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Basic White Sauce Recipe

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  • Prep 5 min
  • Total 10 min
  • Servings 16
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This White Sauce, a variation of béchamel sauce, is known in classic French cooking as one of the five “mother sauces,” meaning once you master making it, you can create an assortment of other sauces by adding to the same basic recipe. Different from Alfredo sauce, which is made of butter, Parmesan, and cream and has a much richer flavor, white sauce has a more delicate and versatile flavor, thanks to its combination of butter, flour, and milk.

White sauce is one of those kitchen essentials that's like a culinary magic wand—it can transform even the most basic dish into something extra special. This creamy sauce comes together in only five minutes, with just five ingredients. It’s so simple to make and can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.

This easy white sauce recipe makes the perfect partner for pasta recipes, like this Creamy Herb Mushroom Pasta. For a cozy family dinner, nothing beats a classic lasagna layered with spoonfuls of rich béchamel. Or, if you're in the mood for veggies, try using this white sauce as a base for a cheese sauce to pour over steamed broccoli or cauliflower. Now you’ve got a delicious side dish that even the pickiest eaters can’t say no to. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, spice up your white sauce with a dash of nutmeg or mustard. It adds a nice kick that can really elevate a simple dish–or even last night’s leftovers.

So go ahead, give this simple, classic white sauce recipe a try as is, or experiment and add your own flavor. No matter how you serve it, this one is bound to become your new go-to.

Updated Jul 10, 2024
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How to Make White Sauce

Making this classic, creamy sauce couldn’t be more simple. In only a few easy steps you’ll have an impressive béchamel sauce that’s ready to liven up almost any meal. Here’s how it’s done.

Melt the Butter

Keeping your pan on low heat, add your butter and warm until it is melted to a liquid consistency. Make sure to whisk occasionally so it melts evenly and doesn’t burn.

Stir in the Flour

Add your flour, salt, and pepper. Keep that whisk working, stirring constantly until your mixture is smooth, bubbly, and slightly browned. Then remove from heat to avoid overcooking.

Add the Milk

While your pan is off the heat, gradually add your milk while still stirring constantly. Once the milk has been incorporated and your sauce has a smooth consistency, place your pan on medium heat and keep stirring until your mixture boils. Let it boil and bubble while you stir for one minute, before removing your finished sauce from the heat again.

Find the full, detailed directions for this simple white sauce below.

How to Thicken White Sauce

If your finished white sauce isn’t coming out with the perfect creamy consistency you were hoping for, not to worry! It’s easy to make small tweaks that can thicken up or thin out your sauce as needed.

If you need to add a bit more oomph to a too-thin white sauce, there are a few tricks to try. The first is to try cooking your sauce for a few extra minutes over low heat. Sauces thicken as they cool, so coming down from a high heat may be just what’s needed to reach the right consistency. If your sauce is still on the thin side, sprinkle in a bit of extra flour. Be careful not to add too much—start with a tablespoon and add more as needed—and keep whisking your sauce as you add the flour to avoid lumps.

If your white sauce is too thick, you can add a bit of milk to thin it out. Start with 2-3 Tablespoons, and whisk together to incorporate. Add an additional Tablespoon of milk, as needed.

Regardless of what you add to your sauce, make sure to taste it before serving. Additional salt and pepper may need to be added to account for the additional ingredients. This will ensure the flavor and consistency will be to your liking when you add the sauce to your dish.

Dishes That Call for White Sauce

The best part about this luscious White Sauce recipe is that it’s so amazingly versatile. From pizza to pasta, meat to veggies, it pairs perfectly with so many savory side dishes and delicious main courses.

If you’re in the mood for something creamy, hearty, and oh-so-satisfying, give these scrumptious Scalloped Potatoes a try. Simply pour plenty of white sauce over piles of sliced potatoes and bake until hot and bubbly for the ultimate easy and decadent side dish.

White sauce also makes pizza night even better. It provides a fun change from a traditional tomato-based pizza sauce, and goes great with toppings like chicken, bacon, mushrooms, or spinach. If you want to try a slight twist on a traditional white sauce, give this Parmesan White Pizza Sauce a whirl and watch your family come back for slice after slice.


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup milk
Make With
Gold Medal Flour


  • 1
    In 1 1/2-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly; remove from heat.
  • 2
    Gradually stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly; boil and stir 1 minute.

Tips from the Betty Crocker Kitchens

  • tip 1
    There are few recipes more essential in an accomplished cook’s repertoire than a basic white sauce. Called a béchamel in France, it’s the start of any number of recipes, from a cheesy mac ‘n cheese to a creamy chicken pot pie.
  • tip 2
    Need some meal inspiration to go along with this White Sauce recipe? Stir up your sauce with hot cooked macaroni, pour it over toasted tortilla chips for a homemade nacho platter or spoon it over simple omelets. Or, try stirring in 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill and a dash of ground nutmeg with the flour and continue steps to make a delicious sauce perfect for fish.
  • tip 3
    Stir the butter and flour together with a wooden spoon or wire whisk. Stir constantly as you pour in the milk so no lumps form. If there seem to be a few once your White Sauce thickens, strain the sauce through a wire-mesh sieve.
  • tip 4
    Stir the butter and flour together with a wooden spoon or wire whisk. Stir constantly as you pour in the milk so no lumps form. If there seems to be a few once your white sauce thickens, strain the sauce through a wire-mesh sieve.
  • tip 5
    To make an irresistible cheese sauce, start with making the White Sauce with 1/4 teaspoon dry ground mustard added to the flour. Once the sauce is thickened, stir in 1/2 cup shredded cheese—try a sharp cheddar or a nutty fontina—until melted.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Three Types of White Sauces?

