Mornay sauce is a classic creamy sauce, enriched with plenty of cheese! Delicious as the base for au gratin dishes or mac and cheese, having this variation on bechamel, one of the culinary mother sauces, in your repertoire will up your cooking game instantly. Better yet, it’s super easy to make, and have I mentioned how rich and delicious it is?
About This Recipe
What is a mornay sauce? Essentially, it’s a bechamel sauce with cheese. Ok, so then, what’s a bechamel? It’s one of the “five mother sauces” from which basically all other French sauces are born. Think of them like primary colors! You can read more about each of the five sauces in this article.
I started making Julia Child’s version of bechamel back in college, and my love for it has only grown. It’s so simple – butter, flour, whole milk, some seasonings – and it creates such a rich, creamy sauce. Mornay sauce builds on that bechamel base and incorporates delicious cheeses into the mix.
What Makes This Recipe So Good
- Did I mention it’s incredibly simple? The actual mornay-sauce-process is a little more hands-on than some of my other recipes, but I promise, it’s WORTH IT. You’ll be whisking pretty much the whole time, but everything moves pretty quickly.
- It’s incredibly versatile! Use it as a base for potatoes au gratin; coat broccoli, green beans, or asparagus with it; incorporate it into your favorite version of mac & cheese; fill crepes with it; pour it over your eggs… You can’t go wrong with a mornay!
- The leftovers are just as good as the fresh mornay! Store any leftover mornay sauce in an airtight container in the fridge and it’ll keep up to 5 days. You can reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop. Add a little more whole milk if needed to thin it back out.
Whole Milk – Bechamel is traditionally made with whole milk, which means mornay sauce is, too. Whole milk just makes the sauce really deliciously creamy. We haven’t tested it with a lighter milk or a non-dairy milk alternative, so if you try it, be sure to let me know in the comments how it turns out!
Roux – If you’ve ever had gumbo, you know good things start with a roux. It’s a simple mixture of melted fat (in this case, butter) and flour that forms a sort of paste which thickens sauces and soups. It’s key to a mornay sauce, so don’t skip this part!
Cheese – Whichever cheese or combo you decide to use, I strongly encourage you to purchase a wedge or block of fresh cheese and grate it yourself. Prepackaged, pre-grated cheeses include fillers and anti-clumping agents that can prevent the cheese from melting well and might make the sauce grainy.
- For an extra kick of flavor and spice, add a pinch of cayenne to the mixture when you add the nutmeg.
- Mornay sauce should be pretty thick, but if it’s too thick for your liking, thin it out by whisking in small amounts of whole milk until you’ve reached your perfect consistency. If you thin it too much, you can thicken it again by adding in more cheese or by creating another roux (in another saucepan) and incorporating it into the sauce.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat before you add in the shredded cheese! If the mixture’s too hot, the cheese will clump and seize. To ensure a really smooth mornay sauce, take the saucepan off the heat and slowly whisk in the cheese in increments, making sure it’s fully melted before adding more.
- The roux and the milk should both be hot when you combine them. If one is too cool, they won’t incorporate as well. You’ll want to be a little quick creating the roux so the milk doesn’t cool too much off the heat.
Other Sauces You Have to Try
- Classic Pomodoro Sauce
- Au Jus Recipe
- Microwave Hollandaise Sauce
- Béarnaise Sauce Recipe
- Honey Mustard Yogurt Sauce
- 2 cups whole milk
- ¼ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour use gluten-free if needed
- pepper to taste
- ½ cup grated cheese Gruyere, Swiss, Parmesan, or a combination of the 3; at room temperature; see Notes
- 1 pinch nutmeg optional but recommended
- 2 tablespoons butter cut into 4-8 pieces
- Small saucepan
- heavy bottomed saucepan
- In small saucepan, add 2 cups of milk and ¼ teaspoon salt. Whisk together and heat mixture until just boiling, stirring constantly. When mixture starts to boil, remove saucepan from heat and set aside.
- In heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over low heat. Once melted, blend in flour and cook slowly over low heat, stirring continuously until mixture becomes a white roux, without any browning.
- Remove saucepan from heat. When roux stops bubbling, pour in all of hot milk and immediately begin whisking roux and milk vigorously. Be sure to get all roux from sides, bottom, and edges of saucepan.
- Once combined, return saucepan to heat and raise heat to medium. Stir until sauce starts to boil. Boil mixture, still stirring, for 1 minute.
- Remove saucepan from heat and add additional salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in grated cheese until cheeses are completely melted and blended into sauce completely.
- Season with nutmeg and additional salt and pepper, if needed. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter until butter is completely melted and sauce is well-blended. Serve sauce warm.
- Cheese: Whichever cheese or combo you decide to use, I encourage you to purchase a wedge or block of fresh cheese and grate it yourself. Prepackaged, pre-grated cheeses include fillers and anti-clumping agents that can prevent the cheese from melting well and might make the sauce grainy.
- To ensure a really smooth mornay sauce, take the saucepan off the heat and slowly whisk in the room-temperature cheese in increments, making sure it’s fully melted before adding more.
- The roux and the milk should both be hot when you combine them. If one is too cool, they won’t incorporate as well and may end up clumpy. You’ll want to be a little quick creating the roux so the milk doesn’t cool too much off the heat.
- Make it Gluten Free: Use gluten-free flour for the roux.
Number of total servings shown is approximate. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes.
Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using the ingredients listed, not including any optional ingredients. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used.
To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by the desired number of servings. Result will be the weight of one serving.