How To Make A Bechamel Sauce For Mac And Cheese A Cheesy Twist on a Classic: Cheesy Béchamel Sauce

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Prep:
10 mins

Cook:
20 mins

Total:
30 mins

Servings:
4
to 6 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
292 Calories
19g Fat
20g Carbs
10g Protein

Show Full Nutrition Label

×

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 292
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 19g 25%
Saturated Fat 11g 57%
Cholesterol 53mg 18%
Sodium 303mg 13%
Total Carbohydrate 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 10g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 241mg 19%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 151mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Béchamel is a standard white sauce and one of the five mother sauces of classical cuisine. This sauce is a cheesy version of the classic béchamel, and it’s perfect for many dishes that need a mild-flavored sauce with cheese. You can use it for macaroni and cheese, cheesy rice, vegetables, and many different pasta recipes; some people like it for lasagna.

1:05

Click Play to See This Cheesy Bechamel Sauce Come Together

The basic technique is to make a roux, which is a way to thicken sauces by cooking flour with a fat in equal amounts by weight. In this case, the fat is butter, as is typical of French-inspired sauces. The roux is then blended with milk, cheese, and seasonings to make the sauce.

This cheesy sauce can be considered a variation of Mornay sauce, which originally was made with white cheeses including Gruyère and Emmenthal. You can vary the type of cheese if you want to use something other than sharp cheddar. It’s not traditional by any means, but you can add more or less hot sauce to boost the spice level or tone it down—or leave it out altogether.

“This cheesy béchamel is super simple to make and easily customizable. The nutmeg provides a lovely warmth to the sauce, but if you’re like me and are a bit sensitive, start small and work your way up to the full amount.” —Kayla Hoang

Bechamel Sauce Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups whole milk, warmed

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste

  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1 dash hot sauce

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for béchamel sauce with cheese

    The Spruce 
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and stir in the flour to make a roux.

    Butter melting with flour in a saucepan to make a roux

    The Spruce
  3. Allow the roux to cook for 1 to 2 minutes while stirring. 

    Cook the roux in a saucepan

    The Spruce
  4. Add the milk a little at a time, whisking it continuously, allowing the mixture to blend and thicken. This will take about 10 minutes, although 20 minutes is recommended by cooking school instructors. Lower the heat to medium-low if needed.

    Whisk milk into the sauce

    The Spruce
  5. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, and hot sauce, if using. Continue stirring until the cheese has melted. Remove the sauce from the heat and use it immediately. Enjoy.

    Salt, pepper, nutmeg, and hot sauce whisked into the béchamel

    The Spruce

Tips

  • You can use your preferred milk, although whole milk will result in a creamier sauce. There is some debate over whether the milk should be cold, room temperature, or warmed. Choose your side, but be sure not to start with hot or scalded milk. You can heat the milk briefly in the microwave or on the stovetop.
  • Pay attention to your sauce as it cooks. You need to stir it pretty much throughout cooking to ensure there aren’t lumps, everything is blended together well, and nothing is scorching on the bottom of the pan.
  • If your bechamel sauce is too thick, add in some more milk until you reach the consistency you want. Just remember to keep whisking while you’re doing this. If it’s too thin, you can thicken it up by adding a little more flour and melted butter; premixed in another pan before adding to your sauce.
  • If you are making the sauce ahead of time, it should be refrigerated and used within two days. The mixture will thicken while in the refrigerator. To prevent a skin forming, place a sheet of wax paper or plastic on top, in contact with the surface of the sauce. But not to worry, with vigorous whisking when you reheat it, the skin will disperse into the sauce. Add a little milk to the saucepan when you are reheating the béchamel sauce to thin it to the desired consistency.

Video about How To Make A Bechamel Sauce For Mac And Cheese

How to Make Béchamel, the Base of Great Homemade Mac and Cheese

In French cooking, there are five mother sauces—béchamel, velouté, espagnole, sauce tomato and hollandaise—which are the foundation of many other sauces. Understanding how to prepare these will make you a much better home cook. For those who love mac and cheese and want to start making it from scratch at home, it begins with knowing how to make béchamel. So we went to Kris Morningstar of Terrine in Los Angeles to learn how he transforms butter, flour, milk, salt and nutmeg in the rich white sauce that becomes the base of your macaroni and cheese or perhaps your chicken pot pie.

Check out this video of Trae Basore of Pearl & Ash making hollandaise and you’re now 2/5th of the way to knowing all your mother sauces. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqHVPcy9wxM&list=PLGk2L0yJhjdJXDIUWQeYPHJQhQl-8fDJY&index=8

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