. You can also use vegan butter.

White sauce on crepes
We use the white sauce to make our savory crepes with mushrooms.

Storage

Refrigerator: store your white sauce in the fridge in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days. You can also prepare your white sauce in advance. But if you do so, make sure to read our tips on how to cool it down correctly to avoid lumps.

During the cooling process, your béchamel will become thicker. To make it thinner again, add some milk and warm it up. If it gets lumpy, use an immersion blender to make it smooth again.

Freezer: cool down the white sauce as described above, then portion it into freezer-friendly containers. It keeps well for 2 to 3 months.

Thaw it in the fridge until soft, then transfer it into a saucepan and warm it with some milk while stirring until you reach your desired consistency.

If it gets lumpy, blend it with an immersion blender.

More easy sauces

If you enjoy this white sauce, take a peek at our other creamy sauces – they pair well with veggies, pasta, and salads:

For more condiment ideas, check out our dressing and sauces category page.

White sauce and spoon

Easy White Sauce (Béchamel)

By: Nico Pallotta
5 from 14 votes
White sauce, also known as béchamel sauce, is a versatile sauce you can use in many recipes, from pasta bakes to savory crepes, from lasagne to oven-baked veggies.
It's an essential recipe with four ingredients in its basic form, and it's ready in 10 minutes.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Course: Dressing & Sauces
Cuisine: French

Equipment

  • Whisk and sauce pan

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter or dairy-free butter, or 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups milk or unsweetened soy milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch nutmeg and black pepper (optional)

Instructions 

  • Melt butter (or warm the oil) in a saucepan with a heavy bottom on medium heat.
    melted butter
  • Add the flour and whisk fast and continuously for 1 to 2 minutes until the flour-fat mixture (called a roux) starts to bubble and turn golden brown.
    oil and milk in a pot
  • Add milk to the pot all at once, then on low heatwhisk the sauce until it thickens. Season with saltnutmeg, and black pepper.
    Tip: to speed up this step, you can warm the milk (up to 180°F or 80°C and never boiling) in a separate pot, then add the hot milk to the saucepan with the roux. This way, you'll need to whisk a lot less time.
    White sauce ready to use
  • Taste and adjust for salt and keep in mind that the white sauce will keep thickening as it cools down.
    If you don't use it immediately, remember to stir it from time to time as it cools down to avoid lumps.
    white sauce in a white pot

Notes

Nutrition information is an estimate for one serving of white sauce out of six.
TIP ON COOLING DOWN
Cooling is the trickiest part because the sauce will create a patina on the surface that will break into lumps.
To avoid this, you have two options.
1. Let the sauce cool down slightly while whisking it, then cover it with a piece of plastic wrap touching the sauce to avoid air getting in contact with it.
2. You can transfer the sauce from the hot pot into a cold bowl, then stir while it cools down. The sauce will not lump if you cool it down like this.
To speed up this process, you can even cool it bain-marie, submerging half of the saucepan into a bigger pot full of ice-cold water while stirring the sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 134kcal, Carbohydrates: 8g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 0.3g, Cholesterol: 30mg, Sodium: 1415mg, Potassium: 130mg, Dietary Fiber: 0.1g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 365IU, Vitamin B6: 0.1mg, Vitamin C: 0mg, Vitamin E: 0.3mg, Vitamin K: 1µg, Calcium: 103mg, Folate: 9µg, Iron: 0.2mg, Manganese: 0.04mg, Magnesium: 11mg, Zinc: 0.4mg
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Nico and Louise in the kitchen

Hi! We are Nico & Louise

Welcome to The Plant-Based School, a food blog with easy, tasty, and wholesome recipes.

Our aim is to help you and your family eat more veggies through delicious recipes with simple ingredients.

Easy right?

5 from 14 votes (12 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




7 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Recipe was perfect ! I used it for cauliflower cheese , using organic brown flour . My friend is vegan so I used oat milk . I live in the UK so Marriages brown flour was available .
    Many thanks !

    1. Hi Marion, that sounds like a delicious pairing for cauliflower cheese, I’m so happy you liked the sauce! Thanks for taking time out of your evening to leave a comment. Cheers, Louise

    1. Hi Abbey, thanks for your comment. For a gluten-free version, I’d assume that you can use a gluten-free flour mix. I have yet to try, but my guess would be that it would work. If you try it out, do let me know about the result and your opinion! Thanks very much. Cheers, Nico

  2. 5 stars
    Excelent recipe. Turned out exactly as shown.
    Tks.
    BTW Hae you ever used durum flour. I bought some and wonder how am I going to use it.