White Sauce is one of those basic recipes everyone needs. I learned to make this version in one of the first cooking classes I ever attended. If you were wondering is white sauce gluten free the answer is yes! Mine is made with cornstarch so it has always been gluten free. Many recipes for a classic bechamel sauce, as the French call it, are made with wheat flour so just switch to this recipe if that’s how you’ve made it before.
If you’re thinking you’re not really crazy about a boring old white sauce, think again. Do you like Mac & Cheese? Do you like to make a breakfast dish like Eggs Benedict for a treat? (The Eggs Florentine variation is made with cheese sauce instead of the usual hollandaise sauce.) Have you ever had an amazing lasagne or cannelloni that seemed a little bit different? Have you tried Greek Moussaka? All these dishes have some version of white sauce and I think that’s what makes them so amazing.
Organize For Success
When I took that first cooking class many years ago I decided opening the yellow box of cornstarch for one tablespoon was tedious. I also wanted that recipe for white sauce to be handy so here’s what I did.
I bought a plastic container and put a label on it with this white sauce recipe. Now, decades later, the label is nearly illegible but the white sauce recipe is right there every time I grab it. That’s what I mean when I say organize for success.
PIN for later…
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Tips for Thicker Sauce
- I make this recipe with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch but my husband clearly does something different so he needs 1½ tablespoons to make the sauce thicken. If you’re having trouble add your milk more slowly and don’t stir it as much.
- Don’t over whisk, that can actually break a sauce with cornstarch.
- This recipe works with skim milk but as you use milk with a higher fat content, including coffee cream or whipping cream, the sauce will become thicker. This is a great way to use up coffee cream or whipping cream and you’ll see how decadent it is. It can get too thick so thin it with milk if needed and find your perfect version.
White Sauce Variations
Most of the variations I make include cheese but sometimes onion, garlic and white wine are involved too. Here are a few ideas:
- Once you’ve made the cheese sauce at few times you can make homemade Mac and Cheese as fast as cooking the store bought package. This is a fun challenge for teenagers and cooking with real food, rather than little packages of coloured powder, is always a good thing in my books!
- Beyond the basic Mac and Cheese recipe are variations limited only by your imagination. A decadent Lobster Mac and Cheese is real treat!
- Steamed vegetables with cheese sauce is always a good way to get kids hooked on a few vegetables they might not otherwise eat.
- White sauce and a few slices of ham transforms an everyday grilled cheese sandwich into a Croque Monsieur.
Get The Tools
Every kitchen needs tools and it’s always a good thing when you have the right tool for the job. A decent quality set of pots and pans is a great investment and so are whisks and spatulas.
- Quality set of pot and pans for everyday cooking.
- Whisks – if you have a colour theme ‘for gluten only’ or ‘gluten free’ keep it going with coloured handle whisks or silicone whisks.
- Silicone spatula sets in all the colours of the rainbow.
I’d love to hear in the comments below what you make with your white sauce. Happy cooking!
More Recipes with White Sauce
Click on the (hard to see) text on the bottom of each image to go to the recipe/blog post.
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch *see notes if you're having trouble with the thickness
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp pepper
- 1 cup milk (the higher the fat the richer the sauce)
- Melt butter in small saucepan.
- Add cornstarch, salt and pepper, whisk until smooth and bubbly.
- Slowly pour in a third of the milk. Stir off and on as it thickens.
- Add the next third and allow sauce to thicken again.
- Add the final third, stirring until sauce is thick and smooth.
- For cheese sauce add cheese and stir until melted.