How to Make White Sauce
Nothing Beats Thickened Smooth White Sauce
Making a white sauce takes just minutes. All you need is butter, flour, milk, a saucepan and a simple whisk.
Knowing how to make white sauce is a skill that can serve all cooks well. White sauce is tasty, versatile, and it can help to complete a particular dish. It is the basis for many dishes and being able to make your own saves you from having to use canned soups in recipes. And you control the taste and texture.
Uses for white sauce are nearly endless. It can be used as a creamy pasta sauce or to top a plate of chicken and noodles; it can be used as a base for eggplant-and-Parmesan casserole, or in scalloped potatoes. It can be used as a topping for veggies. Imagine a buttery white sauce over Brussels sprouts.
You can also easily jazz things up, adding other ingredients such as a little wine and sliced mushrooms for a gourmet mushroom sauce or how about adding garlic and Parmesan for a topper for green beans? If you add cheese, you have a velvety-smooth cheese sauce that goes perfectly over broccoli or can be used to make cheesy scalloped potatoes or mac and cheese.
Truly, the sky is the limit and imaginative cooks find many uses for basic white sauce and its for fancier counterparts, adding both taste and texture to many foods. It's the go-to base for sauces, fillings, gravies, and toppers.
What Goes into White Sauce?
• 1-2 tsp.butter
• 1-2 tsp. flour
• 1 cup milk
Keep stirring so milk doesn't stick to bottom of pan and burn.
Did You Know?
The French name for white sauce is Bechamel.
Method for Making White Sauce
1. Melt butter in saucepan
2. Whisk in flour (the roux) and stir until combined.
3. Add milk, bit by bit, continually stirring until all is smooth.
4. Adjust heat until mixture is gently bubbling.
5. Continue cooking and stirring until white sauce is thickened. The stirring is key to prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.
Can be Made in Minutes
All of these measurements are guides. Here's how to adjust the texture and amount:
• If your sauce is too thin, follow the steps for the butter and flour mixture again in a separate pan and add it to your white sauce, then cook and whisk until all is blended and sauce is smooth.
• If your sauce is too thick, simply add in more milk to thin it.
• To make more sauce, double ingredients.
That wasn't so hard, was it?. Some cooks have felt intimated at the thought of making white sauce and are surprised that it is actually quite easy to do. Like any skill, practice makes perfect, but this is one skill, that truly isn't hard to learn.
The Final Result. Doesn't This Look Lovely?
Why Use a Whisk?
I recommend using a whisk when making white sauce, as this does an excellent job of eliminating lumps.
As can be seen from the picture, if you keep stirring and whisking, your sauce will turn into a smooth mixture with no lumps. It is almost magical how three simple ingredients can transform into a such a wonderful velvety sauce.
Want a Visual?
Now, that you've read through the steps for making white sauce, you may wish to see this in action. The videos below give a good overview and show how simple this process is.
Video Part 1
- The butter is melted before adding the flour.
- The flour is mixed and cooked into the butter mixture.
Video Part 2
The milk is added, and as can be seen stirring is important. If you don't have a whisk and are worried about lumps, strain mixture through a metal strainer or sieve.
Tips for a Perfect White Sauce
• Always use real butter for the best-tasting white sauce
• When adding milk, always use a whisk so that sauce becomes smooth and lump-free
• Gently simmer your sauce and continue stirring to avoid sticking and burning
• Adjust liquid amounts for a thinner or thicker sauce
If you are making a large batch of white sauce, say for a large casserole, a pourable pot is ideal, as shown pictured below.
Making a Large Batch of White Sauce
Have You Ever Made a White Sauce?
- Use white sauce as a base for scalloped potatoes.
- Ladle white sauce over diced cooked potatoes, top with chopped chives and dill. Sprinkle crumbled bacon on top.
- Toss linguine with white sauce and top with Parmesan.
- Use as a filling when making spinach-vegetable lasagna.
- Use white sauce as the basis for creamed soups
- Use white sauce to make creamed peas.
- Make a creamy chicken gravy by making white sauce with pan drippings.
- Use as a cream gravy over ham.
- Use in oven casseroles for a creamy gravy.
- Use to make mushroom soup or mushroom gravy.
Making Scalloped Potatoes
Cooked White Sauce on Scalloped Potatoes
Going Beyond Basic White Sauce
A basic white sauce is good enough on its own and may be preferred as a topping or as a casserole filling, depending on what you will be using it for; however, once you've made white sauce a time or two, you may wish to expand on your efforts. The section below discusses different ingredients that can be added to white sauce, when you need to go beyond a basic sauce.
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- seasoned salt
Seasoning Your White Sauce
White sauce has a light flavor and can be used as is or seasoned with salt and freshly grated pepper.
Depending on what dish you are making, though, you may wish to season your white sauce with different ingredients, such as seasonings, herbs or even broth.
One of the most common additions to plain white sauce is cheese. No need to buy jars of cheese sauce when you can make it from home. Cheese adds so much flavor and a pleasing color.
As can be seen from the photos below, once you've made your sauce, you simply add grated cheese and cook and stir until combined.
1. Make a basic white sauce and stir in 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese.
2. Whisk in the cheese and continue stirring, until smooth. As the cheese melts, your sauce will become a lovely color.
Have You Ever Made a Cheese Sauce?
Serving Suggestions for Cheese Sauce
Adding Other Ingredients to White Sauce
Adding other ingredients can add an interesting texture to white sauce.
A mushroom sauce can be made by sauteing sliced mushrooms in butter and then adding them to white sauce.
Chicken and Pasta With Creamy White Sauce
- Make a creamy white sauce and keep it warm.
- Fry sliced chicken pieces until well cooked or use leftover chicken pieces.
- Add onions and mushrooms and fry them until browned.
- Stir in chopped spinach.
- Combine creamy white sauce with cooked pasta noodles and add the other ingredients. Sprinkle with Parmesan.
You may even find times when you want a still richer flavor. For such occasions, try a cream sauce—it's a similar recipe, but the cream gives it additional heft.
© 2009 Athlyn Green