The Basic Béchamel

Preparation info

  • Serves

    6 to 8

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Modern Classics

Modern Classics

By Frances Bissell

Published 2000

  • About


  • 50 g (2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 50 g (2 oz) plain flour
  • 600 mls (1 pint) milk, hot seasoning – see recipe


In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter, stir in the flour, and cook for a few minutes.

Remove from the heat, and stir in about a quarter of the milk until smooth. Put on the heat again, stirring continuously, and, as the mixture begins to thicken, remove again from the heat.

Gradually add another quarter of the milk, stirring until smooth, thickening it again over the heat, and so on, until you have a smooth thick sauce. Season lightly with salt and white pepper, if making a savoury sauce. If you do not mind the darker flecks, a grating of nutmeg is good too.

Cook it gently for 10 minutes. This is important. Even though the sauce looks finished before then, it is important to fully cook the flour.

To make cheese sauce, to the above quantity of sauce, stir in about 100 g (4 oz) of your chosen grated cheese. To make parsley sauce, remove the stalks and any damaged parts from a generous bunch of parsley. Rinse well, roughly chop and put in a blender with about 200 mls ( pint) boiling water. Blitz until smooth. Stir as much of this purée as you need into the béchamel sauce. To make egg sauce, add two or thre finely chopped hard-boiled eggs.

For a richer or sweet sauce, substitute single cream for the milk. Sweet sauces can be flavoured with grated lemon or orange zest, and sweetened with sugar or honey.