Try this smooth, creamy cheese sauce recipe! Here’s how to make a simple sauce for for broccoli, fries, chips, and more.

Cheese Sauce

Need a gooey sauce for dipping? Try this easy Cheese Sauce recipe! It’s lusciously smooth and creamy, ideal for draping over broccoli spears or pooling on top of fries. Even better: it’s so simple to whip up! It takes just a few minutes and requires a handful of ingredients. But if you’ve ever worked with melted cheese: you’ll know there are a few tricks to working with this magical golden drizzle. Here’s what to know about cheese sauce!

Ingredients for this cheese sauce recipe

You’ll need just a handful of ingredients to make a lusciously smooth cheese sauce at home! Homemade cheese sauce can be notoriously grainy or chunky. Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Flour
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Cheddar cheese, in a block preferrable
  • Onion powder, garlic powder and kosher salt
  • Apple cider vinegar (or red wine or white wine vinegar)
  • Hot sauce (optional)
Cheese Sauce

Tips for the best cheese sauce

Why do you need block cheese for a cheese sauce? What does vinegar do: is it really necessary? Using these ingredients is key to cooking up a smooth sauce at home. Here are a few tips for the best cheese sauce:

  • Use block cheese if possible. Bags of shredded cheese have additives that can make it come out grainy. If you can, shred your own cheese off a block.
  • Vinegar makes a glossy finish. It makes for a glossy sheen to the sauce and rounds out the flavors.
  • Hot sauce is optional but delicious. Use 1 teaspoon and it gives a subtle complexity without much heat. Add more to taste if you’d like some heat!

How to make cheese sauce

There are two parts to making a cheese sauce: making the roux and melting the cheese. A “roux” is a mix of equal parts flour and butter cooked together that’s used to thicken sauces. This provides the stretchy body and glossy texture to the sauce. (You can make it without a roux too, like our Easy Cheddar Cheese Sauce, it just has a different texture.) For the best sauce, making a roux is where it’s at. Here’s the basic process:

  • Measure out all the ingredients first. The cooking process goes quickly, so you don’t want to have to stop to measure an ingredient.
  • Add flour and whisk constantly. This part is important. The flour can overcook in an instant, turning a brown color. Only cook it until it’s golden.
  • Whisk in the milk gradually. Add just a little milk, then whisk it in. Continue adding little bits until the sauce is smooth. Cook 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Use low heat and add the cheese gradually. You’ll want to add a handful of cheese, then whisk it in until it’s smooth and then add another handful.
Cheese Sauce Recipe

Make it into nacho cheese

Want to make this cheese sauce into nacho cheese? It’s simple: just add 2 teaspoons Cholula at the end with the vinegar. It adds the best zingy flavor and makes it taste just like store-bought nacho cheese…but even better. Or, go to our Nacho Cheese Sauce recipe, which is made with evaporated milk. More on that below!

Leftover storage / reheating

Got extra sauce, or want to make it in advance? Cheese sauces made with butter and flour don’t reheat well: the sauce is not nearly as creamy and stretchy as on the day it is made. (Trust us, we’ve tried it!) For that reason, we recommend consuming most of it the day it’s made! Or, you can try this alternative method below.

Alternative method: evaporated milk cheese sauce

An alternative to the standard flour and butter cheese sauce is using evaporated milk instead! Evaporated milk is fresh milk where about 60% of the water has been removed, which makes it very thick. It’s also known as unsweetened condensed milk. Why use evaporated milk in a cheese sauce? 

  • Evaporated milk makes a thick, creamy and stretchy sauce. The texture is a bit more glossy and gooey than a butter and flour sauce.
  • A cheese sauce made with evaporated milk can be refrigerated and reheated. A standard cheese sauce splits when you try to reheat it. A cheese sauce with evaporated milk is ideal for keeping in the fridge, then you can microwave and eat what you’d like and re-refrigerate.
  • How to make it? Go to this Nacho Cheese Sauce recipe and omit the hot sauce to make it a classic cheese sauce.
Cheese Sauce

Ways to use cheese sauce: broccoli, fries, chips and more

There are so many ways to use cheese sauce! While we originally created it for cheese fries, we love it for brocolli, veggies, and of course as a nacho cheese. Here are some ideas on how to use it:

This cheese sauce recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, use gluten-free flour.

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Cheese Sauce

Cheese Sauce


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup 1x

Description

Try this smooth, creamy cheese sauce recipe! Here’s how to make a simple sauce for for broccoli, fries, chips, and more.


Ingredients

Scale

Classic cheese sauce

  • 1 tablespoon flour*
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 6 ounces mild to medium cheddar cheese**, grated (1 ½ cups)
  • ⅛ teaspoon onion powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • Optional: 1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce

Cheese sauce with evaporated milk (works for leftovers)***


Instructions

  1. In a small or medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk constantly for 1 minute, until bubbly and golden.
  2. Add a splash of milk and whisk it in: the sauce will instantly turn chunky. Constantly whisking, continue to add splashes of milk and whisk them in until the entire quantity is incorporated and the sauce is smooth. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, whisking frequently, until very thick and smooth.
  3. Turn off the heat and stir in the spices. Stir in the cheese 1 handful at a time, only adding more when it has melted. Once you need more temperature to melt the cheese, return heat to low to complete melting. Once fully smooth, it will be thick. Whisk in 2 more tablespoons of milk until it comes to a pourable consistency, then stir in the vinegar (and hot sauce, if using). Serve immediately. Note that leftovers don’t reheat well after refrigeration. Make the Nacho Cheese Sauce (without hot sauce) if you want a recipe that holds up well and works as leftovers.

Notes

*Leftovers don’t reheat well after refrigeration. Consider making a half recipe if you don’t plan to use the entire 1 cup.

**Avoid using an aged cheddar: the flavor is much too strong.

***The Nacho Cheese recipe is a cheese sauce made with evaporated milk, which has an even creamier texture and holds up as leftovers for up to 1 week. It’s easy to reheat on the stove or in the microwave. 

  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Cheese
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Cheese sauce, cheese sauce recipe

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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