A Basic Sauce With Hundreds of Variations

Buttermilk biscuits with white gravy

Most folks associate white gravy with country breakfasts and comfort food – country fried steak, biscuits and gravy, chipped beef on toast, the list goes on. But white gravy has a lot more going for it than just Southern classics. The same white gravy your kids love to "sop up" with bread or whatever starch they have handy is based on the classic French sauce béchamel, which is simply milk thickened with white roux.

Using the basic white gravy recipe, you can build hundreds of classic French sauces, including Alfredo, mornay and mustard.

Total Time: 15 minutes | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Serves: 4


  • 2 tablespoons of fat (butter, or pork, bacon or chicken drippings all work)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Coarse ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter or fat in a skillet over medium heat. If pairing the gravy with meat, such as chicken or sausage, fry the meat first and use the rendered fat left in the pan. Add a little butter or vegetable oil if needed to increase the volume.
  2. Sprinkle the flour over the fat, and whisk until smooth and blond in color, about 3 to 4 minutes. Next, whisk in the milk, a few tablespoons at a time, until it's incorporated.
  3. Bring the the mixture to a simmer, whisking occasionally. Simmer the milk until it thickens and no traces of starch, which feel like tiny grains of sand on the tongue, remain.
  4. Season the gravy to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper before serving.


To make mornay sauce, add 1/2 cup of shredded Gruyère, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan and 1 tablespoon of butter. To make cream sauce, add 1/2 to 1 cup of cream and lemon juice and fresh herbs to taste. To make Welsh rarebit, add 1 cup shredded cheddar, a pinch of dried mustard and 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce.