A Classic Sauce For Every Occasion: The History and Variations of Bechamel Sauce

Bechamel sauce, also known as white sauce, is a traditional French preparation that has become ubiquitous in many cuisines worldwide. It has four main ingredients: butter, flour, milk, and seasoning. If you’re curious about how to make bechamel, it is a versatile condiment that adds richness and flavor to dishes like lasagna, macaroni and cheese, creamed vegetables, and souffles. Its history dates back centuries to the 17th century when it was first created by French chef Louis de Béchamel. Here we will explore the history of bechamel sauce and look at modern variations on this classic recipe.

Bechamel is an essential ingredient in French cuisine. It is made from a roux—a mixture of equal parts melted butter and flour—cooked until it forms a paste-like consistency. This paste is then whisked with hot milk until smooth before being seasoned with salt, pepper or nutmeg. The result is a rich, creamy sauce that can be used as an accompaniment to dishes or as the base for other sauces such as Mornay or cheese.

How To Make Bechamel

Making bechamel is surprisingly simple. Begin by melting butter over low heat in a medium-sized pot before stirring in flour with a wooden spoon until it forms a thick paste (the roux). Continue cooking this paste over low heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly so it doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. Then gradually add warm milk while whisking continuously until no lumps remain; continuing to cook over low heat for another 5 minutes until thickened – stirring constantly towards the end so that it doesn’t stick or burn on the bottom of the pan.. Season with salt, pepper or nutmeg before serving over pasta dishes or using as part of other recipes!

The Origins Of Bechamel Sauce

The origins of bechamel go back centuries to 1651 when Marie de Medici’s head chef, Louis de Béchamel, created what would come to be known as béchamelsauce – named after him – which he served alongside meat dishes at court banquets throughout France. Originally made only with cream instead of dairy milk as today’s versions use, its popularity spread quickly across Europe during this time period when cooks adapted their own recipes using local ingredients available in their region. By the 1700s , béchamelsauce had become so popular that even King Louis XIV requested his chefs make them daily!

Modern Variations On Bechamel Sauce

Over time, different countries have taken this classic French staple and added unique flavors from their home cuisine. The Italians often add parmesan cheese and garlic to their versions, while Greek recipes sometimes include feta cheese. Mexico uses chipotle peppers in theirs; Spain will often include smoked paprika & cumin; India uses garam masala spices; Morocco adds saffron & cinnamon, while Lebanon throws in lemon juice & mint leaves. Even within North America, each region has its own version, including the addition of bacon bits & cheddar cheese (Canada), allspice & thyme (US East Coast), oregano & mushrooms (Midwest), chili powder & jalapenos (Southwest US) & horseradish, mustard & Worcestershire sauce (West Coast).

Adding flavour with herbs and spices

Herbs are commonly used to add flavor to any dish, but they are especially important when making a flavourful béchamel sauce. Common herbs used are parsley, thyme, oregano, tarragon, basil etc, but feel free to experiment with combinations you like best! As for spices, common additions are black pepper, nutmeg, white pepper, curry powder, cayenne pepper, etc., but be careful as too much spice can overpower your dish!

Making ahead and storing leftovers

For convenience, you can always make batches ahead and store them tightly covered in the fridge for up to 3 days before using. When ready to serve, simply reheat slowly over a low heat, adding extra milk if necessary to adjust the consistency. Alternatively, leftovers can be frozen for up to 6 months, simply defrost overnight, place in the fridge and reheat slowly on the stovetop, adding more liquid if necessary and adjusting the thickness to the desired level.


Bechamel sauce has been around for centuries and remains popular today because of its versatility, deliciousness and ease of preparation While the original recipe is still made today, many regions and countries have developed their own versions, incorporating local ingredients and flavors Today, thanks to internet access, different types are readily available, giving us the opportunity to try numerous varieties without ever leaving our kitchens. Enjoy experimenting with flavourful creations, perfecting your personal version of béchamel sauce!


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