What makes gravy thick and silky? Gives gumbo that rich, nutty body? Makes mac and cheese crave-worthy good? It’s the combination of flour and butter that’s used as the foundation for hundreds of dishes.
Roux (pronounced ROO) is a simple combination of flour and oil, and knowing how to make it is something every home cook should learn.
What are the three types of roux?
There are three types of roux: white, blonde and brown. They all contain the same ingredients—equal parts flour and fat—but the colors differ based on how long you cook the mixture.
- White roux is the most common and it has the most thickening power. You’ll find it in recipes for white sauce (also called bechamel) and soups. You only cook the roux long enough to eliminate the flour’s raw flavor, about 2 to 5 minutes.
- Blonde roux is caramel colored and has a nuttier flavor. It is cooked for about 10 minutes. You would use this type of roux to make velouté (one of the mother sauces) but you can also use it in any recipe that calls for a white roux.
- Brown roux is the darkest. It’s cooked for as long as 30 minutes, and you’ll want to stir it constantly to keep it from burning. You’ll also find that many cooks use vegetable oil instead of butter for these types of roux. You’ll end up with a maple-colored mixture that doesn’t have as much thickening power as the other two types, but it is deeply flavorful. Use this roux for Cajun dishes like gumbo.
What is dry roux?
Dry roux is simply toasted flour. You can make it in a skillet on the stovetop, or bake it in a 350ºF oven for about 25 minutes. Either way, make sure to stir it occasionally for even color until the flour is nice and brown.
What can you substitute for flour in a roux?
For gluten-free thickening power, look to any of seven ways to thicken a sauce. Skip the flour and make a cornstarch or arrowroot slurry to mix into your sauce or soup at the end of the cooking time. Or, if you want to keep roux’s the nutty flavor, try swapping in sweet rice flour for wheat flour. It’s ground from glutinous rice, so it creates the same silky texture as using regular flour.
How to Make Roux
This recipe makes enough roux to thicken 1 cup milk or broth.
- 2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Dash white pepper
A quick note about the ingredients: Most roux recipes call for butter because it’s naturally flavorful and rich. If you’re making a dark roux, you may want to consider using an oil with a higher smoke point, like canola or vegetable oil, to prevent the mixture from burning. You can also use melted shortening or even bacon grease to make your roux.
Step 1: Make a white roux
All roux starts with a white roux—cooking the roux just long enough to eliminate the taste of raw flour. In a small saucepan, melt the butter (or oil) over medium heat. Add the flour, salt and pepper and stir with a rubber spatula, mixing until they’re well combined and the mixture looks smooth. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly and foamy. At this point, it should look like a thick paste.
Pro tip: Most roux recipes instruct you to use a whisk, but I like using a rubber spatula. It helps you get into the corners of the saucepan, making sure the mixture doesn’t collect and burn there.
Step 2: Keep it going for a blonde roux
To deepen the nutty flavor of your roux, continue cooking it for as long as 10 minutes, stirring frequently. This will weaken the thickening power of the flour, but it will turn an appealing caramel color and add a huge amount of flavor to any dish.
Step 3: Cook even longer for a brown roux
For a brown roux, keep going for another 20 minutes, cooking the roux as long as 30 minutes total. It will turn out deep and rich with a nuttier flavor and aroma. It’s reminiscent of brown butter with an almost smoky quality.
Keep a few things in mind when making brown roux. First, the thickening power decreases as the color increases, so plan to make extra when making a darker roux. This type of roux also burns very easily as it darkens. If you notice any dark flecks in your roux, toss it and start over. It won’t thicken properly and your recipe will taste acrid. The best way to avoid burnt roux is to stir constantly and lower the heat to medium-low.
Step 4: Use it or save it for later
Use your prepared roux as the foundation for any number of dishes, either immediately or over time. To use the roux immediately, whisk in 1 cup of cold milk or broth. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the liquid is nice and thick. You can easily create a cheese sauce from here by adding shredded cheese—perfect for pouring over potatoes, vegetables or as the base for macaroni and cheese.
Roux also stores exceptionally well. Store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months, or freeze it for up to a year. You can place dollops on a sheet pan and put them into a freezer bag once they’re frozen, or freeze your roux in ice cube trays.
Pro tip: To prevent lumps when adding liquids to a roux, always add cold liquid to hot roux (or, cold roux to hot liquids). If both the roux and the liquid are hot, the mixture will clump up quickly and you’ll end up with lumps.
Now that you know how to make a roux, add it to pan drippings from roasts to create an easy gravy or sauce to complete a delicious dinner!
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