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Béchamel, also known as white sauce in the US, is the mother sauce of French and Italian cuisine. Used in pasta-bakes, lasagne, and many other dishes, it's traditionally made with butter, milk and flour. In our vegan béchamel sauce we use olive oil and plant-milk to make a sauce that is as delicious and versatile as the original béchamel.
This is such an easy recipe and it only takes about 10 minutes to make this sauce from scratch. Our favourite way to use our vegan béchamel sauce is in our pasta-bakes. Check out our pizzaiola pasta-bake and our delicious artichoke pasta-bake. The result is a rich, silky, creamy, velvety sauce that will take even the blandest of foods to the next level.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Flour: use all-purpose flour for a light and white béchamel. If you want a healthier version you can even use whole-grain flour. See variations section.
- Oil: most vegetable oils work for this recipe, however be mindful that the oil will give the flavour to the sauce so pick an oil you like. We love doing this vegan white sauce with extra virgin olive oil. For a milder flavour go with refined sunflower oil.
- Plant-milk: most kinds will work here. We like to cook with soy milk as it's richer and more nutritious that most other plant milks. The most important thing is that your plant-milk is unsweetened and without any weird flavours.
- Nutmeg: not always necessary, but it's a key ingredient in the original Italian and French béchamel version, so we like to add it in.
- Salt: add a couple of pinches of fine sea salt to add some flavour.
You'll need a saucepan, a whisk and a grater to grate the nutmeg.
Mistakes I made
- Using the wrong pot: the first time I made béchamel I did it in a fancy, pretty, but useless saucepan with a thin bottom. The sauce burned immediately. So, use a thick, heavy-bottomed pot to make white sauce so that the heat will be distributed evenly and your sauce won't burn.
- Adding cold plant-milk: I tried to add the milk cold and there are two problems with this. First, the cold milk splashes everywhere when it touches the hot pot and it takes a burnt flavour. Second, the sauce becomes a lot more lumpy this way. So warm up the milk!
- Cooling: this is actually the trickiest part of making white sauce because while cooling the sauce will create a patina on top that is super annoying and that will turn into lumps.
To avoid this you have two options. You can either use a piece of parchment paper and place it on top of the béchamel.
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 once cold. To speed up this process you can even cool it bain-marie, submerging half of the pot into another bigger pot full of ice-cold water, while stirring the sauce.
- Stir fast: when you add the flour stir fast. Also, when you add the plant-milk stir immediately and fast. This will help reduce lumps in the sauce. Also, make sure you stir evenly and around the edges of your pot.
- Warm up the milk: do this in a separate pot before adding the plant-milk to the roux (oil + flour). This is necessary or else the cold milk will make lumps when it touches the hot roux.
- Add the plant-milk all at once: do not add milk slowly or it will form lumps. Add all the milk at the same time and stir fast.
- Regulate the heat: mix the oil and the flour on medium heat, stirring fast. Then set the heat to low and add the plant-milk. This is very important or else your sauce will burn.
Frequently asked questions
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.
A roux is fat and flour cooked together in equal quantities. Roux is used to thicken sauces like béchamel, stews, soups, gravy, etc. Flour is added to hot fat (like oil), and then cooked for a few minutes. There are 3 types of roux: white, blond and brown. The colour is given by the difference in cooking time.
You can use béchamel sauce for pasta-bakes, lasagne, pasta sauces, cauliflower gratin, soufflé, and much more.
Butter is traditionally used for béchamel sauce, however we prefer to use olive-oil or sunflower oil for our vegan béchamel. This way your white sauce will be healthier and with a lower environmental impact.
Thick or thin?
Do you know that different recipes call for different types of white sauce? For instance, if you make lasagne or pasta-bakes I would recommend a classic béchamel. If you make croquettes or veggie meatballs a thick one. If you mix it with cheese like our vegan parmesan or our vegan ricotta, then I'd recommend a thinner one.
- Thick white sauce: use more flour. About 70 grams for 500 grams of plant-milk.
- Classic white sauce: use 50 grams of flour for 500 grams of plant-milk. This is the classic béchamel recipe.
- Thin white sauce: use less flour. About 30 to 40 grams of flour for 500 grams of plant-milk.
Can I add flavours?
Absolutely! In fact, our vegan béchamel sauce is one of the most versatile sauces out there. Here are some ideas:
- Mushroom white sauce: make a thick white sauce, then add sautéed brown mushrooms and blend with an immersion blender. You'll get a delicious mushroom sauce that you can use as a pasta sauce, lasagne and pasta-bakes.
- Cheesy béchamel: make a thin white sauce, then add a handful of grated vegan cheese and a tablespoon of nutritional yeast. Use this for mac and cheese and other types of pasta-bakes. This one is to die for!
- Black-truffle béchamel: make a classic white sauce, then add a tablespoon of truffle oil and if you can find it some grated mushroom to it. This one is my personal favourite for cauliflower gratin and pasta-bakes.
Can I use a different flour?
Yes. You can use almost any flour of your choice. For instance, if you want to make a healthier version of white sauce you can replace white flour with the same amount of whole grain flour. The sauce will still taste delicious and some people even prefer this.
We make whole grain white sauce to serve it with our vegan chickpea flour crêpes with sautéed mushroom and béchamel sauce filling!
You can store your vegan béchamel sauce sauce in the fridge 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 properly to avoid lumps.
During the cooling process your béchamel will become thicker. To make it thinner again, just add some soy milk and warm it up. If it gets lumpy use an immersion blender to make it smooth again.
Vegan White Sauce - Béchamel
- 500 ml (2.1 cups) soy milk unsweetened
- 40 grams (3 tbsp) olive oil extra virgin
- 40 grams (4.5 tbsp) all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp (½ tsp) salt
- ½ tsp (½ tsp) nutmeg
- In a pot warm up the soy milk with grated nutmeg in it until almost boiling temperature. Set aside.
- In another pot, warm up the olive oil, add the flour, whisk and cook for about 2 minutes or until the mix starts to bubble (this is called roux).
- Add hot milk to the roux and keep stirring with a whisk on low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce becomes creamy. Add salt to taste.
Full video on youtube @theplantbasedschool
Will you be cooking this recipe at home? Let us know in the comments below!