Cheddar Cheese Sauce

Cheddar cheese sauce is an easy, creamy, indispensable, and versatile homemade go-to in your recipe repertoire, whether destined for burgers, tater tots, broccoli, chili, nachos, cauliflower, baked potatoes…get the picture? Here’s how to make it.

A ladle pouring cheddar cheese sauce over a chili topped burger.

This Cheddar cheese sauce creates a spectacular cheese sauce so stupendously rich and gooey and versatile you’ll want to slather it onto everything by the ladleful. And when we say everything, we mean everything, including the ridiculously indulgent Uncle D’s Chili and Cheddar Burger. Or a classic Uncle D’s Chili. Or a baked potato. Or a roasted sweet potato. Or fries. Or broccoli. Or macaroni. Or nachos. Or cauliflower. Or tater tots. Or, well, use your imagination. Any which way, this recipe is a keeper. As the author says, “Warm, oozing cheese is never a bad idea.” Amen to that.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Cheddar Cheese Sauce

  • Quick Glance
  • (8)
  • 15 M
  • 15 M
  • Makes 8 (1/4-cup) servings (about 2 cups total)
4.9/5 - 8 reviews
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Pour the milk in a large saucepan, place it over medium heat, and let it warm until you see small bubbles forming along the edge of the pan.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.

Sprinkle the flour over the bubbling butter and stir constantly until a thick paste, or roux, forms. It may become quite thick and almost paste-like. This is okay. And if it doesn’t become crazy thick, that’s okay, too. Expect this to take 1 to 2 minutes.

Constantly whisking, slowly pour the warm milk into the flour and butter mixture in a steady stream. Continue cooking and whisking almost constantly until the mixture thickens considerably, about 5 minutes. It should be thick but still spreadable and perhaps even pourable.

Add the cheese and whisk constantly until it completely melts. Season with the cayenne or hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste. If you’re the fussy sort, you can strain the sauce through a sieve to remove any lumps before serving. The sauce will thicken even more upon cooling. Originally published June 17, 2010.

Print RecipeBuy the The Good Stuff Cookbook cookbook

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  1. How long will this stay good for? I do meal prep & this would rock my food world if it holds for the whole week.

  2. It should be noted if you buy the cookbook, there is an error in the measurements (Kindle version). The above is correct, the flour and fat (butter) should be equal amounts when making a roux but in the cookbook, the measurements are 1/4 cup of butter and 1 cup of flour (the recipe above is half portion of the cookbook recipe). That should be a 1/4 cup of flour if the butter is 1/4 cup. Just an FYI for those that buy the book as I did…that would make one floury tasting roux! Yuk ;)

    1. Toby, thank you for this. Yes, we did correct the measurements in the above recipe to what worked for us, as we had a not-so-nice experience when first trying the recipe but did see the potential. Thanks for alerting folks!

  3. The PERFECT cheddar for this simple sauce is Old Quebec Vintage 3-year cheddar. The bite and total flavor cannot be beat.

    1. Magnificent, Ruth! We’re so relieved to hear that! Trying anything the first time can be a little anxiety inducing. That’s human! Glad you persevered and were so pleased with the results! Looking forward to hearing about other firsts that you try from our site!

        1. The type of Cheddar you use will affect the color, Donald. So go for the darkest orange you can find. Also, if you want to amp up the hue even more you could add some crushed saffron dissolved in a touch of water (although that’s a pricey fix!) or a small pinch of ground turmeric without affecting the flavor.

  4. Quick tip, if adding milk to hot roux Add cold milk and vise versa, you can make roux ahead of time if so then use heated milk for a cold roux ;)

  5. I made this sauce for New Year’s Eve and ended up with a grainy texture. The taste was good otherwise, and I’m wondering what I did that could have caused this. I didn’t use an orange cheddar, I used Cabot “Seriously Sharp” which is white. I didn’t heat the milk before adding it to the roux because I’ve made a cheese sauce base for a macaroni and cheese recipe many times and it doesn’t call for heating the milk, but maybe this is what caused the grainy texture? I’d like to make it again but I don’t want to end up with a weird texture.

    1. Hi Yaronit, several things could have happened here. One, the cheese sauce was overheated or the cheese had some added emulsifiers or coagulants. Next time, be sure that the milk is only heated to the point that it will melt the cheese, add the cheese in batches and you might want to consider using a double boiler. Hope this helps.


  6. Just made this as a side dish for my pot roast tonight. The sauce was perfect and turned out amazingly smooth, not one little lump!! This will be my go-to recipe from here on out. Very fast and easy to put together. Tasted even better than it looked!!! Everyone at the table loved it!!! Thanx for the recipe!!

  7. I made this today, but used rosemary, oregano, and black pepper to season it. I find I generally need less flour than recipes call for when making a roux; I add the flour gradually so that I don’t end up putting in more than I need.

    Anyway, it was excellent. The consistency was exactly what I wanted from it, the flavor was very nice, and I have leftovers. Couldn’t be happier.

  8. Made this for jalapeno poppers. Added an extra half cup of cheese. It’s really good and the recipe made enough for 11 jalapenos (well, 22 halfs). I could have made more jalapenos but I wanted them really stuffed! Saving this recipe. Thank you!!

    1. You’re welcome, Margie! So glad to hear you like this Cheddar cheese sauce so much! We made it over and over and over again in our home kitchens, tweaking and perfecting it before sharing it with readers, and it looks like it paid off!

  9. I’ve made cheese sauces before but this one is foolproof! I didn’t have to baby the roux much at all!

    1. Terrific to hear, Melissa! We tested this recipe over and over, tweaking it slightly each time, to get rid of a few glitches we experienced with the original recipe. We’re so pleased to hear that you had such an incredible experience because that’s exactly why we do what we do. Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know! And looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…

  10. Delicious! I made it with some super strong cheddar and it was just perfect — not too thick and not too watery. I reheated some later in the microwave but it didn’t taste as good. I guess I will just have to eat it all in one go next time!

    1. Clare, the microwave is pretty bad when it comes to foods like this. Next time, add the sauce to a double boiler and heat it slowly. I think you’ll find a big difference.

  11. Looks like it’s going to be a great cheese sauce!! Can’t wait to try this!.. Just have a few questions.. Can you refrigerate this sauce and use it whenever you need it to? Do you need to add anything or just heat it up every time you are going to use it? How much time will it last?

    Thank you for your help!

  12. This looks great can’t wait to try it! I hate using Velveeta because of the VERY HIGH sodium content! This looks great I am even going to add some Dijon Mustard. The recipe I have used in the past (using Velveeta) called for the mustard. It gives it a great tangy flavor without overpowering the cheese flavor and it makes you want to dip everything in it! I think the real cheese is going to make a great change. Thanks for recipe! :-)

  13. Made this tonight to go over broccoli. My husband and his dad loved it. Thanks for the tweaked recipe. It is perfect.

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