We all have them: that list of kitchen skills or recipes that just intimidate us. And for the longest time, this was one of mine. Making a roux. Except that at the time I didn’t even know that word for it. I just knew it as “the white sauce that makes Alfredo”. (Even that was technically wrong.) And I avoided it because it seemed hard. And I will admit that this is definitely a “learn by doing” skill, but once you jump in, you too can make a roux! (I’m a poet.)
First off, what is a roux? A roux is a mixture of a fat and a thickener used as a base for a white sauce. This is where I was confused for the longest time – the roux is not actually the sauce. A white sauce is called a Béchamel. In my house, it’s pretty much synonymous with Alfredo or mac and cheese sauce, depending on the seasonings and the cheese used.
The most common combination for a roux is butter and flour, but since we’re mostly gluten free over here, we replace the flour with cornstarch, and cook it a little bit differently.
Now that you understand what a roux is, here’s how to make it and use it.
Melt your fat over medium heat. I usually use butter. Once that’s warm, add your thickener.
In my gluten free sauce recipes, I use cornstarch, and mix it with the broth in the next step to help it dissolve and not be clumpy. Regular recipes will use flour, and you’ll add it to the melted butter and stir to form a paste. Cook the flour and butter paste for about a minute, which cooks the grain in the flour and helps it taste less flour-y.
Add your broth, milk, and seasonings, and stir to combine. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the sauce thickens. Your sauce will go from runny and dripping to more of a slow oozing. This is the tricky part. If your pan isn’t hot enough, the sauce won’t thicken. If you don’t stir often enough, your flour or cornstarch will start to separate and form lumps. If you use too high of heat, you might burn the sauce or curdle the milk.
All of that sounds scary, and that’s why I was intimidated by this process for so long. But here’s the good news! If your pan isn’t hot enough, you’ll know because after a few minutes of stirring, you’ll still be standing there stirring. If you get lumps from not stirring enough, you can usually fix that by stirring quickly and constantly until they break up again. If you use too high of heat, you may have to start over. If you’re seeing a lot of bubbling, lower the heat and stir stir stir to save your sauce!
Turn the heat to low and add your cheese. Stir until that’s melted in, and you’re done! Sauce complete.
Here are a few roux recipes to try this out:
- Gluten Free Mac and Cheese
- Gluten Free Alfredo Sauce from Gimme Some Oven
- Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Quinoa
- Cheesy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole from Picky Palate (a similar gluten free version of this will be in my upcoming cookbook!)