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A good mornay sauce recipe is practically a life hack. Use this classic French cheese sauce to make perfect mac and cheese, dreamy nachos, fondue, gently indulgent eggs, fish, chicken, and more — or to encourage kids to eat their veggies.

mornay sauce recipe in a pot with a wooden spoon
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Why we love this recipe

Mornay sauce sounds fancy (and you’re welcome to lean into that presentation if you like). But in actuality it’s a super-simple, super-versatile element of a wide variety of recipes. Our version is:

  • Velvety, and just the right thickness
  • Packed with balanced flavor
  • Generous with the cheese
  • Easily adaptable, depending on how you plan to use it

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients in bowls
  • Gruyere instantly elevates a simple recipe with its umami-forward, nutty, slightly funky flavor. It’s a classic ingredient in this sauce. That said, see the variations section below for ways to vary this sauce depending on how you plan to use it.
  • Choose a good-quality, freshly grated parmesan cheese. It adds a ton of savoriness to the sauce.
  • Use whole milk to make a sauce that’s velvety but not overly rich.
  • A little bit of all-purpose flour thickens the sauce. To make this recipe gluten-free, substitute your favorite 1:1 GF baking blend or all-purpose GF blend, whichever you have on hand.
  • Use a really good-quality butter if you can. Here and virtually everywhere, I start with a cultured, salted butter from grass-fed cows. This sounds fancy but doesn’t have to be. Kerrygold, for example, is sold in most supermarkets at a reasonable price.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make this mornay sauce recipe. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. First you’ll melt the butter, then whisk in the flour and let it foam for 30 seconds or so.
  2. Pour in the milk and whisk well, then whisk in the seasonings.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about five minutes, until nice and thick.
  4. Off the heat, whisk in the cheeses. That’s it!

Suggested variations

  • For a kid-friendly mornay sauce, swap in extra-sharp cheddar for the gruyere
  • To make a cheese sauce for nachos, swap in 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar or 4 ounces cheddar and 4 ounces pepper jack for the entirety of the cheese
  • For a slightly tangier, richer version, stir in two tablespoons sour cream with the cheeses
  • Or experiment with your own blend of cheeses. As long as you choose flavorful cheeses that melt well, you really can’t go wrong.

Expert tips and FAQs

Where does mornay sauce come from?

Classical French cooking has five “mother sauces,” one of which is béchamel sauce. Mornay is a variation of béchamel that includes cheese.

Is this recipe vegetarian?

Both gruyere and Parmigiano Reggiano are traditionally produced with animal rennet, so if it’s important to you that this recipe be vegetarian, you’ll need to source vegetarian versions of those cheeses.

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

Mornay sauce is quick and easy to make, and it’s at its absolute best shortly after cooking — so I don’t go out of my way to make it in advance. That said, leftovers will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week. Reheat over very low heat on the stovetop or in the microwave. If it separates at, just give it a whisk and it should come back together. You can whisk in a tablespoon of cold milk if necessary.

More favorite flexible sauces

mornay sauce recipe in a small pitcher

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mornay sauce recipe in a pot with a wooden spoon
4.58 from 19 votes

Mornay Sauce Recipe

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
A good mornay sauce recipe is practically a life hack. Use this classic French cheese sauce to make perfect mac and cheese, dreamy nachos, gently indulgent eggs, fish, chicken, and more — or to encourage kids to eat their veggies.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
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Ingredients 

  • 4 tablespoons (56 grams) butter
  • ¼ cup (30 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (475 ml) whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 ounces (170 grams) gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 2 ounces (57 grams) parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions 

  • In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat.
  • Whisk in the flour and let bubble for about 30 seconds.
  • Pour in the milk and whisk until smooth.
  • Whisk in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne. Add bay leaf.
  • Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally to prevent scorching.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, until quite thick.
  • Off the heat, remove bay leaf. Stir in the gruyere and parmesan.
  • Whisk until completely melted.

Notes

  1. For kid-friendly mornay sauce, consider using extra-sharp cheddar instead of gruyere. For nachos, you can use extra-sharp cheddar or a combination of cheddar and pepper jack.
  2. Sometimes I go totally wild and stir in two tablespoons of sour cream along with the cheeses, for a little extra depth of flavor and creaminess.
  3. Mornay sauce is quick and easy to make, and it's at its absolute best shortly after cooking — so I don't go out of my way to make it in advance. That said, leftovers will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week. Reheat over very low heat on the stovetop or in the microwave. If it separates at, just give it a whisk and it should come back together. You can whisk in a tablespoon of cold milk if necessary.

Suggested variations

  • For a kid-friendly mornay sauce, swap in extra-sharp cheddar for the gruyere
  • To make a cheese sauce for nachos, swap in 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar or 4 ounces cheddar and 4 ounces pepper jack for the entirety of the cheese
  • For a slightly tangier, richer version, stir in two tablespoons sour cream with the cheeses
  • Or experiment with your own blend of cheeses. As long as you choose flavorful cheeses that melt well, you really can't go wrong.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 cup, Calories: 159kcal, Carbohydrates: 7g, Protein: 9g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 33mg, Sodium: 345mg, Sugar: 3g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Sauces and Condiments
Cuisine: French
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

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Carolyn Gratzer Cope Bio Photo

About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

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Recipe Rating




1 Comment

  1. 5 stars
    Good recipe. I add Greek yogurt for some tang, and the creaminess of the Gk Ygt compensates for 2% milk in lieu of whole milk.