How to Make Gluten-Free Bechamel

Updated: Jun. 01, 2023

Making homemade gluten-free bechamel sounds intimidating, but it's fairly simple to make at home. (And very similar to making the traditional recipe.)

Learning to make homemade gluten-free bechamel sauce is like holding a key to converting recipes to gluten-free. You use bechamel to make everything from fancy lasagna to basic mac and cheese!

This sauce seems complicated, but it’s fairly simple to make. It only takes 10 or 15 minutes and uses ingredients you probably already have on hand. Here’s everything you need to know about gluten-free bechamel, including troubleshooting tips and alternate ingredients and flavors.

What Is Bechamel?

Bechamel sauce is a rich, creamy white sauce made with flour, butter and milk or cream. The base of bechamel is a roux, a simple combination of equal parts flour and fat. This simple mixture is kind of magical, forming a silky, thick base for everything from gravy to chowder, stews to cheese sauces. Roux is the base of almost all of the mother sauces, five simple sauces that make up the basis of all French cooking (and of many other cuisines, too). Bechamel is one of the simplest of the mother sauces, a creamy, smooth base for rich dishes, and a simple foundation for building a variety of flavors.

How to Make Gluten-Free Bechamel

Ingredients

How To Make Gluten Free Bechamel SauceTMB Studio

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons gluten-free baking flour (with xanthan gum)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash white pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups 2% milk

Directions

Step 1: Make a roux

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, salt and pepper and stir until a smooth, paste-like combination forms. Cook the paste for about two minutes, until it’s bubbly and thick. This takes away the “raw flour” flavor that would otherwise be present if you immediately added milk.

Step 2: Add the milk

How To Make Gluten Free Bechamel SauceTMB Studio

Gradually, whisk in the milk. (If you pour it all at once, the roux won’t distribute as evenly, and the pan will cool off too much, and the sauce will take longer to come together.) We like to use a flat whisk for this task.

Step 3: Boil until thick

Bring the sauce to a boil, uncovered. Stir continuously until thickened, about 1-2 minutes. The sauce should continue to thicken a bit after being removed from the heat.

Step 4: Enjoy!

It’s best to serve bechamel sauce immediately. If you need to save leftovers, reheat them in a pot on the stove, stirring constantly as the sauce loosens up.

Tips for Making Gluten-Free Bechamel

How To Make Gluten Free Bechamel SauceTMB Studio

How to Thicken Gluten-Free Bechamel

If your bechamel sauce seems too thin, put it back on the stove to boil for another few minutes. If it’s still too thin, scoop a few spoonfuls of hot sauce into a small dish. Add a spoonful of flour mix and whisk well, then slowly whisk the slurry back into the sauce pot. This prevents added flour from curdling or clumping in the sauce.

If your bechamel sauce has split, you can rescue it with an egg yolk. Here’s how to save a broken sauce.

How Do You Use Gluten-Free Bechamel?

Bechamel’s rich, creamy, savory flavor is the perfect match for simple foods like perfectly cooked asparagus, baked chicken, grilled fish or roasted vegetables. Stir bechamel into mashed potatoes or rice for an instant upgrade. Use bechamel to make mac and cheese (substituting gluten-free elbow noodles or another small shape, like fusilli), or lasagna (again, swapping in gluten-free noodles). Bechamel is also the base of many classic dishes, like biscuits and gravy, using gluten-free biscuits.

Gluten-Free Bechamel Variations

As a mother sauce, bechamel is a sturdy foundation for lots of variations. You can season and flavor bechamel with just about any spice, but here are a few of our favorites:

Add cheese: Stir in shredded cheddar or your favorite melty cheese to the pot at the end of cooking. Stir over low heat until the cheese melts. Other cheese options include Swiss, gruyere, Parmesan or a combination. A dash of grated nutmeg is a nice addition with white cheeses.

Add herbs: Stir finely minced parsley or chives into the finished sauce. This adds both flavor and brightness.

Add spices: Curry powder, ginger, turmeric, nutmeg and other ground spices add lots of flavor to simple bechamel.

Add mustard: A tablespoon of Dijon mustard makes a zippy sauce that’s great for jazzing up mac and cheese.

Add aromatics: Simmering a wedge of onion in the sauce adds savory flavor. Bay leaves, peppercorns or cloves are also strong additions.

Gluten-Free Bechamel Substitutions

The bechamel recipe is fairly forgiving to substitutions, as long as you keep the ratios the same. Substitute your favorite homemade GF flour mix (add a pinch of xanthan gum to the roux), or a store-bought GF mix. Replace the dairy milk with your favorite non-dairy milk and the butter with vegan butter. The butter can even be replaced with olive oil, though this will change the flavor profile of the sauce.