Have you ever struggled with making a good bechamel sauce?
More often than not, I have.
In search of the perfect technique for making a good white sauce, I realized I needed to master something called ‘Roux’. A french term which is pronounced as ‘RU’ or ‘ROO’.
In simple terms, Roux is a smooth, uniform cooked paste obtained by mixing equal parts of flour and fat on low to medium heat. Roux is added to sauces, stews, soups, gravies, and casseroles to thicken and make them creamier. Roux also adds a toasted nutty flavor to some stews.
Roux originated in France, and it forms the base for four out of the five Mother Sauces of French Cooking. It is widely used in Continental cuisine. Many American cooking styles such as Cajun and Creole heavily use Roux to thicken dishes such as gumbo and etouffee. Japanese use it as a base for their famous Japanese curry sauce.
What is the purpose of roux?
Roux thickens and imparts a creaminess to the sauce or stew.
When flour and fat are cooked together, the fat coats the starch granules in the flour. This process avoids the formation of lumps when milk or stock is added, giving a uniform sauce when making soups or stews.
In recipes such as making pasta sauces, it allows the addition of more fat such as cheese and cream to the sauce without curdling.
A good roux binds all the ingredients in a homogenous mix to get a smooth consistency and makes the dish super delicious.
How important is Roux in sauces?
Roux is one of the essential elements of a good sauce. It forms the basis of the texture and flavor of the sauce. A roux can make or break your sauce.
Essentials of a good roux:
- Roux should not be lumpy.
- Flour should not be uncooked.
- Fat and flour should not overpower each other.
- It should be cooked evenly.
- It should not taste burnt or charred.
- While cooking the paste should be a little fluffy and not flat. This ensures proper cooking of flour in the fat.
Perfecting the roux is essential as this determines the quality of your sauce.
How do you make a roux – Step by step?
Starting a roux is simple and easy. Anyone who has some basic knowledge of cooking can make a roux.
Here are the steps to make a roux:
- Melt 1 part butter or any fat of your choice in a saucepan on low to medium heat.
- Add 1 part flour to the saucepan.
- Keep stirring continuously and vigorously for 3 minutes until you get a light and fluffy paste.
This uniform and smooth paste is called ‘roux’. It is white so it is also called ‘white roux’. Roux can be added to your recipes or cooked further into a sauce by adding milk or broth.
What is the ratio of butter to flour in a Roux?
Generally, the ratio of butter to flour used in a roux is 1:1. Incorporating this ratio ensures that the roux has a good thickening capacity, and the flour will impart a nutty flavor and make the dish creamier. This is ideally what you would want your roux to do.
However, some cooks prefer a ratio of 2 parts of butter to 1 part of the flour. Using this ratio has its pros and cons.
- Helps in evenly cooking the flour.
- Also, you do not have to fear the flour getting burned or charred.
- This ratio will result in a more pasty and flowy roux.
- Beginners will find it very easy to use this ratio.
- This will not thicken the sauces as required. Since it has a lesser thickening capacity as the ratio of flour is reduced.
- It might do well in soups and chowders, but not in sauces or pies where a thickened base is required.
How thick should a roux be?
A roux shouldn’t be too thin or drippy. It should be the consistency of the sauce. The right consistency is when it coats the back of a spoon.
If the roux is thick:
- Add about one to two tablespoons of butter, oil, or fat.
- Add half to one cup of pasta water.
If the roux seems thin you can:
- add more flour.
- add more cheese to the sauce so it thickens.
Which recipes use roux?
Roux can be used in the following recipes to enhance their texture, and creaminess to make them more delicious.
Here is a list of a few roux-based recipes in various categories that taste delicious.
- Soups: Soups that are popular: Broccoli cream soup, Lobster Bisque, Potato soup, and bean roux soup.
- Sauces: Arrabbiata Sauce, Hunters sauce, Cheese sauce, burgundy sauce, port wine sauce. You can also see the next section which lists the various roux-based sauces.
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Chowders: Chicken and corn chowder and clam chowder are some popular chowders that make use of roux.
- Gratin: potato au gratin and cauliflower gratin are some popular gratins.
- Lasagna: lasagna incorporates both based on bechamel sauce and tomato-based sauce which are roux based.
Here are a few Roux-based sauces.
The sauce is essentially a liquid that is thickened. There are three types of thickening techniques used – emulsion, reduction, and addition of Roux. Roux originated in France and thus has played a very significant role in French cooking. In fact, three of the five mother sauces of French cooking are based on the roux.
The three sauces based on Roux are:
- Bechamel – A basic white sauce made with roux. Herbs are added to the same to create variations. Alfredo Sauce, Mornay Sauce, Cream Sauce, Soubise Sauce, Cheese Sauce, Nantua Sauce, and Avignon Sauce are all created from Bechamel Sauce,
- Espagnole – In essence, Espagnole is a brown sauce. There are also variations for the same sauces such as Bordelaise Sauce, Hunters Sauce, Madeira Sauce, Mushroom Sauce, Burgundy Sauce, port wine sauce, etc. are all based on Brown Sauce.