If you're into cooking, you’ve probably come across these three major players: béchamel sauce, Mornay sauce, and beurre blanc sauce. Each one has its own character and uses in the kitchen, so let’s break them down.


This one is your classic white sauce, super simple but absolutely essential. Made with butter, flour, milk, and seasonings like salt and pepper, béchamel is a fantastic base for other dishes—think creamy lasagnas or casseroles.


Think of this sauce as béchamel’s cheesy cousin. It starts the same way, but then you stir in grated cheese (like Gruyère or cheddar) until it’s all melty and smooth. It’s a go-to for dishes like mac 'n' cheese or anything au gratin.

Beurre Blanc

A slightly different spin, this one’s an emulsion of white wine, vinegar, and shallots that’s simmered down before chunks of cold butter are whisked in gradually. The result? A rich, buttery sauce that’s a dream with seafood and vegetables.

So, while béchamel and Mornay sauce are all about that creamy, comforting vibe, beurre blanc serves up a zesty, buttery finish that can really elevate a dish. Each sauce has its moment to shine, depending on what you’re whipping up in the kitchen!

Is a White Sauce an Alfredo Sauce or Béchamel Sauce?

When it comes to creamy sauces, white sauce (a.k.a. a béchamel) and Alfredo sauce are often mentioned in the same breath, but these two aren’t exactly identical twins. Let’s break down what sets them apart.

Milder in flavor, white sauce starts with butter and flour cooked together until smooth, then milk is added gradually. The result is a thick, velvety sauce that’s super versatile, and an amazing starting point for so many other sauces (like that cheesy Mornay sauce). Béchamel is a key player in dishes like veggie lasagna and creamy casseroles. Try your hand at this Béchamel recipe to make it like the pros.

On the other hand, Alfredo sauce has a richer, more robust flavor that stands out in a dish. Classic Alfredo sauce relies on butter, heavy cream, and a good amount of Parmesan cheese, melted together until thick and smooth. Some recipes toss in garlic for extra oomph. The end result is rich, cheesy, and indulgently creamy. Alfredo sauce is a go-to for coating your favorite pasta and often pairs with chicken or shrimp. If you want to give this decadent sauce a try, we’ve got you covered with this collection of Alfredo recipes.

So while both sauces bring creaminess to the table, white sauce or béchamel is a milder flavor ready to compliment a wider variety of foods, whereas Alfredo sauce packs a decadent, cheesy punch all on its own. They have distinctly different vibes, but they’re both delicious in their own right!

Why Is a White Sauce Called a “Mother Sauce”?

When you hear that white sauce, or béchamel, is one of the “mother sauces,” it’s kind of a big deal in the cooking world. This doesn’t mean it’s your mom’s favorite sauce (although it might be), but rather, it’s foundational in French cuisine. The term "mother sauce" refers to five basic sauces—béchamel, velouté, espagnole, tomato, and hollandaise—that are crucial because they serve as the starting point for making an array of other delicious sauces.

Béchamel Sauce Made from butter, flour, and milk, this sauce’s mild, creamy flavor and thick texture make it super versatile. From this simple base, you can spin off into a variety of "child" sauces. Add cheese to béchamel, and voilà, you’ve got Mornay sauce. Spice it up with mustard or other seasonings, and you can create something entirely new. Start with the basic Béchamel recipe and let your creativity flow.

Velouté Sauce This more refined sauce is very similar to béchamel, but swaps out the milk for light stock (like chicken or fish), giving it a delicate, silky texture and taste.

Espagnole Sauce This one, on the other hand, is all about boldness. It's a rich brown sauce made from beef stock, thickened with butter and flour, and jazzed up with tomato paste and vegetables for deep flavor.

Tomato Sauce It might sound familiar, but this Mother Sauce is slightly more refined and versatile, with tomatoes simmered alongside seasonings and sometimes a bit of stock.

Hollandaise Sauce The undisputed queen of brunch, this dreamy, buttery, lemony concoction is perfect over eggs Benedict or asparagus. It's an emulsion of egg yolks, butter, and lemon juice. Try out our Hollandaise sauce recipe to taste this decadent sauce for yourself.

Each sauce opens up a world of possibilities in the kitchen, taking any dish from ordinary to extraordinary with just a few tweaks!


25 Calories, 2g Total Fat, 0g Protein, 1g Total Carbohydrate, 0g Sugars

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
Calories from Fat
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Total Carbohydrate
Dietary Fiber
% Daily Value*:
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
0 Starch; 0 Fruit; 0 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Skim Milk; 0 Low-Fat Milk; 0 Milk; 0 Vegetable; 0 Very Lean Meat; 0 Lean Meat; 0 High-Fat Meat; 0 Fat;
Carbohydrate Choice
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

More About This Recipe

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