White Sauce in a pot ready to use.

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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…

White Sauce is one of those basic recipes everyone needs. This one is made with cornstarch so is naturally gluten free.
White Sauce

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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.
  • 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.

I’d love to hear in the comments below what you make with your white sauce. Happy cooking!


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Ingredients

2 Tbsp butter
1- 1½ Tbsp cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
⅛ tsp pepper
1 cup milk (the higher the fat the richer the sauce)

Directions

1
Melt butter in small saucepan.
2
Add cornstarch, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth and bubbly.
3
Slowly pour in 1/3 of the milk. Stir until thickened.
4
Add the next 1/3, thicken again and then the final 1/3. Stir until sauce is thick and smooth.
5
For cheese sauce add cheese and stir until melted.

4 Comments

  • Julie Clarry says:

    Cinde, your recipe sounds just like the one I have been using for years. I used to used all purpose flour but I will try it with the cornstarch and the gluten free flour mixuture. I always warm up the milk before adding. Just one minute in the microwave. It helps blend in much faster and smoother.

    • Cinde Little says:

      Hi Julie. As a general rule of thumb when you move away from wheat flour is to SUBSTITUTE “half the amount” of cornstarch for wheat flour. So in a recipe that calls for 4 tablespoons of flour you would only use 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. When people are new to gluten free cooking I recommend looking for recipes that don’t use wheat flour. As you learn some of the basics of gluten free then you can go back and mess around with your old favourite recipes and perfect them to suit yourself. I hope that helps!

  • André F. says:

    Only cornstarch for your béchamel?
    well, you may want to try this gf flour mix mix instead:
    57% white rice flour
    16% cassava flour
    23% potato starch
    4% potato flour
    Works very well also for pan browning to make a dark roux for my ragoût de boulettes et pattes de cochon.
    André

    • Cinde Little says:

      That sounds great André! Once people are comfortable with gluten free cooking I always encourage them to mess around and find the flour combinations they like best. I just might try your mix to make a dark roux. Thanks for sharing!

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Ingredients

Directions

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1- 1½ Tbsp cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp pepper
  • 1 cup milk (the higher the fat the richer the sauce)
  1. Melt butter in small saucepan.
  2. Add cornstarch, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth and bubbly.
  3. Slowly pour in 1/3 of the milk. Stir until thickened.
  4. Add the next 1/3, thicken again and then the final 1/3. Stir until sauce is thick and smooth.
  5. For cheese sauce add cheese and stir until melted.