This Homemade Bread Sauce recipe is traditional in flavour but super creamy and made with handy store cupboard breadcrumbs. Don’t relegate this classic chicken and turkey accompaniment to Christmas, let’s start eating it all year round again!
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Bread sauce is largely considered quite old fashioned. Despite it being the traditional accompaniment to poultry (like apple sauce is with pork or horseradish is with beef), we rarely make it at home or see it on menus. The exception to this is at Christmas in the UK when many of us make it as part of our traditional Christmas dinner.
But I’m on a campaign. And just like with Pigs in Blankets and Sausagemeat Stuffing, I’m on a mission to release them from the confines of the festive feast and unleash great recipes and ingredients on our roast dinners year round!
Bread sauce is an old English tradition dating back to medieval times when bread was often used to thicken sauces. Its a thrifty way of using up stale bread, much like with Bread Puddings or even Eggy Bread. I started making a Delia Smith bread sauce recipe many years ago and adapted it to my tastes over time.
What Breadcrumbs to Use for Bread Sauce?
White breadcrumbs. Sourdough would be fine although if it is especially tangy, the final flavour might change. But please avoid wholemeal or anything seeded or fancy.
Now I don’t tend to have stale bread in the house all that often. The cheap sliced white that I prefer for my Egg and Bacon Sandwiches and Italian Fried Cheese snacks does tend to develop mould before it goes stale. On the occasions when I home bake bread like my Sesame Bagels, I generally freeze them to minimise waste.
You can make this sauce with fresh breadcrumbs. Or even fresh bread torn into small pieces. But I always have panko breadcrumbs on hand. So I experimented using them to make my bread sauce. And it worked perfectly. So this is how I’ve created this recipe.
The one type of breadcrumbs that really don’t work well are the dusty dried ones that come in tubs from the supermarket. Actually I don’t see the point of their existence at all.
If you do choose to try a variety that isn’t Panko, add them a little at a time until you have a nice consistency. Or you can simply be prepared to add a little more milk/cream if needed.
How to Serve Traditional Bread Sauce
In theory you can serve bread sauce hot or cold. But just like with Stuffing, I do much prefer it hot. Mostly I think that the texture is preferable but the flavour is also softer and more delicate when warm.
It is usually served simply on the side of the roast dinner. I would generally serve a bowl on the table for people to help themselves. Its nice to grate a little extra nutmeg over the top as a garnish.
Make Bread Sauce into a Feast
I truly believe that you can make any dish into a proper feast! Whether thats a feast for one after work on a Tuesday, a casual feast for four on a Friday evening or a feast for 12 for a special occasion!
Bread Sauce is absolutely essential as part of a Christmas Dinner Feast. Along with your perfectly brined Roast Turkey (or Roast Chicken, even pheasant, if you are keeping things smaller), you can mix and match any of the following recipes (and more!)
- Pigs in Blankets (Bacon Wrapped Sausages)
- Sage & Onion Sausagemeat Stuffing or Homemade Paxo Stuffing
- The Best Roast Parsnips
- Roast Potatoes
- Roast Sweet Potatoes
- Get Ahead Gravy From Scratch
- Vichy Carrots with Thyme
- Proper Yorkshire Puddings
And please don’t just keep this kind of awesome meal and homemade bread sauce for Christmas (or Thanksgiving if you’re in the US or Canada). A great roast turkey dinner is for any time of year!
Don’t miss my comprehensive collection of ideas for classic Christmas sides. I’ve included simple basic recipes and ways to level up each dish.
There is everything from roast potatoes, numerous stuffing ideas and red cabbage dishes to cranberry sauces and even a vegan gravy option.
Don’t forget to head over to my Feast Collection pages to find all of my tips and tricks to help you host a fun and stress-free feast. Plus remember to check out my recipe index to create your own awesome Feast!
Ingredients for Homemade Bread Sauce
I’ve chatted about the kinds of breadcrumbs you could use for your sauce in quite a lot of details above so I won’t repeat myself here.
But a quick note about panko. Big bags from Asian shops tend to be significantly better value than then the tiny packets you find in supermarkets. Between using them for dishes like Oven Fried Chicken Thighs, Scotch Eggs and Scallop Onigiri I really get through them!
Cloves & Black Pepper
Cloves are an incredibly old spice used in British cookery. They look like something barbaric and medieval but that does lend them to be shoved into an onion for easy retrieval. There is no flavour benefit from doing this but it’s one less thing to fish out. And believe me you do not want to eat one.
I struggle to see a circumstance where you can only get ground cloves and not whole. But if you do need to use ground clove, you only want to add the tiniest bit. And I mean tiny. Way less than an 1/8 tsp measure – at most.
Whole black pepper is harder to shove into an onion so you will need to fish those out. If you don’t have whole peppercorns, you can sub in a little cracked black pepper. But again please go fairly easy. This is a very subtle sauce.
I’ve specified one small onion in the recipe for the quantity given. The size of the onion really doesn’t matter as it is there only to infuse flavour. A white or brown onion will give the flavour you are looking for better than a red onion.
If you increase the recipe quantity, don’t worry about using 1.5 onions or even 2. it really doesn’t matter. You will need an awfully big quantity of sauce before more onions are needed.
Milk & Cream
This is a very forgiving recipe so it doesn’t matter if you use skimmed or whole milk or simple or double (heavy) cream. Just adjust anything you need to so you end up with a nice dropping consistency.
I’ve had whole nutmegs in my spice drawer for as long as I can remember. So long that I don’t even recall buying them. The second they hit a grater the smell is simply delicious and nostalgic.
