This vegan béchamel sauce, also known as white sauce, is perfect in casseroles like lasagna, on top of pizza, or just as a classic sauce over pasta. This versatile recipe uses pantry staple ingredients, one pot and comes together in just 10 minutes!
I know there are technically 5 'mother sauces' but is the mother sauce of all of them. I said what I said. It's just so easy to make, it's so versatile, and can elevate most, if not all, dishes.
I learned this recipe back in the day (before I was vegan) from Gordon Ramsay! I've since 'veganized' it and it's truly become a staple sauce in my kitchen.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Classic white sauce: it's one of those staple recipes that everyone needs to have up their sleeve! It's an incredibly versatile sauce that can be used for so many different dishes!
- You only need basic, pantry staple ingredients! This recipe calls for 3 simple ingredients that I know you have in your kitchen right now.
- It's quick & easy to make! Aside from the basic ingredients, it only takes 10 minutes and 1 saucepan to make this creamy sauce.
- It's customizable! You can leave this as a classic béchamel sauce or add in different flavors (like cheeses, herbs or spice) to elevate it.
What is béchamel?
A traditional béchamel is cooked mixture of butter, flour and milk. Flour and dairy butter are used in a 1:1 ratio to create a white roux (a combo of flour & fat used to thicken sauces). Combined with dairy milk, your result is creamy white sauce that is a staple in French cuisine. It's also popular and frequently used in Italian and Greek cuisine. It's considered one of the five 'mother sauces' because it can be used as the base for not only other sauces but as is in a variety of dishes.
This recipe is a vegan version of the traditional béchamel.
Below are some basic tools that will ensure your vegan white sauce is as smooth and creamy as can be:
- Heavy bottom saucepan: think stainless steel, copper or aluminum. It'll ensure that the heat is evenly distributed so no clumps form.
- Wooden spoon
- Whisk: to ensure a smooth, lump-free sauce
- Kitchen scale: to accurately measure all ingredients
We're keeping this vegan béchamel as close to traditional as possible by simply swapping in dairy-free alternatives where needed.
- Vegan Butter: classic Italian & French béchamel recipes use butter as the fat to create the roux, so we'll be doing the same! I highly recommend using vegan butter sticks as opposed to the tubs of butter. I like to use Earth Balance sticks or Country Crock sticks for this recipe.
- All-Purpose Flour: the second piece of our roux. Feel free to use whole wheat flour, 1:1 gluten-free all-purpose flour, rice flour or chickpea flour.
- Plant-based Milk: I recommend using soy milk or oat milk, as they are both thicker in consistency compared to almond milk or cashew milk and will give the most traditional result. In reality, any non-dairy milk you choose will work, just make sure it is plain, unsweetened and unflavored!
- Salt & Black Pepper
- Nutmeg: this is optional, but highly recommended. Nutmeg helps to bring out the flavor in this sauce and is traditionally used in Italian and French béchamel recipes.
See recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
Variations & Substitutions
They don't call this the mother sauce for nothing! There are so many ways you can customize/enhance this sauce. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Use extra virgin olive oil instead of vegan butter. It will lend a slightly different flavor, but still give that creamy results!
- Make this sauce gluten-free by simply using 1:1 gluten-free flour.
Customize the flavor:
- Add pesto or herbs to make this an herbed sauce
- Add vegan cheddar cheese, vegan parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast to make this a vegan cheese sauce (perfect for vegan mac and cheese)
- Add roasted garlic for a punchier flavor
- Add black truffle oil to turn this into a creamy truffle sauce
- Add sauteed mushrooms and vegan parmesan cheese to transform this into a mushroom sauce
- Add pureed chilies or red pepper flakes to give this sauce a kick!
- Add marinara to make a pink/rosé cream sauce
Thickening or Thinning the Sauce
Different recipes call for different consistencies of white sauce. For example, if you're using it in a lasagna or pasta bake, a classic (or medium) bechamel sauce (aka this recipe) is best.
To change the consistency, you just simply need adjust the ratio of liquids or flour.
- Use ¼ cup less of non-dairy milk and heat the sauce for 3-4 more minutes.
- Add an extra tablespoon of flour to the vegan butter (step 2).
- Add an additional ½ cup – ¾ cup of non-dairy milk. Regardless of how much more you're adding, make sure you're still adding the milk to the pan in thirds.
This recipe has not been tested with any other substitutions or variations than the ones listed above. If you replace or add any ingredients, please let us know how it turned out in the comments below!
Step 1: Melt vegan butter over medium-low or medium heat in a heavy bottom, medium-sized saucepan.
Step 2: Once the butter has melted, add in the all-purpose flour.
Step 3: Using a wooden spoon, mix together until a dough-like mixture has formed. This is your white roux! Keep stirring the flour mixture for at least 1 minute to cook off the flour. Cooking off the flour just means to keep heating it - this will make sure the flour is cooked down and doesn't leave a floury, paste-like taste behind.
STEP 4: Add in one third (just 100mL) of the cold dairy-free milk and quickly mix, still with a wooden spoon. It should now resemble a thick paste.
Step 5: Add in the second third (another 100 mL) of the cold plant-based milk.
Step 6: Switching to a whisk, whisk vigorously for at least 30 seconds. The longer, more intensely you whisk, the better. There should be no lumps remaining and the sauce should fall through the whisk easily.
