It’s only fitting that the first recipe I share is my site’s namesake, a roux. It comes from the fancy-looking French word meaning red that rhymes with the sound a cow makes. A roux is a mix of fat and flour that is used as a thickener in sauces, soups, gravies, etc. It is a basic building block in a variety of other recipes.
You’d use a roux to make mac and cheese, gumbo, chowder, chicken pot pie, and more. I love making sauces, so I end up turning to this skill quite frequently.
A sauce is essentially a flavorful, thickened liquid. That thickening typically happens in one of two ways; cooking and reducing it down through evaporation or adding some kind of starch that helps add body to it. This is where a roux – with its starchy flour – comes to the rescue.
A roux is the base of four of the five mother sauces in French cuisine. A roux by itself is not really a full sauce. But it is a key step to get you to most finished sauces, a good basis from which to invent your own sauces or a great way to thicken other things up. The four mother sauces that come from a roux are: bechamel, veloute, espagnole and tomat.
Despite coming from a word meaning red, the various depths to which you cook a roux change from a light buttery white to a nutty brown to a dark muddy brown. Not really red in my mind. So go figure.
The basic recipe for a roux is real simple – 1 part fat to 1 part flour by weight. Most of the time you can fudge the numbers, forgo weighing things, and just use the same volume of each ingredient. It’s close enough for most things. Essentially throw it in a pan, mix it up and cook it to the desired level. In traditional French cooking, the usual fat used is butter. Cajun cuisine often calls for vegetable oil. Nearly any fat will work but consider the flavor of the fat and how it will pair with everything else in your finished dish.
Types of Roux
For a white roux, you want something barely cooked together just long enough that it doesn’t taste like buttered flour. This is the most common type of roux since it has the most thickening power, and that is usually the main goal of whipping one up. Its flavor is beginning to transform but it isn’t overpowering, and will easily take a back seat to whatever you combine it with. This makes it much more important for the texture than for affecting the flavor of the sauce or soup.
A blond roux is cooked a little longer than a white one and is more of a nutty brown to light caramel in color. The more it cooks, the more flavor it will add to the final dish. On the other hand, the more it cooks the less thickening power it will have. Some people also delineate a peanut butter roux as a step between blond and brown. It is not cooking one with peanut butter, but a description of the color you should expect to see.
A long-cooking brown roux will have next to no thickening properties but will add a lot of nutty, almost chocolatey flavor. This type of roux is common for cajun and creole cooking and, along with adding spices and heat, is part of what gives it such a distinct flavor. It is easiest to achieve using oil as the fat.
The change in color during the cooking process is very gradual. But there is also no need to get to an exact and specific stage for your recipe. As long as you have taken it to about the right stage, then you are good to use it in the recipe calling for the roux.
If you do not stir frequently, then some solids may tend to settle to the bottom. Just be sure to whisk them back into the mix and it will come back together.
Get a handle on this basic cooking skill and you will have a whole world of sauces, soups, and chowders available to you.
If you’re looking for recipes to flex your new roux making super powers, try one of the following:
How did yours turn out?
I’d love to hear when you try out making a roux! Take a pic of your food and share your success with me by adding it to your Instagram stories or feed, and tagging me @doyouroux, or by using #doyouroux.
Plus, leave a rating to let me know how you liked the recipe. It helps me out a lot to know how things worked out… or didn’t.
How to Make a RouxCourse: How To Tuesdays, SaucesDifficulty: Easy
Simmer fat and flour to make a basic thickening agent for a wide variety of sauces and soups.
1 part fat by weight
1 part flour by weight
- Heat a pan to medium
- Add the fat (butter, oil, Crisco, bacon grease, etc.) to the heated pan, make sure it’s liquified before proceeding
- Add the flour and whisk together with the fat until no lumps remain, the mixture will start to bubble up
- Simmer the fat and flour, stirring frequently for an even cook until the roux has turned to the desired color: 3-5 minutes for a white roux, 10-15 minutes for a blond roux and 20-30 minutes (or more) for a brown roux
- Vegetable oil is typically used for a dark roux
- You can make a roux ahead and either refrigerate or freeze for later use
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