How To Make Perfect White Sauce

Chef Wendy

How to Make Perfect White Sauce

White (or Béchamel) sauce is one of the five famous ‘mother’ sauces.  

It’s really easy to make at home, and also incredibly versatile, because you can use it in so many ways:  add grated Cheddar to make a cheese sauce, or fresh parsley to make a sauce for fish, or capers and mustard to make a zippy sauce to go with corned beef.  Use it to make fantastic lasagne, or macaroni cheese, or creamy spinach, or cauliflower cheese, or cheese soufflé, and many more classic family dishes. 
TOP TIP: If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to make a white sauce from scratch, you can whip one up in seconds using a sachet of convenient, tasty KNORR Classic White Sauce.  It’s delicious on its own, and you can add any of the flavourings mentioned below to create an instant gourmet sauce! 
  • Classic white sauce consists of just three simple ingredients: or butter, flour, and milk. 
  • The initial mixture of equal quantities of fat and flour is called a ‘roux’, and this is always cooked for a minute or two before the milk is added.
  • The milk is then whisked into the roux and stirred continuously until the mixture thickens.  You can add the milk bit by bit, or all in one go, depending on which method you prefer (full instructions below)
  • Great flavour can be added to the basic sauce in a number of ways.  For example, you can heat the milk and ‘infuse’ it with aromatic flavours before you add it to the roux.  You can use a KNORR Stock Pot to add depth of flavour.  And you can stir in various ingredients (such as grated cheese, Aromat, mustard, nutmeg, lemon juice and so on) after the sauce has thickened.   Read on for our expert tips!
  • Be sure to cook the roux for at least a minute, preferably two, over a medium-high heat.  
  • When you add the milk you might find that it instantly forms clumps and lumps.  Don’t panic!  Use a wire whisk to beat the sauce very energetically, getting right into the corners of the pot. You will find that the sauce soon becomes smooth. 
  • After you’ve added the milk, turn the heat down to medium as you continuously whisk the sauce. If the temperature under the pot is too high, the sauce may ‘catch’ or burn on the bottom, producing an unpleasant flavour and brown flecks. Use a pan with a thick base.
  • Once the sauce is smooth and has reached boiling point, it must be simmered over a low heat for at least three minutes.  This will cook out and remove any ‘floury’ taste. 
  • If you are preparing the sauce in advance for use in a dish, gently press a sheet of clingfilm onto its surface.  This will prevent a skin from forming.
  • TOP TIP: to read Chef Marco Pierre White’s secrets for making a roux.
This recipe makes 2 cups of white sauce. If you would like to make more, double the quantity of each ingredient. 
2 Tbsp (30 ml) margarine 
2 Tbsp (30 ml) cake flour 
2 cups (500 ml) milk 
Salt and pepper, to taste
Melt the margarine in a heavy saucepan and stir in the cake flour to make a roux.  Cook over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring continuously. Don’t allow the mixture to brown or burn. 
Beat in the milk, a little at a time, using a wire whisk.  Keep whisking the mixture hard, to break up any lumps.  When you’ve added all the milk, and the sauce is smooth, stir continuously until it has thickened and come to a gentle boil.
(Alternatively, you can add the milk all in one go, whisking hard to form a smooth mixture.)
Let the sauce bubble gently for three minutes, season with salt and pepper, and stir in flavourings of your choice (see below). 
  • Stir the contents of a KNORR Chicken or Vegetable Stock Pot into the sauce once you’ve finished simmering it. This will season your sauce to perfection and add lovely depth of flavour. 
  • Infuse some aromatic flavours into the milk before you add it to the roux.  Thirty minutes before you make the sauce, heat your milk in a saucepan together with 2 small bay leaves, half an onion (sliced), two whole cloves and six peppercorns.  Bring the milk to just below the boil, then turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for half an hour before adding it to the roux. 
  • To make a cheese sauce:  When you’ve finished simmering the sauce, remove it from the heat and immediately add 1 cup (250 ml)  grated Cheddar per two cups of milk used in the recipe.  Stir until all the cheese has melted.   You can also add grated blue cheese, Gruyère or mozzarella, or crumbled feta, or finely grated Parmesan.
  • To make a parsley sauce:  remove the white sauce from the stove and stir in a handful of finely chopped fresh parsley, plus a squeeze of lemon juice.
Here are some other ingredients you can add to your white sauce:
  • A sprinkling of Aromat
  • A pinch or two of Robertsons Nutmeg (this spice goes beautifully with creamy spinach and with cauliflower cheese)
  • A spritz of fresh lemon juice. Be sure to add the lemon juice teaspoon by teaspoon, off the heat, or your sauce may curdle 
  • A teaspoon of Hot English Mustard powder, or a dollop of good prepared mustard
  • Chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, tarragon, dill or finely snipped chives
  • A few tablespoons of cream, which will give your sauce a lovely richness
  • A few dabs of Worcestershire or Tabasco Sauce