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White sauce, also known as béchamel in Europe 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 white 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 white sauce from scratch.
The result is a silky, creamy, velvety sauce that will take your food to the next level.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Flour: use all-purpose flour for a light white sauce. If you want a healthier version you can 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.
For a richer white sauce you can use vegan butter, in the same quantities.
- Plant-milk: most kinds will work here. We like to use 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 flavours.
- Nutmeg: not always necessary, but it's a key ingredient in the original Italian and French béchamel version. If you don't like nutmeg you can just leave it out.
- Salt: add a couple of pinches of fine sea salt to add some flavour.
How to make vegan white sauce
Into a small saucepan over medium heat add 40 grams or 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 40 grams or ¼ cup of flour.
Warm it up and stir till the mixture starts to bubble, then add 500 grams or 2 cups of unsweetened soy milk, at room temperature is fine, a pinch of salt, and grated nutmeg.
Keep stirring over medium heat, until the white sauce thickens, it should only take about 5 minutes.
Keep in mind that the white sauce will keep thickening as it cools down, so don't make it too thick.
Set aside, remembering to stir it from time to time to avoid lumps. Use as you like.
Mistakes I made
- Cooling: this is actually the trickiest part of making white sauce because while cooling the sauce will create a patina on top that will make the sauce lumpy.
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.
- 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.
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 a fat and flour cooked together in equal quantities. Roux is used to thickening 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.
Butter is traditionally used for béchamel sauce, however, we prefer to use olive oil or sunflower oil for our vegan béchamel. You can also use vegan butter.
Thick or thin?
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 favorite 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 wheat flour.
You can store your vegan béchamel 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
- 2 cups (500 grams) soy or oat milk unsweetened
- ¼ cup (40 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons (40 grams) olive oil (or vegan butter)
- ½ teaspoon (2 pinches) salt
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
- In a small pot, warm up the olive oil, add the flour, whisk and cook for about 2 minutes or until the mix starts to bubble.
- Add milk, salt, and grated nutmeg to the oil and flour mixture and keep stirring with a whisk on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.You should aim for a creamy, smooth, and not-too-thick white sauce.
- The sauce will keep thickening while it cools, so don't overcook it or it'll end up being too thick.
If you liked this recipe, you might also like:
- Chickpea crepes or savory mushrooms pancakes
- Artichoke pasta bake
- Chickpea frittata muffins
- Vegan frittata
- Vegan carbonara
Did you try this recipe at home? Let us know in the comments below.