Kitchen Mastery: Basic White Sauce and What You Can Do With It

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A basic white sauce is a useful and versatile recipe to have in your cooking repertoire. Here’s a fool-proof method for making it.

how to make white sauce
Nelly Kovalchuk/

 A simple white sauce, otherwise known as bechamel sauce, can form the basis of many meals from macaroni and cheese and lasagne to chicken pie as well as just being a sauce for meat or fish.

White sauce is quick and easy to make – no need for a sauce in a packet, which isn’t very nice anyway. White sauce is a good way to use up leftover vegetables and meat that are sitting in the fridge. Rather than throwing out leftovers, or those vegetables that don’t get used before next week’s shop, combine them with white sauce. Add leftover cooked meat or tuna if you have it and cover with a piece of puff pastry for a pie to feed a whole family. Or mix in some rice or pasta, top with cheese for a mornay bake.

Below is a recipe to make a basic white sauce as well as suggestions for use and flavour variations.

Recipes Using White Sauce

Bechamel is a versatile staple recipe to have under your belt. It is used in lots of different recipes and can flavour to plain dishes. Check out the variations in the recipe for all the different ways you can jazz up white sauce.

Here are some ideas for how to use it:

  • To pour over meat or vegetables
  • For lasagne or moussaka
  • As a base for cream soup, for soufflés or croquettes
  • As a pasta sauce (ie. Add some cooked mushrooms and bacon, or steamed or roasted vegetables, or some cooked chicken, or some cheese and herbs)
  • Make a thick white sauce and add mushrooms and chicken for a crepe filling; or try a combination of vegetables, herbs and meat such as chicken and asparagus, sundried tomato and tuna.
  • In a Mornay base
  • As a pie filling
  • In a vegetable gratin
  • As macaroni and cheese
Yield: 1 cup

Basic White Sauce

how to make white sauce

A basic white sauce is a useful and versatile recipe to have in your cooking repertoire. Here's a fool-proof method for making it.

Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp plain flour
  • 1 cup milk


  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat
  2. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes to cook out the raw flour taste
  3. Add the cold milk gradually, stirring continually as you do to avoid lumps. Continue to stir over medium heat until sauce has thickened.
  4. Season to taste (white pepper works better than black; add a pinch of nutmeg if you wish) and add flavourings as desired (ideas below)


Variations Include:

  • For Velouté sauce substitute the milk for chicken, vegetable or fish stock
  • For a traditional Béchamel sauce infuse milk by first heating it with a slice of onion, 1 bay leaf and a few peppercorns. Leave to sit for about 20 minutes before straining and adding to the butter and flour mix as for white sauce.
  • Use soy milk or stock if you’re not into dairy
  • Add cheese for a cheese sauce. Add a little mustard for extra flavour
  • For a different flavour, substitute part of the milk or stock with white wine
  • Add cayenne pepper instead of nutmeg or try paprika.
  • For mustard sauce add some mustard to taste.
  • Add mushrooms for mushroom sauce. Good in the gravy or brown sauce.
  • Add herbs for herb sauce, parsley sauce is a traditional variation to a white sauce
  • Or a combination of any of the above.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 96Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 78mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 3g

Nutritional information is calculated automatically using the Nutritionix database. Nutrition information can vary for a recipe based on factors such as precision of measurements, brands, ingredient freshness, serving size or the source of nutrition data. We strive to keep the information as accurate as possible but make no warranties regarding its accuracy. We encourage readers to make their own calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Did you make this recipe?

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If you would like to watch a video with tips on how to make a lump-free sauce, check out this one on YouTube.

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  1. Great article thank you. I used to always buy a particular brand of vegetable and chicken pies from the supermarket, now l can’t find them at all. Plus l do purchase chicken and asparagus pasties from the local bakery more often than l should. At close to $4 each, it does add up. More cost effective to make your own at home.

  2. Hi Felicity. I think they might be the same pies we used to eat! But we can’t find them either.