Béchamel sauce, also simply called "white sauce," is a staple in French cooking and the base for many other delicious sauces. Most basic béchamel sauce recipes are made by slowly whisking milk into a mixture of butter and flour, or roux, and then heating the sauce to a boil. In today's béchamel sauce recipes, eggs, cheese and nutmeg are often added to impart flavour and a velvety smoothness to the sauce.
Béchamel sauce gets its name from a French marquis named Louis De Béchamiel, a wealthy, high-society gourmet food lover in 18th century Europe. As one story goes, the rich marquis spent much of his fortune on Newfoundland fisheries, but had some trouble getting his dinner guests to digest all that dried cod he expensively shipped across the Atlantic. So what did he do? He created a creamy, rich sauce used to this day in modern cooking, all to make dried Canadian cod more appetizing to the discerning French palate.
Food historians say it's likely one of Béchamiel's chefs who adapted the cream sauce from an earlier recipe, and that Béchamiel made another royal duke, who claimed he invented the recipe, quite jealous of his fame. But through the long history of béchamel sauce, one thing is for sure – it's a sauce worth making from scratch, with endless recipe possibilities.
How to make béchamel sauce
We asked Test Kitchen Specialist Amanda Barnier for some expert tips on preparing a basic béchamel sauce.
"Use a heavy-bottomed saucepan to help prevent (the sauce) from burning," Amanda says.
"Avoid lumps by continuously whisking the sauce," she adds, "while pouring in hot milk, as opposed to cold."
Finally, "be sure to cook out the flour for a few minutes, and (wait until) the sauce begins to bubble."
Time to check your supply of butter, white flour and milk, and get cooking with these great recipes!
Bechamel sauce recipes
Basic Béchamel Sauce
This classic recipe is the basis for many other sauces and dishes.
Page 1 of 2 - find great béchamel recipes like Greek Moussaka and cheese crepes on page 2.
6 béchamel sauce recipes:
Squash, Spinach and Italian Cheese Cannelloni
Fresh oven-ready lasagna sheets vary in size and number in the package, so you may need two packages. Leftover sheets can be frozen.
Mini Croque Monsieurs
Bite-size versions of this ham-and-cheese classic get dressed in a coating of bechamel sauce and cheese before broiling.
This dish is thought to have been created in 1894 by Chez Marie, a Paris restaurant. Others say it was first tasted by Napoleon during Thermidor, the 11th month of the calendar invented during the French Revolution.
From the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens comes this definitive casserole featuring eggplant and potatoes. The cheese of choice is kefalograviera (or graviera) made from a mixture of cow, goat and sheep's milk. A good substitute is Gruyere.
The ingredient list may look long, but the techniques are straightforward and the results well worth the effort.
Crepes with Ham, Asparagus and Gruyere Cheese
Fresh asparagus brings the taste of spring to these crepes. Choose thin stalks for easy rolling.