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Roux vs. Bechamel vs. Mornay

roux bechamel mornay

If there’s one thing that’s true about SoupAddict—aside from the fact that she loves soup. And bacon—it’s that she doesn’t stand on ceremony. No, no, there’s no ceremony-standin’ in SoupAddict’s life. She dabbles recklessly with other people’s proven recipes. She speaks in run-on sentences, usually to herself. She starts carrot seeds indoors for transplanting outdoors when all conventional wisdom says not to. She ends sentences with prepositions.

No, there’s nothing formal about SoupAddict whatsoever. Especially in the kitchen. Years ago, if you had asked SoupAddict to explain the difference between a Béchamel and a Mornay, she would’ve answered, “Well, Beckhamel is a British soccer player, and mornay is an eel.” [And then she’d mentally add, ‘Idiot,’ to the end of her answer and return to playing Burgertime on Intellivision.]

Those were innocent days. But since then, SoupAddict has acquired herself some of that thar knowledge, gleaned from book learnin’ and the Interwebs. And now, God help us all, she not only knows what Béchamel and Mornay actually are, but she can prepare and pronounce them properly. Observe:

Béchamel: BEH-sheh-mel
Mornay: more-NAY

[SoupAddict will pause while you mentally express how impressed you are by SoupAddict’s gleaned knowledge.]

“Roux,” by the way, is pronounced “roo,” as in rue, not “rux,” as in Teddy Ruxpin Bear.

But however you pronounce them—and, really, SoupAddict doesn’t care, because she’s not a ceremony-standin’ type of girl—they are the building blocks of French cuisine and many a delicious dish, including thick soups and macaroni and cheese. And they’re scads easier to make than pronounce.

roux bechamel mornay

A basic roux is super easy. Two steps, if you don’t count stirring as a step. One: melt butter (or other fat) over medium heat.

roux bechamel mornay

Two: add same amount of flour as butter. Allow to cook for a bit while stirring to remove the raw flour flavor.

roux bechamel mornay

Done. Add to your soup, sauce or gravy, and watch the thickening goodness begin.

roux bechamel mornay

Now on to the Béchamel (also known as white sauce). Start with the roux. Add a splash of warmed or scalded milk, cream or half-and-half.

roux bechamel mornay

Stir to form a thick paste, completely incorporating the roux.

roux bechamel mornay

Add more dairy.

roux bechamel mornay

Stir some more. You’re adding the dairy in small batches so that the thickened sauce will form faster than it would by just dumping all of the dairy in at once.

roux bechamel mornay

When the sauce is thick but creamy and bubbling, add salt and pepper. Stir. Done.

roux bechamel mornay

To make a Mornay, start with the Béchamel, stir in grated cheese until melted. Done.

Traditional Mornays use Gruyère and Parmesan, but, really, the sky’s the limit. That’s SoupAddict’s philosophy. Gruyère and havarti and/or sharp white cheddar is a particularly favorite combination.

roux bechamel mornay

SoupAddict used white cheeses for this demonstration, so the sauce is white (not orange), but make no mistake, this is some delicious cheese sauce. No matter how it’s pronounced.

The thickness of the sauce is a direct result of the proportion of flour to liquids. A medium-thick sauce consists of 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons flour to 1 cup of dairy. Use more flour/fat to create a thicker sauce.

Other delicious additives:

To the Roux:

  • minced onions*
  • rendered bacon fat (replacing part or all of the butter)
  • clarified butter (instead of regular butter)

To the Béchamel:

  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • white pepper
  • dried ground mustard
  • prepared dijon mustard
  • dry sherry
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • whole cloves*
  • bay leaf*

To the Mornay:

  • Worchestershire sauce
  • beer
  • egg yolk

*Note: when adding any ingredient that will not dissolve into or mix completely with the sauce, make sure you strain the sauce through a sieve at the end of the Béchamel stage to remove any solids.


Wednesday 10th of November 2021

Remember: Ingredients for a Roux are roughly equal amounts of a fat and a starch by WEIGHT, not volume. That's why it looks like you have to add so much more flour/ starch than the butter/ fat. The reason you do the flour/starch and butter/ fat mixture first, before the milk etc. is you need to cook the flour/starch long enough to get rid of the starchy taste, usually at least 60 seconds after it comes to a "boil". ( Corn starch, Tapioca starch and Potato starch cook in just over a minute; flour can take a bit longer.) After that, the amount you brown it increases flavour, but reduces the thickening power of the roux.


Sunday 5th of May 2013

So other than adding additional milk, what's the difference between bechamel and what is esse ntially gravy for biscuits?

Lemon Cream Sauce Pasta Topped with Basil and Roma Tomatoes « Hamburger Eats Me!

Saturday 30th of July 2011

[...] a step-by-step breakdown of making a roux, bechamel or mornay sauce? Read this very informative article! all it needed was a glass of [...]


Wednesday 7th of April 2010

Technically, it still can be called a roux frosting: it's a roux with milk and sugar. I do understand your point, though. I suppose we can chalk it up to language being a very inexact science. ;)

The very first recipe I ever saw for creating a roux involved boiling milk and adding flour to it, then add the butter after it starts to thicken. That is definitely not my personal preference for making a (non-frosting) roux, as I like the flour to brown up a little bit, before moving on to the bechamel stage. But for frosting, big thumbs-up!

Carter Wall

Wednesday 7th of April 2010

This is a useful discussion. I too am not doctrinaire. I understand bechamel as a type of roux to which milk is added. ditto white sauce. but what do you call a sauce that starts with flour and milk (no fat yet) and is thickened in a saucepan before adding other ingredients? I have a cooked frosting recipe that starts that way, and it is called a roux frosting, but that can't be right.