Chef John's White Sauce Recipe -
Chef John's White Sauce Recipe
  • READY IN 22 mins

Chef John's White Sauce

Recipe by  

"White sauce is one of the “mother sauces” in traditional culinary training and is used in many popular dishes."

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Ingredients Edit and Save

Original recipe makes 4 cups Change Servings
  • PREP

    5 mins
  • COOK

    17 mins

    22 mins


  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour and cook for about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in 1 cup cold milk, about 1 minute. Stir in second cup of milk for an additional minute.
  3. Stir in remaining 2 cups of milk, cayenne pepper, salt, thyme, and nutmeg; bring to a simmer over low heat until sauce begins to thicken, about 10 minutes.
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Reviews More Reviews

Most Helpful Positive Review
Apr 27, 2012

I didn't change a thing and loved it!!

Most Helpful Critical Review
Apr 07, 2015

Looks better than it tastes unfortunately

Sep 23, 2012

This is a BASIC sauce. Add whatever spices will complement whatever you're going to use it on. Important: you want to cook the butter/four mix at a temp that will cook the flour without burning the butter. Usually when I get lumps, it's because I didn't cook the flour long enough. I like to make this with whole wheat flour, if you don't mind a brown "white" sauce with speckles. :)

Feb 16, 2013

I skipped the thyme in this recipe. I browned some chopped onion and fresh minced garlic in the butter before adding the flour. After the sauce was made, I added some ground mustard and a touch of hot sauce. I used the white sauce as a base for homemade macaroni and cheese. It worked out great--perfect thickness and held up well during the whole cooking process.

Jan 12, 2014

For a basic, more versatile white sauce, omit the nutmeg and thyme. (Actually, I’m not sure I’d like that combination. For my tastes it would be either/or) For a thinner white sauce, use 1 T. each of flour and butter. For a thick sauce, 3 T. each of flour and butter.

Mar 29, 2015

I cannot resist making a comment here. Chef John did a great job presenting this recipe, however, I have to laugh when I read reviews of folks who consider themselves "pro's" and obviously have no concept of the basic "mother sauces" and what goes into them and what they are used for. This recipe is (except for the thyme and cayenne) a very basic Bechamel or White Sauce - I learned this way back in 8th grade home economics class many decades ago and, yes, it does and should have nutmeg in it. You don't just make this and dump it over food and expect that to be it. You must adjust it - add cheddar cheese for a cheese sauce a 'la Mac and Cheese. Add Gruyere and Parmesan to make a Mornay Sauce - great over veggies and even pasta - also used in a Kentucky Hot Brown. There are 4 other Mother or basic sauces in French Cuisine which are the basis of almost all sauces - think Hollandaise (if you've had a yummy plate of Eggs Benedict you've had Hollandaise (a mother sauce) - it's the technique used to make mayonnaise. This is such a basic sauce and can be made thinner or thicker depending on what you want to use it for - just use equal amounts of butter and flour to milk with a dash of nutmeg which enhances the taste of the sauce. More flour and butter equals a thicker sauce. Easy.

Mar 28, 2013

Thank you so much! I had a basic recipe for white sauce and lost it and couldn't find a good one to replace it. This was exactly what I was looking for. I did add some chopped onion and garlic to the butter and skipped the cayenne since I don't care much for spicy hot food. It turned out perfectly. I can't wait to experiment with other added ingredients and can see several possibilities!

Feb 10, 2013

This turned out good-but made alot so I had to throw out the rest..I used this sauce for my macaroni and cheese dish and my son loved it...A keeper!!!


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  • Calories
  • 192 kcal
  • 10%
  • Carbohydrates
  • 11.8 g
  • 4%
  • Cholesterol
  • 40 mg
  • 13%
  • Fat
  • 14 g
  • 22%
  • Fiber
  • 0.3 g
  • 1%
  • Protein
  • 5 g
  • 10%
  • Sodium
  • 180 mg
  • 7%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

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