This nacho cheese sauce recipe has the best thick and creamy texture! It’s easy to make, store and reheat, ideal for parties or solo dipping.

Nacho Cheese

Craving a creamy sauce for dipping? Try this deliciously simple Nacho Cheese Sauce recipe! It’s thick and creamy, with just the right elastic cheese texture. Dip in a crunchy chip and it’s a burst of tangy, robust and smooth flavor: like an amped version of those store-bought jars. Here’s what really make’s it: most cheese sauces made with flour and butter lose their texture quickly after cooling and you can’t reheat them. This nacho cheese sauce stores and reheats easily, making it totally versatile. Here’s how to make it!

Ingredients in this nacho cheese sauce recipe

It’s quick and simple to make a nacho cheese sauce at home, and requires just a handful of ingredients. The secret ingredient here? Evaporated milk. This magical substance gives the stretchy body to the sauce and makes it easily re-heatable. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Mild to medium cheddar cheese: 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. Also avoid using an aged cheddar, as the flavor is much too strong.
  • Cornstarch: This makes the magic with the evaporated milk. Use arrowroot powder as a substitute if desired.
  • Plain evaporated milk: Make sure to buy plain evaporated milk, not sweetened! See below for more about this key ingredient.
  • Onion powder, garlic powder and salt
  • Mexican hot sauce: we like Cholula brand.
Nacho cheese

Evaporated milk and why it’s key in a cheese sauce

Evaporated milk is fresh milk where about 60% of the water has been removed, which makes it very thick. It’s also known as condensed milk. There are two types of evaporated milk: sweetened and unsweetened. The unsweetened version is used as a thickener for soups and dips. The sweetened version is used in desserts like tres leches cake and pumpkin pie.

Why use evaporated milk in a cheese sauce? The milk proteins in the evaporated milk help stabilize the sauce and prevent it from splitting. This helps the texture to hold up over time. We tested this evaporated milk cheese sauce against our standard cheese sauce made with butter and flour, and the nacho cheese sauce was infinitely better! Here’s why:

  • 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. This nacho cheese sauce is ideal for keeping in the fridge, then you can microwave and eat what you’d like and re-refrigerate (much like purchased nacho cheese).

How to make nacho cheese

The evaporated milk makes this the very best nacho cheese sauce, in our opinion! The method is very simple (possible too simple, in fact). For the quantities, head to the recipe below. Here are the basic steps for how to make nacho cheese:

  • Shred the cheese. It’s helpful to use cheese you shred off a block, though this should work with bagged cheese if it’s all you can find. Bags of shredded cheese have additives that can make a cheese sauce come out grainy.
  • Toss the cheese with the cornstarch.
  • Add the evaporated milk, spices and hot sauce. Heat over low heat, whisking often, until it becomes very thick, about 5 to 6 minutes. Keep in mind it will thicken more as it cools. (It may form a skin on top as it cools, so stir it again to reincorporate the skin.) If desired, add more hot sauce to taste.
Nacho cheese

Storage and reheating instructions

This nacho cheese sauce recipe is great because it’s so versatile. If you don’t eat it all, you can refrigerate leftovers for up to 1 week. This is not the case for a standard butter and flour cheese sauce, which separates when you reheat it. Here’s what to know about storing nacho cheese:

  • Refrigerate for up to 1 week. The nacho cheese becomes a solid, soft when refrigerated.
  • Reheat in the microwave. Microwave on High power in 20 to 30 second bursts until it’s fully melted; it should take 1 to 2 minutes total.

Variations on nacho cheese sauce

Want to vary it up? Here are a few ways to make give this nacho cheese sauce different flavors:

  • Stir in diced green chilis. Add 1 4-ounce can green chilis for a spicier, chunky spin.
  • Add pico de gallo. This makes a zingy, tasty cheese dip.
  • Make it vegan. Try our amazing Vegan Nacho Cheese: it’s just as delicious (promise).
Nacho Cheese

More cheese sauce recipes

Love cheese? Here are a few more cheese sauce recipes you might enjoy:

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Nacho Cheese

Easy Nacho Cheese


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 7 minutes
  • Yield: About 1 cup 1x

Description

This nacho cheese sauce recipe has the best thick and creamy texture! It’s easy to store and reheat, perfect for parties or solo dipping.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 6 ounces mild to medium cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)*
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¾ cup evaporated milk (aka unsweetened condensed milk)**
  • ⅛ teaspoon onion powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican hot sauce (we like Cholula), plus more to taste

Instructions

  1. Place the shredded cheese and cornstarch in a medium sauce pan and toss until fully combined.
  2. Add the evaporated milk, onion powder, garlic powder, kosher salt, and hot sauce. Heat over low heat, whisking often, until it becomes very thick, about 5 minutes. Keep in mind it will thicken more as it cools. (It may form a skin on top as it cools, so stir it again to reincorporate the skin.) Taste and stir in additional hot sauce, to taste.
  3. Store leftovers refrigerated for up to 1 week. Unlike cheese sauces made with flour and butter, sauces made with evaporated milk store and reheats well. To reheat, microwave on High power in 20 to 30 second bursts until it’s fully melted; it should take 1 to 2 minutes total.

Notes

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

**Make sure to buy plain evaporated milk, not sweetened.

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

Keywords: Nacho cheese sauce recipe, nacho cheese sauce

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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