- Sauce Tomat – It’s the basic version of a tomato sauce thickened with roux. Variations for the same include marinara Sauce, arrabbiata sauce, puttanesca sauce, pomodorina sauce, bolognese sauce, etc.
Which fats can be used to make a roux?
Chicken fat, duck fat, pork fat, beef fat, butter, clarified butter, oil, lard, and bacon grease are used to make the roux.
Which fat to choose from depends on how long your roux needs to be cooked and what is the desired color. Butter is traditionally and most commonly used.
Can you make a roux with margarine?
Roux can be made with any fat hence margarine can be used to make the roux. However, it is not recommended as some margarine behaves very similar to butter. But, some low-fat varieties have water to reduce the fat percentages, which makes the roux difficult.
Can you make a roux with oil?
Roux can be made with any fat. Since vegetable oils are pure fat are very widely used to cook the roux. The most recommended oils to make roux are olive oil, peanut oil, corn oil, canola oil, and sunflower oil.
Flavored oils such as sesame, coconut, and mustard have a high smoke point and also have a strong flavor so they wouldn’t be ideal for something like gumbo or cream-based sauces.
However, oil is not recommended for white roux the preferred choice is always butter.
How many types of Roux are there?
There are 12 colors of roux in total and each is named according to its shade. However, there are four main varieties which are the most popular are – white, blonde, brown, and dark brown.
Each shade of roux has its characteristics.
Let’s look at the table below to understand it well.
|Type of Roux
|Cooking Time (minutes)
|Type of Fat Used
|2 – 5 minutes
|Neutral, you won’t be able to smell the flour
|Chowders and milk-based sauces such as Bechamel, White Sauce, and Mornay Sauce
|5 – 10 minutes
|Butter or oil
|Veloutés such as Chicken, Bisque, or Creamy Soups. Milk-based sauces, pie fillings
|20 – 30 minutes
|Oil or Animal Fats
|Sauces such as Espagnole and Demi-glace, Seafood Velouté such as Oyster, and Bisque such as Lobster. Creamy Soups, and Gratin.
|30 – 40 minutes
|Oil or Animal Fats
|Stews, Gumbo and Jambalaya
How to make a roux for Stew?
Making a roux for stew would require you to start a roux by adding 1 part flour to 1 part fat cooked over low to medium heat for a period of 30 – 45 minutes. The time taken to make a dark roux varies depending on the heat which is used to cook the roux.
Steps to make a dark roux for stew:
- Take a heavy bottom pan on low to medium heat.
- Add 1 part of any oil or animal fat and melt.
- Add in 1 part of the flour.
- Cook stirring continuously for 30 to 45 minutes till a dark brown color is achieved.
Since a stew requires a dark roux the fat used to make a stew would be plant–based oils or animal fats which have higher smoke points. Dark Roux is generally made for gumbo recipes and dark stew and sauces.
What type of flour is best for roux?
The best flour for roux is all-purpose flour. Whole wheat flour will not give the sauce a smooth texture compared to all-purpose flour. Other flours such as Self-raising flours which are generally used for making cake or bread can be used. However, it is not recommended to use these flours as they contain salt and leavening agents such as baking powder which affect the floor of roux.
Other flours that can be Substituted to make a Roux are :
Buckwheat Flour: This flour works very similarly to wheat flour to make a roux. It has a good thickening capacity and can be used in a 1:1 ratio.
Quinoa Flour: Quinoa flour is used in making bread, brownies, cookies, pancakes, pizzas, smoothies, and sous. The flour also works well in making a roux. Also, quinoa has a little bitter taste thus a little less should be used for making the roux.
Millet Flours: Millets are sure nutritious and easy to digest as well as gluten-free. Millets such as Finger Millet, Foxtail Millet, Pearl Millet, Little Millet, and Barnyard Millet are all converted to flours. They are generally mixed with a combination of flours. A detailed study on how gluten-free flours can also be used as thickeners can give us a better understanding of the same.
Amaranth Flour: It works extremely well in place of flour as a thickener. Thus, it can be used to make the roux. Also, surprisingly it has a better taste and is more nutritive than flour. It can also be used for soups and other recipes that use flour as a thickener.
Almond Flour: Almond flour works well to make a roux. Since most nut flours do not impart thickness due to the presence of proteins. Thus, Almond flour will not thicken the sauce as much as you will expect it to
Oat Flour: Oat Flour is a very good substitute for wheat flour to make the roux. It works very much like wheat flour and will make your recipes thick, creamy and smooth.
Chickpea Flour: Chickpea flour is also known as gram flour. It works well to make a roux. Instead of using other starches finely ground chickpea flour can be used to thicken gravies and sous. It has the power to absorb liquids without forming lumps. It will impart a slight buttery taste.
Coconut Flour: Coconut flour has become very popular due to its many benefits, It can also be used to make a roux. However, like almond flour, it will not thicken the sauce and soups as much.
Listed above are a few flours that are being used to make a roux. If you are an enthusiast and would try these different flours another recommendation would be to try a mix of flours. Sprouted wheat flour could also be good as it has many health benefits. Ancient grain flours such as Spelt and Farro can also be tried as they are also wheat flours and will have similar properties to wheat.
