Cheese Sauce for Cheese Fries and Nachos Recipe

Homemade nacho-style cheese sauce is within your reach. With this easy recipe, you can make your own gooey, creamy, cheesy dip for nachos, fries, and more.

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Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Why It Works

  • Emulsifiers in the evaporated milk prevent your cheese from breaking into curds and oil, ensuring a smooth and creamy sauce.
  • Homemade means you can control the sauce, getting the exact cheese flavor, level of spice, and more right where you want it.

Sure, you could just pop the top on a jar of store-bought nacho cheese sauce, but what's the fun in that? Even more importantly, what control does that give you? Not much: You can't choose what kinds of cheese go into the sauce, nor how spicy it is, and whether you add pickled jalapeños or not. But with this dead-easy homemade nacho cheese sauce, you can make those decisions, and end up with a silky, gooey, perfect nacho cheese sauce of your own design. Whenever you want.

Recipe Facts

Active: 15 mins
Total: 15 mins
Makes: 1 1/2 cups

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Ingredients

  • 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese (or a mix of cheddar and pepper Jack—see note), grated on large holes of a box grater
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 teaspoons Franks Red Hot or other hot sauce

Directions

  1. Add cheese and cornstarch to large bowl. Toss to combine. Transfer to medium saucepan.

  2. Add 1 cup evaporated milk and hot sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with whisk until melted, bubbly, and thickened (about 5 minutes). Mixture will look thin and grainy at first but will thicken and come together after heating. Thin to desired consistency with additional evaporated milk. Serve immediately with fries, tortilla chips, burgers, or hot dogs.

  3. To reheat the sauce, microwave it on high heat, stopping and stirring every 30 seconds until it's fully melted.

Notes

Note: This cheese sauce is gooey and tangy. For a spicier version, substitute half the cheddar cheese with Pepper Jack and add 2-3 minced pickled jalapeños, or to taste.

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