Classic white (or béchamel) sauce

Classic white (or béchamel) sauce
  • Serves icon Serves 6
  • Time icon Ready in 40 minutes

Making a classic white sauce – or béchamel as the French call it, occurs so much in everyday cooking, for example in a lasagne or moussaka. Master this easy recipe and you’ll massively boost your overall cooking confidence. See FAQs on this page for more information about béchamel and its ‘mother sauce’ status.


  • ½ onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • Few parsley stalks
  • 600ml milk
  • 50g butter (or margarine)
  • 50g plain flour


  1. Put the onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and parsley stalks into a heavy-based saucepan. Pour in milk and bring just to the boil, then remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 30 minutes. Strain into a jug.
  2. Meanwhile, put butter (or margarine) into a separate, clean, heavy-based saucepan. Let it melt over a medium heat, then add flour. Using a wooden spoon, stir continuously and very well until you have a smooth, slightly grainy paste. This is called a roux.
  3. Off the heat, whisk a little of the infused milk into the roux, beating well with the wooden spoon, then return to the heat, beating, until thickened. Repeat until half the milk is incorporated, then switch to a whisk. Continue adding the milk (off the heat) and whisking over the heat until smooth.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking the sauce for 4-5 minutes, until thickened, stirring occasionally. Taste, season, and make sure there is no hint of flour.


What is a white béchamel sauce used for?
Making a classic white sauce - or béchamel as the French call it, occurs so much in everyday cooking, for example in a lasagne or moussaka, macaroni cheese or a croque monsieur..

What is a béchamel sauce?
Béchamel is what's known as a 'mother sauce' - one of five great French sauces. Think of a mother sauce as one of the building blocks of classic French cuisine — a sauce used to make other sauces, like mornay (when cheese is added to béchamel)..

delicious. tips

  1. To make parsley sauce, the rule of thumb is to make sure the parsley is very fresh, as it really does make all the difference to the finished sauce. My preference is for flatleaf but you can certainly use curly parsley. Chop a good handful – somewhere between roughly and finely chopped – and add to the finished sauce.


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