I wholly recommend trying to find some whole nutmegs. You might not use them often but its so worth it for when you do. Again if you cannot get hold of whole, you can use ground nutmeg. Very very sparingly.
This is a very classic basic bread sauce recipe. And having done some research there is very very little in the way of variations. You can of course play with the current ratio of ingredients. Or make it looser or more thick. Adding a bay leaf to the milk with the onion is relatively classic if you like the flavour of bay.
But as for actual real variations, I’m not sure that I have much to suggest. The more I think about it, the more this homemade bread sauce is simply flavoured for a reason. Adding garlic would be too powerful.
Adding mustard could be tasty but again would likely overpower what you’re eating it with. Although this could well be worth trying with beef. If you try anything or have any ideas, do head to the comments and let me know. Otherwise please enjoy a classic sauce!
Make it Vegetarian or Vegan
This bread sauce recipe is suitable for vegetarians. Some older recipes do include some of the meat juices but I think this is gilding the lily somewhat. Its also ensures that it is easy to cater for any veggies. Of course if you’re catering an entirely vegetarian meal, you won’t have any anyway.
Whilst this is traditionally a milk based sauce, it is very easy to switch to plant based milk, cream and butter to make a vegan version. You should also ensure that the bread or breadcrumbs don’t contain any dairy. Panko generally does not but it is always worth double checking.
Make it Allergy Friendly
This recipe is free from egg and nuts.
Gluten Free: I am yet to see pre made gluten free panko breadcrumbs but you can switch the panko for any gluten free breadcrumb. It will probably be easiest to make your own from fresh or stale gf bread.
Dairy Free: As with my vegan suggestions above, you will need to substitute the milk, cream and butter for dairy free versions. Do try to find a buttery dairy free spread rather than a tasteless baking margarine type.
Please note that this recipe may contain other allergens not referred to above and any variations suggested have not been tested unless otherwise stated. For more information regarding any dietary information provided on this website, please refer to my Nutritional Disclaimer.
Equipment Notes for Creamy Bread Sauce
Whilst I used my smallest circulon non stick pan in my step by step photos for this post, I most often use one of my small enamel pans for making sauces etc. I am on a permanent mission to create the smallest washing up possible so it all fits in the dishwasher. They’re also very cute so I sometimes double them up as a serving dish at the table.
For fresh grated nutmeg I use my trusty Microplane grater. I did used to have a little nutmeg grater which is cute but I have no idea where it’s gone. But now I have a microplane it feels excessive to replace it. A regular box grater will also have a very fine grating option although it might be a little unwieldly.
A comprehensive list of the equipment used to make this recipe is included in the main recipe card below. Click on any item to see an example. There are no hard and fast rules so many items can be sensibly substituted to achieve the same results.
Bread sauce is ideal to get ahead with. You can make it in its entirely and freeze up to months in advance. Or you can make it a day or two before the main event and store in the fridge. Do make sure it is properly covered as it will absorb smells from the fridge otherwise.
The recipe is also written for a two stage process with the milk infused and bread added ahead of time. It is then finished off and seasoned properly just before serving.
Leftover Bread Sauce with Panko
Any leftovers can easily be reheated. Mostly I use it in my roast dinner sandwiches along with basically everything else from the roast. I know that putting bread between two pieces of bread feels a little bit odd but just trust me. Don’t skimp on the gravy either.
Another use is as a nice swirl topping on a soup. One made from the roast leftovers is again the most likely candidate. Think of is as a substitute to swirling in some sour cream or a French rouille. Doesn’t seem like such a daft idea after all now does it?!
Homemade Bread Sauce Tips
The final consistency can easily be adjusted but adding in more milk or cream. If you prefer it thicker then make it that way.
It is worth noting that it will get thicker the more is cools. So if you are planning on reheating later, you will want to make it thinner.
You must keep an eye on the milk like a hawk when you’re heating it. It will catch and burn very quickly and easily. For the same reason go easy on the amount of heat you are applying.
Don’t forget to let me know in the comments if you try making this recipe – I want to know what you think and if you made any substitutions, how did it turn out?
Still Have Questions?
Simple! Just contact me and I will do my best to help as quickly as I am able. Head over to my Contact Me page, any of my social media channels or post a comment at the bottom of this page and I’ll see what I can do.
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Homemade Bread Sauce with Panko
- 500 ml Milk
- 1 Small Onion
- 10 Cloves
- 4 Black Peppercorns
- 100 g Panko Breadcrumbs - or fresh white breadcrumbs
- ¼ tsp Sea Salt Flakes
- 50 g Salted Butter
- 150 ml Double Cream
- Fresh Nutmeg
- Measure 500ml Milk into a small saucepan.
- Top, tail and peel 1 Small Onion. Keep it otherwise whole. Cut a deep cross in either end but be careful to not cut all the way through.
- Press 10 Cloves into the onion, spike first.
- Add the clove studded onion to the milk pan along with 4 Black Peppercorns.
- Bring the milk up to the boil on a gentle heat. Do not allow it to boil for more than a second or two before turning the heat off. Add a lid and leave to infuse for at least 1 hour.
- Bring the milk back up to a gentle simmer. Remove the onion and peppercorns.
- Add 100g Panko Breadcrumbs and ¼ tsp Sea Salt Flakes to the milk and stir in over a low heat. Simmer gently for at least 5 minutes until the bread is totally softened and no longer resembles crumbs.
- At this point, the sauce can be set aside if being made in advance. The clove studded onion can be added back to the sauce to infuse extra flavour. Just remember to take it out again before continuing.
- Stir in 50g Salted Butter and 150ml Double Cream. Bring back to a low simmer and taste for seasoning. Add more salt if needed.
- Serve warm with a fine grating of Fresh Nutmeg.