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What is Mornay Sauce?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Mornay sauce is a classic French sauce named after the Duke of Mornay in the late 16th or early 17th century. The name itself is interesting, because Mornay is a mixture of melted cheese in a béchamel sauce, a cream sauce made from a roux. Béchamel sauce had not been invented when Mornay sauce was first made, however. As a result, it’s commonly thought that some the original cheese sauce that was given this name was probably a bit different, but that it was later improved upon by mixing cheese with béchamel.

The classic Mornay sauce is composed of a mixture of Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses, usually in a half-and-half ratio to cooked béchamel. The cheese melts quickly, creating a savory sauce. The French may use it to top steamed vegetables, or on seafood and poultry dishes. It can also be mixed in with pasta to make a variant of macaroni or Alfredo. Some people use this sauce as part of the layers of lasagna.

Cooks can certainly change the cheeses they add to get different flavors in the end result. White cheddar is a common substitution, resulting in a sauce that can be used to make a very creamy macaroni and cheese dish. Children who are picky about vegetables may enjoy them more if they are topped with white cheddar sauce.

When making Mornay sauce, a chef must use hard or semi-hard cheeses. Cooks can get away with some jack cheeses, and also hard goat cheeses. Cheese like brie or blue cheese are not the best choices, and cream cheeses or fresh mozzarella won’t melt the right way to give the sauce its creamy consistency. The French tend to avoid any but white cheeses when making this sauce, so cooks who want to keep it authentic shouldn't add orange or yellow cheddar. On the other hand, some children may be bigger fans of an orange colored cheese sauce than they are of a white sauce.

Mornay sauce is not low in fat — a butter roux mixed with cream or whole milk and whole milk cheese is going to pack some calories. Chefs can lighten the calorie load a bit by using a low fat milk to add to the roux, and by using good low fat cheeses. Some people may also want to try using a little bit less of the sauce than they might normally, too, since this will lessen the overall calories. Sauces in France are used as accents to meals but not meant to obscure the flavors of good, fresh food.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon324231 — On Mar 09, 2013

Years ago when I was young, my Mom used to make egg mornay but since Mom passed away the recipe has been lost. Does anyone know the recipe?

By BoatHugger — On Sep 19, 2010

@carrotisland: This is a fairly easy recipe that has been in my family for generations. The following ingredients are needed: 3 Tbsp. butter, 1 tsp. onion (finely chopped), 3 Tbsp. flour, 1 cup hot milk, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, ½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. chopped parsley, ½ tsp. black pepper, and ¼ tsp. nutmeg.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the chopped onion. Cook until the onion has softened. Stir in the flour and cook until smooth. Slowly, add the milk in. Add the remaining ingredients gradually. Cook and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk and add about ¼ cup of the hot liquid to it. Stir constantly. Pour the egg yolk mixture to the rest of the hot liquid. Stir until the sauce is smooth.

By CarrotIsland — On Sep 19, 2010

I used to have a mornay sauce recipe but I seem to have misplaced it. I would love to make it again. Does anyone have a recipe for it?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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