Can you make a roux without flour?
Roux can be made without the traditional choice of flour which is all-purpose flour. However, it will not taste the same. Gluten-free alternatives include sweet rice flour, cornstarch, arrowroot powder, tapioca starch, and potato starch. In fact, there are many recipes that can be found that widely make use of sweet rice flour for making a good gluten-free roux.
These starches are widely used as thickness in various other cuisines. The amount to be used in the recipe compared to all-purpose flour is less. However, you will have to test and try the same depending on the floor and starch. Approximately, 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour will be substituted with 1 teaspoon of cornflour.
Why is my roux lumpy?
Lumps in the roux are formed because hot liquids have been added to the hot roux. When adding milk or broth to a hot roux the liquids should be warm or cold. When the roux is cold adding cold liquids to it will not mix. Thus warm liquids seem to work better
How do you fix lumpy roux?
Lumpy roux has bits of flour that aren’t cooked and therefore clumped together in small lumps. The lumps can be easily dissolved by cooking the roux a little longer while stirring constantly and then adding the liquids.
Also, you should follow the golden rule of adding cold milk or broth to a warm roux. If the roux is cold then add in warm milk or broth. Following this process will always eliminate the possibility of forming lumps in your roux.
Why does My roux taste bitter?
Roux that has been burnt, or unevenly cooked will taste bitter. Therefore, the roux should always be cooked on medium to low heat for longer durations. This technique ensures the flour cooks evenly and thus obtains a smooth paste.
Another possibility of the flour not cooking evenly would be an inadequate amount of fat. Thus, also check if the parts of flour have absorbed the fat. The easy fix would be to add one tablespoon of more fat.
It is very easy to overcook or undercook a roux. Following the basic guidelines given above on how to make a roux will ensure you have a perfect roux.
Why does my roux taste like flour?
Generally, roux that hasn’t been cooked long enough tastes floury as the flour is still raw. The easiest way to correct it will be to cook it for some more time until the roux changes color and is darker in shade.
Why does my roux look dry and powdery?
If enough fat isn’t added to the mix, the roux turns out to be dry and powdery. It will be difficult to cook it without burning it.
How to store roux?
It is easy to store your homemade roux in your fridge or freezer. It saves time while making sauces and soups. Roux made with vegetable oil can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for several weeks. Roux made with butter or fat should always be refrigerated or frozen.
Can you buy a readymade roux?
Yes, there are many brands of roux available for Cajun dishes and some specifically for gumbos.
Kary’s, Savoie’s, Richard’s and Tony Chachere’s are some of the popular brands.
How do you use store-bought roux?
Storebought roux is mainly used in gumbos, etouffee, barbeque, and other Cajun and Creole dishes. It is basically a dark roux. It is hard and dry, Thus, you may wonder how to get it ready for use.
Following are a few sites that will make you storebought roux ready for use:
- Take the desired amount of roux from the jar.
- Add a little bit of boiled water and move it around in the bowl till it idea well.
- It takes a little while for it to come together in a smooth consistency.
Alternatively, you can leave the roux paste in hot water for two minutes. After this, it’s easy to mix it in water. You can add more water depending on the consistency required.
Is roux the same as gravy?
Roux and gravy are not the same. They differ from the fact that roux is added to the gravy to thicken it and make it smooth and velvety.
|Roux is a thick paste made with flour and fat.
|Gravy is made by mixing fat and juices and other ingredients that are extracted during the cooking process.
|Roux is added to the gravy to thicken it.
|Gravy is liquid. It’s only after the addition of Roux that thickens and smoothens the liquid and turns it into gravy.
|There are no herbs and spices added to the roux.
|Gravy is loaded with the addition of herbs and spices.
Is roux the same as bechamel?
Although, roux and bechamel look very similar and are white in color. Roux and bechamel are not the same. Roux is cooked using equal parts of flour and butter to get a thick, uniform, and fluffy paste.
Roux differs from bechamel in the following ways:
- Roux is the first step in making a bechamel sauce.
- Roux does not have an addition of milk to it.
Is roux same as beurre manie?
Although, beurre manie and roux both use the same ingredients – flour and butter. They differ from each other in the way they are cooked.
Roux is made by melting butter and adding flour and cooking until the flour isn’t raw anymore. On the other hand, beurre manie is cold butter kneaded into the flour and then added to warm soups or sauces. It is an uncooked roux used to thicken sauces, soups, and stews.
Is cornstarch the same as roux?
Cornstarch and roux are not the same. Although, both are used as thickeners for sauces, soups, and gravies.
However, there are a few differences between them:
|Roux is made at the beginning of the recipe.
|Cornstarch is made into a slurry by mixing it with water and added at the end of the cooking process.
|Roux is cooked.
|Cornstarch is uncooked.
|Roux is made mostly with all-purpose flour which is derived from wheat.
|Roux is made from Corn.
|Roux needs to cook on low to medium heat for a longer duration.
|Corn starch needs higher heat for the starch to bind with the water and thicken. It is cooked for a shorter duration.
|Roux is not gluten-free.
|Cornstarch is gluten-free.