Classic Mornay Sauce: Add Cheese for an Elevated Bechamel

I’m sure that some of you may be wondering what exactly a mornay sauce is, and how it’s made.

Vertical image of a spoonful of mornay sauce being poured slowly in a thin stream into an enameled gray and cream-colored saucepan containing more of the sauce below, on a gray background with visible steam rising from the pot, printed with orange and white text in the top third and at the bottom of the frame.

Let’s start with breaking down exactly what the recipe is. In my opinion, it’s actually a cooler version of the classic bechamel sauce. Basically, you make a bechamel, and then you add cheese to it.

I mean, cheese makes everything better anyway, am I right?

The ingredients are extremely straightforward. You just need flour, milk, butter, salt, white pepper, and cheese. That’s it, and you likely have most if not all of these kitchen staples on hand already, so that’s a pretty easy place to start.

Vertical image of a spoonful of thick mornay sauce being drizzled into a glass jar of more of the same below, on a navy blue surface with a folded and gathered white cloth, against a gray background.

I know the name and the fact that it is a French recipe could totally be seen as something fancy, and a little scary to make.

Trust me, when I first got into French cooking in my grandma’s kitchen, I was confused beyond belief.

However, mornay sauce is one of those recipes that couldn’t be simpler to make. All you really need to do is keep an eye on it as it cooks, to ensure it doesn’t overcook (more on that later).

Other than that, you can have this creamy and velvety goodness in just 15 minutes.

Vertical overhead image of a hand holding a spoonful of mornay sauce over a gray and cream-colored enameled saucepan on top of a wrinkled white cloth, on a navy blue surface.

My biggest tip for cooking this recipe is to make sure you make the roux properly. Here are my top tips for making the best roux:

  • Make sure that the roux is clump free. This can be avoided by whisking the melted butter and flour together well as it cooks.
  • Don’t let the roux get too brown. This will impact the texture as well as the color (it’s not a gravy, after all). The butter and flour can burn in a matter of seconds, so make sure you don’t walk away from the stove when you start the roux.

This recipe can be used in so many different ways. As soon as you try it once, you’ll want to make it again and again and again.

I love to stir this sauce into soft scrambled eggs for breakfast. You can also pour it over chicken, fish, or vegetables. You can even use it to make a creamy homemade macaroni and cheese.

I’ve used this recipe in my baking as well, to make savory treats like these sausage cheese biscuits. And you can also add this creamy goodness to your favorite casseroles.

Vertical image of a small mason jar filled with mornay sauce with a spoonful of the same dripping into the jar to show how thick the sauce is, beside a folded and gathered white cloth to the right, on a navy blue surface.

Traditionally, this recipe is made with gruyere cheese. It’s a flavorful cheese with a hit of salt that helps to flavor the sauce.

But you have options.

Depending on what kind of flavor profile you’re looking for, from mild to wild, any cheese that melts smoothly can be used to create this sauce.

You can also use white cheddar cheese, for example. Personally, I like to use sharp white cheddar, especially for making macaroni and cheese, or for saucing steamed broccoli. Yum!

Parmesan cheese would also work well, for a milder sauce with a touch of Italian flair. And a combo could be nice to create something entirely new. Go see what you have in the fridge, and let’s get started.

You are going to fall in love with this sauce after the first taste. Once you’ve mastered the simple technique, don’t be surprised if you find yourself making it at least once a week.

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Horizontal overhead image of a spoonful of white mornay sauce being held over a glass jar holding more of the same, on a navy blue surface with a gathered white cloth arranged around the jar.

Classic Mornay Sauce


  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Approx. 2 cups

Description

What’s even better than a classic French bechamel? When you add cheese to it and make a creamy mornay sauce instead.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk, warmed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 2 oz grated Gruyere cheese (or cheddar)

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once melted, whisk in flour to make a roux. Continue to whisk the mixture until the roux is pale yellow and frothy, about 1 minute. Don’t let the roux brown.
  2. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Continue to cook, whisking throughout, until the sauce thickens and is boiling, about 2 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer. Stir in salt and pepper. Simmer for about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. At this point, you have made a bechamel.
  4. Stir in cheese and whisk until it is completely melted.
  5. Serve immediately.
  6. If not using immediately, cool and cover the surface with plastic wrap for storage. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

  • Category: Sauces
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: French

Keywords: mornay sauce, cheese sauce, gruyere, cheddar, French

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Grate Cheese, Warm Milk, and Measure Remaining Ingredients

Grate 2 ounces of Gruyere or white cheddar, or your choice of cheese.

In a small saucepan over low heat, gently warm the milk, stirring occasionally.

Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.

Step 2 – Make a Roux

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter.

Horizontal closely cropped overhead image of a cream-colored enameled saucepan with melted butter and a pile of all-purpose flour at the bottom, on a navy blue surface with white streaks.

Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Whisk the mixture constantly until the roux is pale yellow in color and frothy. This will take about one minute.

Horizontal overhead image of a wire whisk with a sky blue handle stirring a yellow roux in the bottom of a cream-colored enameled saucepan, on a navy blue background.

Be sure not to let the roux brown. Though brown roux that has been cooked longer is a starter that’s used to prepare various recipes, you want to use a light-colored one here. The goal is to coat the flour in fat, and you want it to be cooked lightly without browning.

Step 3 – Make Sauce

Slowly pour in the milk while whisking constantly. Cook, whisking the whole time, until the mixture thickens and boils. This will take about 2 minutes.

Horizontal overhead image of a gray and cream-colored saucepan resting on a patterned dark blue surface, with a wire whisk with a sky blue handle stirring a thick white liquid.

Reduce heat to a simmer. Stir in salt and pepper. Allow to simmer, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. At this stage, you have created a bechamel.

Overhead image of a wire whisk with a sky blue handle stirring grated gruyere cheese into a cream-colored saucepan of thick, white liquid, on a dark gray-blue surface.

Stir in the cheese, and whisk the mixture until it has melted completely and the sauce is smooth.

Horizontal overhead image of a wire whisk with a sky blue handle, stirring a thick, white sauce in a cream-colored enameled saucepan, on a navy blue surface with gray streaks.

Serve immediately.

What If I Have Some Left Over?

I don’t know how you would end up with leftovers, but just in case you do, or if you are making the sauce ahead of time, you can definitely store it for later.

First, let the sauce come to room temperature. Then you can store it in the refrigerator in a bowl covered with plastic wrap, or in a resealable jar.

You can also freeze the sauce in an airtight container if desired.

To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and then place in a small pan over low heat. Stir occasionally until creamy and smooth again, and heat through.

Horizontal overhead image of a spoonful of white mornay sauce being held over a glass jar holding more of the same, on a navy blue surface with a gathered white cloth arranged around the jar.

Sauces really make any recipe better, so be sure to check out these other recipes for inspiration:

How will you use this creamy and cheesy mornay recipe? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to rate this recipe when you try it.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

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