Step 7: Add the last third (the last 100mL) of the cold plant-based milk, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.
Step 8: Whisk until combined. If it looks too thin for your liking, let it simmer for a few minutes or let the cooling process begin - it will thicken!
How to Use Béchamel Sauce
This creamy sauce is a basic recipe that can be used in a so many different ways. It’s incredibly versatile and a staple to have in your recipe box! Here are my favorite ways to use this recipe:
- Paired with pasta dishes (over ravioli? oh my gosh)
- Potatoes au gratin or scalloped potatoes
- Vegan Lasagna
- Pasta bakes like baked ziti
- As a base for other sauces (think hollandaise, mornay sauce, queso, cheese sauce)
- As a base for creamy soups
- On top of vegan pizza
- Drizzle across roasted veggies
- Savory crepes
- Casseroles (think green bean, broccoli, cauliflower casseroles)
For the best results, follow these tips:
- Make sure your milk is cold and add it gradually! This will prevent lumps from forming. I learned these tips from watching a lot (maybe too much) of Gordon Ramsay, so they has to count for something, right?
- Use a heavy bottom saucepan. If you don't have one, it's okay, you can still make this sauce! A heavy bottom saucepan is just better at heat distribution. Again, this ensures a smooth, lump-free sauce.
- WHISK, WHISK, WHISK!!! And whisk some more! You seriously can't whisk this sauce enough. We want it smooth, people!
- Do not boil the sauce! Your stove should stay at medium-low heat the entire time. If you notice the sauce boiling or just cooking too quickly, have the confidence to pull it off the stove completely for a few seconds to get it to cool down. Don't stop whisking though!
- If you're not using the sauce right away, allow it to cool and place piece of plastic wrap touching the top of the sauce. This will avoid air getting in contact with it and forming a patina or film on the surface. Skipping this will make your sauce lumpy later otherwise.
Storage & Reheating Tips
This sauce can be made ahead of time and stored for use later. Before reading the storage tips, make sure you read how to cool it properly first.
Cooling the white sauce: Cooling a béchamel for storage is the trickiest part because a patina/skin/film (whatever you want to call it) will form on the surface that will later break into lumps if not cooled properly. Here's 2 options to avoid that:
- First, remove it from the stove, transfer it to a container that can be sealed, and let the sauce cool down slightly while whisking it. Then cover it with a piece of plastic wrap, or parchment paper, that's touching the top of sauce to avoid air getting in contact with it.
- Transfer the sauce from the hot pot into a cold bowl, then whisk while it cools down. To speed up this process, you can even cool it bain-marie, which means to submerge half of the saucepan into a bowl full of ice-cold water while continuing to stir the sauce.
Refrigerator: Cool down the sauce as described above then place the sauce in airtight container and store for 3-4 days.
Freezer: Cool down the sauce as described above then place the sauce in airtight, freezer-friendly containers or bags and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to use, thaw in the fridge until soft.
Reheating: Reheat the sauce on the stovetop in a saucepan. The sauce will thicken as it cools and after being stored in the fridge or freezer. Add ¼ cup of plant milk at a time, as needed, to thin the sauce back out. Once you've reached your desired consistency and the sauce is warmed through, it's ready to use.
No! Béchamel is a simple sauce that only uses flour, butter and milk, while Alfredo sauce uses heavy cream, cheese, and fresh parsley.
Yes! The names are used interchangeably.
I recommend using either plain, unsweetened soy milk or oat milk. They're both thicker options and the most neutral tasting. I don't recommend coconut milk, as it will be too sweet, while almond and cashew milk are usually too thin.
You can. Would I recommend it? No. Don't fix what ain't broke! If you want to though, try cornstarch instead.
A roux is a cooked paste of flour and butter that's used to thicken sauces and other liquid mixtures like soups. A béchamel sauce is that whisks a hot roux into milk.
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Vegan Béchamel Sauce (Vegan White Sauce)
- Wooden Spoon
- 2 tablespoons (25 g) vegan butter preferably a stick
- 3 tablespoons (25 g) all-purpose flour or 1:1 gluten-free flour
- 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) plant-based milk divided! I used soy milk
- ¼ teaspoon salt or more to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper or more to taste
- pinch of nutmeg optional
- Melt vegan butter over medium-low heat in a medium-sized saucepan.2 tablespoons vegan butter
- Once the butter has melted, add in the all-purpose flour. Using a wooden spoon, mix together until a dough-like mixture has formed. Cook down for 1 minute.3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Add in one third (just 100mL) of the cold plant-based milk and quickly mix, still with a wooden spoon. It should now resemble a thick paste.1 ¼ cups plant-based milk
- Switching to a whisk, add in the second third (another 100 mL) of the cold plant-based milk and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds. There should be no lumps remaining and the sauce should fall through the whisk easily.
- Add the last third (the last 100mL) of the cold plant-based milk, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Whisk until combined.¼ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon pepper, pinch of nutmeg
- Serve as is over fresh pasta, in lasagna or as the base for vegan mac and cheese. Enjoy!
- If desired, when adding the last third of milk and spices, feel free to whisk in vegan cheddar or parmesan cheese, or nutritional yeast, to turn this into a vegan cheese sauce.
So creamy and delicious! I put this over chickpea pasta and some veggies and it was perfect
Pinch of Parsley
So glad you liked it Nicole!