All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Howaito soosu / bechamel sauce

A basic bechamel sauce for many gratin and lasagna dishes.

Made with whole milk:
731 calories (whole recipe); 24.4 g protein; 45.1 g fat; 55.1 g carbohydrate; 52.8 g net carbs; 552 mg sodium (259 mg sodium when made without salt); 129 mg cholesterol; 2.3 g fiber

Made with soy milk:
647 calories (whole recipe); 29.9 g protein; 36.0 g fat; 47.7 g carbohydrate; 44.0 g net carbs; 312 mg sodium (19 mg sodium when made without salt); 55 mg cholesterol; 3.7 g fiber


(yields approx. 300-400 cc bechamel sauce)

600 cc milk or additive-free tonyu soy milk (see Notes)
5-6 cloves garlic
25 g butter
2 tbsp + 2 tsp (about 25 g) flour
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
Pepper to taste (not in photo)


Peel garlic, wrap in foil, and bake at 375 F/190 C for 15 minutes.

Mash to paste.
Set aside.


Meanwhile, heat milk (drinkable temperature is fine), either in a pot or by microwaving for 2+ minutes.


In a pot or shallow pan, melt butter on low heat.

Sift flour, and stir in quickly.

When butter-flour mixture starts to bubble, pour hot milk, a small amount at first, and stir to incorporate well, gradually adding remaining milk.

Raise heat to medium, and cook until somewhat thick, about 10-15 minutes. Whisk occasionally to prevent it from sticking to bottom of pot.

When sauce is the consistency of thin heavy cream, lower heat to medium low, and continue cooking until consistency is like very loose pancake batter, another 10-15 minutes or so.


Add salt and pepper, and mix well.  

Add garlic paste, and mix well.

Cover and cool.

  • Heating milk ensures a smooth sauce. Pouring cold milk tends to result in lumps.
  • Sauce at the end can be pretty loose. It will thicken as it cools.
  • If you thicken the sauce too much, simply add milk.
  • Covering while cooling is to prevent a film from forming on the surface. 
  • Sauce freezes well.
  • Use a shallow pan, such as a frying pan to expedite the process.
  • If sauce is used with seafood or made with soy milk, lemon zest (of 1 large lemon) is a nice addition (add at the end). It enhances the flavor of seafood and makes the bean taste less obvious when soy milk is used.
  • Adding garlic is optional.  
  • If using soy milk, select the one made of soybeans and water only. Store-bought soy milk in the US usually contains salt and sugar (and flavors, even when labeled as "plain"), and its sodium content averages around 100 mg per 240 cc (soy milk made of soybeans and water contain only 3 mg sodium per 240 cc). Additive-free soy milk probably is available at Asian grocery stores in the US. In Japan, look for soy milk that says 成分無調整 [lit. ingredients not adjusted], which implies soybeans and water are the only ingredients and there are no additives such as sweetener and oil. 

(Last updated: June 29, 2015)

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