Vegan Béchamel Sauce

Traditional béchamel is a white sauce of butter, flour and milk that helps bind the components of scores of Italian dishes: lasagna, gratins, timballo, succulent compounds of meat, cheese and vegetables.  This vegan version is a smooth, luxuriantly creamy béchamel which is one of the most useful preparations for any cook, if you follow three simple rules. First, never allow the flour to become colored when you cook it with the oil or it will taste pasty and burnt. Next, add the milk to the flour and oil mixture gradually and off heat to keep lumps from forming. Finally, never let the sauce boil too long or the starch granules will burst and the sauce will eventually split.  I prefer using soy milk in my preparation because it is higher in fat content.  Yield:  about 500 ml.

  • 500 ml. non-dairy milk
  • 50 grams olive oil
  • 45 grams flour
  • 10 grams rice flour
  • sea salt to season
  • freshly ground nutmeg to season
  • Put the non-dairy milk in a saucepan and heat over medium-low until just on the verge of boiling.
  • While heating the milk, put the oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and heat over medium.
  • Mix the two flours together and add them to the warm oil while whisking.
  • Continue to whisk the mixture for a couple of minutes, then slowly add the warmed milk while continuing to whisk.
  • Season with salt and freshly ground nutmeg and cook over low heat for 30 minutes until the sauce is smooth and relatively thick.
  • Remove from the heat and strain into a clean container. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the sauce and cool completely (this prevents a skin from forming on the sauce) or use right away.

Jack’s Fresh Tip

Béchamel takes so little time to prepare it is best to make it just when you need it so you can spread it easily while it is still soft. If you need to make it in advance, reheat it slowly in a double-boiler while stirring until it is once again supple and spreadable. You can also make a nice gluten-free vegan version by combining 50 gr. olive oil with 60 gr. rice flour. Use 5 dl. rice milk to maintain the gluten-free aspect of the sauce. Follow the same procedure as below.  I also like to flavor béchamel with onion. Just cut up one onion and add it to the sauce after all the milk is added. The flavor of the onion is lovely in the sauce. Try using soy or oat milk because they are relatively neutral in flavor…but, please make sure your non-dairy milk is unsweetened!

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