How to make the best béchamel sauce

The best cheese béchamel sauce for lasagne is creamy and smooth, and flavoured with aromatics that make it rich and delicious, never bland. Learn how to make béchamel or white sauce with this easy recipe.

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How to make the best béchamel

The best béchamel sauce for lasagne is creamy and smooth, flavoured with aromatics that make it extra flavourful, and spiked with parmesan for a savoury depth of flavour. Layer it in lasagne or bake with pasta for a luxurious mac and cheese. Learn how to make perfect cheese béchamel, also called white sauce, with this easy recipe and tips.
How to make béchamel sauce
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  • 1 L (4 cups) milk
  • 1 brown onion, halved, coarsely chopped
  • 8 fresh parsley stalks
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • ⅓ cup (50 g) plain flour
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
  • Pinch ground nutmeg, salt & pepper, to taste
  1. Combine the milk, onion, parsley stalks, peppercorns, cloves and bay leaves in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and set aside for 15 minutes to infuse. Strain the milk mixture through a fine sieve into a large jug. Discard solids.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until foaming. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until flour and butter form a paste or roux. Stir continuously for 1-2 minutes. The colour should change to a straw colour with no unmixed flour. Cook until it smells nutty and fragrant, like shortbread.
  3. Add half of the milk mixture, whisking continuously. Whisk until thick, don’t worry if it appears lumpy. Add the rest of the milk, whisking continuously. The sauce should become smooth.
  4. Bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and allow the sauce to boil for at least 5 minutes, stirring with a spoon. This step is important or your sauce will be thin and taste floury. Your sauce should be glossy and smooth and coat the back of the spoon.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and stir in parmesan.
Béchamel tips and tricks
How to avoid lumps in béchamel
Use a whisk and whisk vigorously and continuously as you add milk to the roux. Once all the milk has been added and the sauce is simmering, you can switch to a wooden spoon. Adding the milk gradually will reduce the chances of lumps forming. Room temperature milk is not essential, but can help you get a smooth sauce. Measure out your milk and heat it for 30 secs in the microwave. Stir and repeat until it feels lukewarm.
How do you fix lumpy béchamel
If your sauce is lumpy, pour through a fine mesh sieve directly into a clean saucepan.
How to thicken or thin out béchamel
If your bechamel is too thick, add milk. If it's too thin, you can reduce it by letting it simmer for longer or adding more roux. Read more about how to thicken or thin out béchamel here.
What can you use instead of milk for béchamel?
If you haven’t got enough milk, you can dilute cream with water or use a milk substitute such as almond or soy milk. You can also use low-fat milk. These will alter the flavour of the sauce, but will work the same in the recipe. You can also use stock. If you use all stock, it will turn your sauce into a velouté.
How long does béchamel last in the fridge?
Bechamel keeps in the fridge for up to one week, you can also freeze it with these steps. If your bechamel separates while in the fridge or freezer, simply give it a whisk to bring it back together.
Can you use black pepper in béchamel?
Yes, you can although it will give you specks of black in your sauce. To avoid this, use ground white pepper instead.
What can you do with leftover béchamel?
  • Use béchamel in the recipes below, or use leftovers in one of these ideas
  • Add it to fish cakes or croquettes
  • Stir through cooked pasta and bake for a quick mac and cheese
  • Make a croque madame
  • Mix with more cheese and dijon mustard, spread on toast and grill until golden brown to make Welsh rarebit
  • Make a tuna melt by mixing with tuna and corn and grill on toast
Recipes with béchamel
Play Video: Italian Pasta Bake
This easy pasta bake is deliciously creamy thanks to plenty of bechamel sauce.
Play Video: Classic Beef Lasagne
Cheese, bolognese, béchamel and pasta, you can't go wrong with this classic lasagne recipe. If you're taking the time to make it, it's worth making a double batch and freeze the other for later.
Play Video: Baked Mac and Cheese
Making the best béchamel recipe above will give you elevated mac 'n' cheese for the ultimate comfort food.
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