Nacho Cheese is easy to make yourself from scratch, and is the perfect melty sauce to pour over tortilla chips. This Nacho Cheese Sauce is made with only five all-natural ingredients, and takes 10 minutes to make.
My very first experience with nacho cheese sauce was of the Velveeta variety. I was about 8 years old and had no concept of what processed food meant.
Reading: how to make cheese nacho sauce
It was always the default snack at my friend Angelina’s house: a box of Velveeta popped into the microwave, then mixed with a can of rotel. It was good at the time, but now I generally stay away from things called “cheese product.”
It’s perfectly possible to make smooth, creamy nacho cheese with natural ingredients, which is what we work with here. All you need is butter, flour, milk, cheddar, and a little cayenne.
And of course, you can keep it simple, or you can jazz it up however you want. You can add tomatoes, jalapeños, scallions, ground beef, and whatever else strikes your fancy.
Serve it alongside some Chicken Wings, Buffalo Chicken Dip, and Soft Pretzels and you have a full spread perfect for watching sports and having friends over.
This method takes less than 10 minutes, and riffs on how you’d make a roux and a béchamel sauce for mac and cheese.
Because the ingredients are natural and chemical-free, know that the nacho cheese firms slightly as it cools. It has a luscious, smooth and melty texture as long as it’s warm, but if you let it cool, you’ll need to reheat it to get that flowy texture again. It does reheat just fine though and I’ll include instructions for that after the step-by-step.
You can also keep it warm in a crockpot, fondue pot, or other warming dish if you’re serving this at a party.
How to Make Nacho Cheese:
Start by melting some butter in a skillet:
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Whisk in an equal amount of flour until combined:
This is called a roux, and it will thicken our sauce.
Next whisk in some milk, and season with salt and cayenne pepper:
I like the heat that the cayenne gives, but you could also add paprika if you prefer.
Once the milk heats through, the mixture should be thick and bubbly.
Now turn off the heat and add freshly grated cheddar cheese:
The freshly grated cheese is important, because pre-shredded cheeses in bags usually have things like powdered cellulose that are there to prevent caking. Those will make your sauce grainy, so make sure you actually buy a block of cheddar and grate it yourself. It only takes a few minutes.
Whisk gently until it melts and smooths out into a creamy, wonderful sauce:
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It should have a flowy texture that runs and drips off the spoon in an even ribbon:
If at any point the nacho cheese gets too thick and doesn’t “run” off the spoon, just add more water or milk, and whisk to combine. It will smooth out again beautifully.
Basically what happens is when you cook the mixture on the stovetop, you run the risk of cooking too much moisture off, so you just have to add more. No big deal!
(Since I’ve been asked so many times, this is the mini-cast iron skillet picture above).
Pour over chips and devour.
For more game day food, try these incredible baked Chicken Wings, Buffalo Garlic Knots, Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Dip, or Garlic Parmesan Wings.
What to Use Nacho Cheese For:
This Nacho Sauce is perfect poured on tortilla chips, fries, or for dipping with pretzels.
How to Reheat Nacho Cheese:
Heat the leftover nacho cheese in a skillet over medium low heat until melted and warm. Add 2 tbsp of water and whisk until the cheese looks smooth and creamy again (adding moisture should restore that creamy smooth texture). If the sauce is still too thick and doesn’t “flow” well, add more liquid and whisk again. Do not reheat nacho cheese in the microwave.
Can you Freeze Nacho Cheese:
Yes, but it will definitely separate, so you’ll need to reheat and whisk again to smooth it out, and probably add moisture. Follow the instructions above.
How to Keep Nacho Cheese Warm:
I recommend a crockpot, a fondue pot, or a saucepan over a warming plate.