Béchamel Sauce is a staple in classic French cuisine. It is a dairy-based white sauce thickened with a butter and flour roux. It can be used on its own over pasta, or as the base in many other dishes.

a plate of ravioli coated in béchamel sauce.

Today we are tackling a French cuisine staple. Béchamel Sauce is known as a “mother sauce.” It is one of just a few sauces from which all other sauces derive. That might sound intimidating, but béchamel is super simple to make, and is definitely a sauce you want in your repertoire. 

Béchamel vs. Alfredo Sauce:

Béchamel may seem similar to an Alfredo sauce, but they are actually quite different. Alfredo sauce calls for heavy cream and parmesan cheese, and is thickened by reduction. Béchamel calls for milk instead, and is thickened with a roux. It traditionally does not include any cheese, though some people do enjoy a cheesy béchamel sauce over pasta.

How to use Béchamel Sauce:

Béchamel is a multi-purpose sauce. You can use it as the base of a gourmet mac n cheese, layered in lasagna, in a vegetable gratin, or even just on top of freshly cooked pasta. If you want to take the next step into French cooking, you could go on to use it in a Soubisse, Nantua, or Mornay Sauce.

Adjusting Thickness:

The recipe as written makes a medium-thick sauce that is perfect for general use like coating pasta. For a thin white sauce, reduce the butter and flour both to 2 tablespoons. For a super thick white sauce use up to 1/2 cup each of flour and butter.

Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, and other Substitutes:

Béchamel Sauce has been considered a “mother sauce” since the 17th century. It uses only whole, natural ingredients, and as such there really are no adequate substitutes. This is one of those recipes that needs to be made as written to fully appreciate such a simple, timeless sauce. The one exception is replacing the flour that is used as a thickening agent. You can replace the flour with cornstarch. Simply use cornstarch in half the amount of the flour listed for a gluten-free béchamel sauce.  

a saucepan filled with béchamel sauce.

Storage and Reheating Instructions: 

Béchamel sauce is best eaten fresh. You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat. If it has thickened too much, you may thin the sauce with whole milk, a tablespoon at a time. 

If you like this recipe, you may be interested in these other delicious pasta recipes: