Overhead of bread sauce on a counter

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The smell of bread sauce infusing in the pan is the smell of Christmas for me. We typically make the bread sauce a day ahead so it’s easy to finish off on the day (see instructions below). This recipe makes a traditional, fragrant and creamy sauce that is perfect to go with roast poultry. Since pretty much every Christmas dinner I’ve eaten or made since the ’80s has been adapted in some way from Delia Smith’s Christmas, this recipe is also inspired by Delia’s classic bread sauce.

What is it?

Bread sauce is a traditional British sauce that dates back to medieval times. Bread was commonly used as a sauce thickener in those times – and it’s likely that this sauce was invented as a way to use up bread that was going stale.

While for some in the UK, bread sauce is a staple, many others are not a fan or haven’t even tried it – so it’s not something that you’ll find in every household.

The sauce is made from milk which is infused with flavours of cloves, onion and pepper. Breadcrumbs are then added which swell and result in a thick texture. Butter and milk are stirred into the sauce before serving.

Spoon in a bowl of bread sauce

What does it go with?

Bread sauce is typically eaten with a roast dinner of chicken or turkey. It’s a great sauce to go with drier cuts of the meat as it adds extra flavour and creaminess! It’s most commonly served at Christmas alongside the turkey.

Leftovers can be eaten cold or reheated and are often eaten with leftover turkey or in a sandwich.

Can I freeze it?

You can absolutely freeze this bread sauce. Simply portion into freezer-proof containers and then pop in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost before reheating and then heat it up either in the microwave or on the hob.

You can also make this a little ahead of time, particularly great if you are making this as part of a Christmas dinner with a load of different ingredients on the go. You can make the sauce up until the stage when you add the final addition of butter and cream and then cool and pop into the fridge for a day or two. Around half an hour before you want to serve it place it back into the pan and reheat over a low medium heat with a lid on. Stir in the cream and final addition of butter before serving. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.


  • 1 large brown onion
  • 16 cloves
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 500ml (2 cups) full-fat milk
  • 100g / 3.5oz white breadcrumbs (for this you’ll need around 5 slices of bread – ideally stale, but you can use fresh if that’s all you have – see instructions below)
  • 50g / 1.75oz / 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp double or whipping cream

If you aren’t a fan of cloves then you can use 1/2 tsp nutmeg instead – or you can add the nutmeg as an extra addition.

How to make it

First cut the onion in half. Cut it through the fat part of the middle (rather than cutting through the head and tail. Peel off the outer skin and then push the cloves into the middle of the onion. This is optional and you can just add the cloves directly to the milk. I like how it looks though!

Add the milk to a saucepan and then place the studded onion, peppercorns and bay leaf in. Place over a medium high heat and bring to a light simmer. Don’t let it reach a full boil as the milk may scorch on the bottom of the pan which will result in a layer of brown skin – which will ultimately end up being stirred into the sauce and it isn’t pretty!

Once the milk reaches a simmer remove it from the heat, place a lid over the pan and put it somewhere warm to infuse for 2 hours. The top of a radiator works well.

Recipe steps 1-3 - stud the onion, simmer in milk, make the breadcrumbs and mix

While the milk is infusing you can make the breadcrumbs. Simply cut the crusts off the bread and pulse the bread in a food processor or using a stick/immersion blender. You want the bread to be a little stale so you can use bread that is a few days old or you can spread the pieces out on a tray for a few hours. To speed the process up put the pieces in the oven on a really low heat until they have firmed up a little.

After 2 hours (minimum – you can leave for longer), remove the onion, peppercorns and bay leaf and return the pan over low heat. Add half the butter and the breadcrumbs and stir everything together. Leave over the low heat until the sauce is nice and thick.

When you are ready to serve stir in the remainder of the butter and the cream.

Looking for other great side dishes to go with your roast? Try this braised red cabbage or these roasted sprouts with cranberries.

Products that work well for this recipe:

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Overhead of bread sauce on a counter

Bread Sauce

  • Author: caroline
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x


This traditional bread sauce recipe gives an irresistibly fragrant and creamy sauce that is perfect alongside roasted turkey or chicken. 

The default recipe makes 8 servings of 1/4 cup / 4 tbsp each:


  • 1 large brown onion
  • 16 whole cloves
  • 500ml / 2 cups full-fat milk
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 100g (3.5oz) breadcrumbs – made from around 5 slices of white bread (crusts sliced off first)
  • 2 tbsp double or whipping cream
  • 50g (1.75oz) butter


  1. First, cut the onion in half along the fat middle part of the onion (rather than end to end). Peel away the outer skin and then stick the cloves into the cut part of the onion. This is not essential but it’s kind of fun to do and it looks pretty! 
  2. Add the milk into a saucepan and then place in the onion and cloves, the peppercorns and the bay leaf. Place over medium heat and bring to a low simmer – don’t let it boil. 
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and cover and put in a warm place for 2 hours (or up to 4). The top of a radiator works well! Remove the onion, peppercorns and bay leaf with a slotted spoon. 
  4. Place the pan back on the hob on low heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs and half the butter and heat for around 15-20 minutes until warmed through and thick. At this stage, you can either cool it and store in the fridge to finish the next day or you can serve the sauce. 
  5. Before serving add the remaining butter and cream and stir everything together. 


Traditionally double cream is used for making bread sauce, however, if you are outside the UK you may struggle to find this. I’ve tested with whipping cream several times and it works absolutely fine. 

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Hob
  • Cuisine: British


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 136
  • Fat: 9g
  • Carbohydrates: 9g
  • Protein: 3g

Keywords: bread sauce, side, sauce, condiment, bread, christmas, festive

3 Thoughts on “Bread Sauce”

  • We absolutely do not put double cream in bread Sauce and we absolutely don’t leave the milk on the radiator to infuse 🤢

    • Hi Samantha, as with all recipes everyone has their own spin on how they like to prepare it. Glad you have a way that works for you, the cream isn’t essential, it just adds a little extra… creaminess… and leaving to somewhere warm to infuse can help the strength of the flavours but again is not essential.

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