White/Béchamel Sauce

This is article is about Béchamel sauce, its classical French cookery at it’s most basic.  If you don’t know how to make this then you can’t make all of the other lovely sauces that use this sauce as it’s base.  Once you can make this, you can make sauces like cheese, parsley, onion, cream, etc.  Sauces always sound so much better when you use their French names but in English I call it as I see it, so I stick to plain and simple names.

Louis Saulnier breaks this sauce down into basics and describes it in Le Répertoire de La Cuisine (based on Escoffier‘s Le guide culinaire) as a white roux moistened with milk, salt and an onion stuck with cloves, cook for 20 minutes.  I love that book, you can’t get any simpler than that.


  • White Roux
  • Milk
  • Salt (for seasoning)
  • 1 peeled onion studded with cloves (optional)

I have to admit I often omit the onion studded in cloves so I’ve listed it as optional, however it does add a great deal of flavour to the sauce.  It all depends on whether you’re looking to impress or just dishing up a quick dinner on the table.


  1. To make this sauce, prepare your roux.
  2. If you’re making the roux from fresh then take it straight off the heat to cool a little before stirring your milk in.
  3. A pint of milk is more than enough to serve four people.  Warm the milk up gently before blending it with the Roux, it combines better.  Gradually add the milk to the roux, stirring as you go until you achieve a smooth consistency.  It might help if you use a whisk.  If you’re using Roux that you’ve stored, then add it a little at a time stirring as you go until you get the result your require.
    Note: It is far easier to add something than to remove something from the sauce.
  4. Add the studded onion (or onion clouté) if required
  5. Bring to the boil – watch it doesn’t boil over
  6. Turn down the heat and allow it to simmer for 20-30 minutes
  7. Remove from the heat and, if you used the onion, strain the sauce before serving

The result should be a nice smooth sauce.  If it’s too thick add a teaspoon of milk and blend it in until you achieve the required consistency whilst over the heat.

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