Gluten-Free White Sauce Recipe

Updated September 1, 2022
Bechamel sauce in a pan and ingredients horizontal top view

Recipes that call for white sauce don't have to be off-limits for people who don't eat gluten. Once you know how to prepare the recipe below, you'll be able to easily tweak any recipe that includes white sauce for a gluten-free way of eating. It can be served as a sauce on its own or used as a substitute in recipes that use any kind of savory white sauce as a base.

This versatile and easy-to-make gluten-free recipe will help you make your everyday meals more of a culinary adventure. It works just as well in elegant recipes that call for béchamel sauce as it does in comfort food casseroles that start with a cream-based soup mix. Whether you are cooking for yourself or the entire family, this gluten-free white sauce gives you the foundation for many tasty meals.

Gluten-Free White Sauce Recipe

The basic recipe white sauce recipe below is a staple item that you can use to make a quick meal or a fancy dinner. There are two sets of instructions provided. Both produce similar results. In the basic version, ingredients are added to the saucepan one at a time. In the cornstarch paste version, you will make a paste with some of the milk and the cornstarch in a separate container before you start working on the stove.

Ingredients

The key to making a gluten-free white sauce is the thickening agent. Rather than using flour, cornstarch provides a gluten-free alternative. This recipe requires only a few basic staple items.

  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 cups of whole milk (or 2%)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)

Step-by-Step Instructions: Basic Version

For this version, start by heating a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat.

  1. Melt the butter in the heavy saucepan.
  2. Add the milk in a steady stream, stirring constantly with a whisk until well blended with the butter.
  3. Add the cornstarch, continuing to stir constantly with a whisk to avoid lumps.
  4. Once the cornstarch is thoroughly combined and lump-free, turn the heat down to low.
  5. Continue simmering over low heat until heated through, which will probably take about three minutes. Stir periodically.
  6. Check the consistency.
    • If you want a thinner sauce, stir in a bit more milk. Start with just a small amount, adding more as needed to get the thickness you want.
    • If you want a thicker sauce, stir in a bit more cornstarch. Start by stirring in 1/4 teaspoon, then re-evaluating to see if more is needed.
  7. Season by adding salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Simmer until heated through.

Step-by-Step Instructions: Cornstarch Paste Version

You'll have an extra dish to wash if you follow this version, but you may find it easier to eliminate lumps this way.

  1. Put 1/2 cup of milk in a bowl or tall measuring cup.
  2. Whisk the cornstarch into the milk a little at a time. Whisk until totally combined (with no lumps) before adding more. This will form a cornstarch paste.
  3. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat.
  4. Once the butter is melted, pour in 1 1/2 cups of milk.
  5. Whisk in the milk, stirring constantly until well combined.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Whisk the cornstarch paste into the mixture in the pan a little at a time, stirring constantly until thoroughly mixed (and lump-free!)
  8. Continually check the consistency as you are adding the cornstarch paste. If the sauce reaches the level of thickness you want, stop adding the paste.
  9. If it turns out that the sauce is thicker than you like, stir in a small amount of milk to thin it.
  10. Simmer until heated through.

Recipe Variations

Use this sauce in any recipes that call for white sauce, or get creative by creating your own concoctions. The basic recipe is just the beginning; you can vary the flavor by adding additional ingredients. Examples include:

Add Sautéed Vegetables

Kick the flavor up a notch by stirring some tasty sautéed vegetables into the white sauce. Particularly flavorful additions include sautéed mushrooms, onions, shallots, or garlic. Mirepoix, which is a combination of sautéed diced onion, carrots, and celery, also tastes great stirred into this sauce.

Season With Herbs

Bechamel sauce in a wooden spoon

Fresh herbs and spices can also make tasty additions to white sauce, with or without sautéed vegetables. They can also add some pleasant specks of colors for a lovely presentation at the dinner table. For example, if you are serving white sauce with salmon, season the sauce with dill and tarragon. If you're serving it with Italian roast beef, use a combination of parsley, rosemary, and sage. For classic béchamel sauce, sprinkle nutmeg on top.

Add Shredded Cheese

Add cheese to the basic sauce recipe to create a tasty gluten-free cheese sauce. You can use cheddar, Colby, Swiss, or whatever combinations of cheeses you prefer for your own unique flavor. Add the cheese at the end; stir well to completely melt the cheese. Stir it into gluten-free pasta to make mac and cheese or use it to top roasted or sautéed veggies.

Ways to Use White Sauce in Gluten-Free Cooking

This versatile sauce recipe makes it easy to put together a delicious entree or side dish quickly and easily. Simple additions turn this ordinary gluten-free white sauce into a gourmet meal. A few examples of what you can do with it include:

  • Fish served with white sauce flavored with dill and lemon zest
  • Chicken topped with a white sauce seasoned with sautéed mushrooms and onion with a sprinkling of fresh thyme
  • Pork topped with a white sauce seasoned with parsley and sage
  • Broccoli and cauliflower topped with white sauce that has shredded cheddar cheese mixed in
  • Chicken with white sauce that has a dab of Dijon mustard and tarragon stirred in

Gluten-Free White Sauce Nutrition

Nutrition details vary based on serving size. If you eat 1/4 of this recipe, based on the listed ingredients you will consume 109 calories, 6.9 grams of fat, 8.1 grams of carbohydrate, and 3.9 grams of protein. Of course, if you are using the white sauce you make in a recipe, you'll also need to consider the nutrition information for all of the other ingredients. Bon apetit!

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Gluten-Free White Sauce Recipe