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Homemade Nacho Cheese Sauce – From Scratch

Ever made homemade nacho cheese? It’s way easier than you think! Some links in this post are affiliate links that earn me a commission if you purchase through them.

Ready to serve homemade nacho cheese sauce

When I was in junior high, my best friend Kerri and I would ride the bus home from school every day and do homework at my house. And being 8th and 9th graders (that’s junior high in Minnesota), we were always hungry.

And almost every single day, we would make “nachos.” Now, our nachos really just involved chips and layers of cheddar cheese, melted in the microwave. That said, it was a tasty snack we both enjoyed.

Most of the time, however, nachos means that bright orange cheese that comes in a bag and get squirted on your nachos.

I still love nachos, but I do my best not to eat foods that, well, come in plastic bags and are heated up before being squirted on the rest of my food.

Looking for more great game day ideas? Check out my favorite recipes at the end of this article.

But nachos.

Nacho cheese from scratch

Instead, I started making homemade nacho cheese sauce that is so much better than simply sticking shredded cheddar cheese on chips and nuking them. This version reminds me of the creamy kind that goes so well with shredded chicken and tomatoes and beans, and I think I know what I’m having for dinner.

This homemade nacho cheese sauce doesn’t take long to make, and if you have leftovers, it stores nicely in the fridge until you reheat it. And if I decide that I “accidentally” made too much, I have the perfect solution.

I simply turn my nacho cheese into beer cheese soup (perfect for winters in Chicago) by adding a little chicken stock and beer, along with some grated nutmeg and a tiny bit of Worcestershire sauce. It isn’t my exact recipe for beer cheese soup, but oh does it taste good anyway if I decide I’ve had enough nachos.

Homemade nacho cheese plate

How to Use Homemade Nacho Cheese Sauce

The other thing this pairs with perfectly? Homemade pretzel bites. We may or may not have enjoyed that for dinner recently.

I mean, it had dairy and protein and that’s good enough every once in awhile, right?

It really is pretty easy to make a homemade cheese sauce like this. Depending on the thickness of the sauce – controlled by the amount of flour and cheese you add – and the flavors you infuse in it, you can use it for lots of purposes.

Enjoy it not just as nacho cheese sauce (or a base for beer cheese soup). You can also use it to make homemade macaroni and cheese and other dishes where you use a cheese sauce, including fondue!

How to Make Homemade Nacho Cheese Sauce

Like many sauces, you want to start by heating butter in a saucepan. Once it melts, add diced onions and saute them until translucent but not caramelizing.

Add the flour and stir, which also helps to break up the onions. Make sure to cook the flour and butter roux for two to three minutes to cook out any raw flour taste.

Add the slowly milk while whisking, which helps to prevent lumps in your homemade nacho cheese sauce. Once the milk is added and it’s warmed up – never boiling – add the cheese in small handfuls.

Stir each handful into your sauce with a spatula until it melts before adding more. If you put all your cheese in at once, you end up with a ball of cheese that doesn’t incorporate into your sauce nicely at all.

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Steps to make homemade nacho cheese sauce

Add the hot sauce and stir, then serve your homemade nacho cheese sauce immediately.

If you want to kick up the spice of your homemade nacho cheese sauce a bit, you can easily do so. I really enjoy roasting a jalapeno and using it not just in my guacamole recipe but also in my homemade nacho cheese sauce.

Halve a roasted jalapeno, diced and added when you add the garlic is delicious. You could also do some diced fresh jalapeno, but I love the flavor roasting gives it.

The same holds true for adding a little chipotle sauce to the nacho cheese after the cheese melts. I love that smoky kick. Really, once you’ve made the base sauce, it’s yours to play with and make your own.

I sometimes like to add chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – just one or two – and it’s delicious.

Some people like to add salsa to it or green peppers or sausage. Choose your favorites, and add them to make this simple cheese sauce perfect for you.

Granted, it won’t be that scary color orange that comes out of the pumps, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be happy.

Where would you serve homemade nacho cheese?

Other great game day recipe ideas:

Nacho cheese from scratch

Homemade Nacho Cheese

Yield: 5 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

A quick and easy homemade nacho sauce that you'll find yourself making again and again as you invent excuses to eat it.


  • 3 T butter
  • 1/4 c onion, minced
  • 1/2 roasted jalapeno, optional
  • 3 T flour
  • 2 c milk
  • 1 T hot sauce
  • 4 c cheddar cheese, grated


  1. Melt butter in a medium size heavy pot while you dice onion. Add onion to the pot once butter is hot and saute 5-7 minutes until translucent and soft.
  2. Add flour and stir, cooking 2-3 minutes while stirring to help break down the onion.
  3. Add milk slowly, whisking to avoid any lumps forming.
  4. Once all milk is incorporated and warm but not boiling, add hot sauce then shredded cheese one handful at at a time, stirring between additions to melt cheese before adding any more.
  5. Once the cheese is completely melted and incorporated, ad the jalapeno if you plan to use it. Then remove from the heat and serve.


  • Use more hot sauce to kick up the flavor to your preference. I love using chipotle sauce to give it a smoky kick.
  • Feel free to make this nacho cheese sauce your own by adding your favorite flavors from sausage to taco seasoning to salsa and more.
  • Store any leftovers in the fridge. When reheating, do so gently over low heat.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1/4 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 125Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 193mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 6g

This site uses an outside source to provide nutrition as a courtesy. If you need exact values, please calculate yourself.

Did you make this recipe?

Please rate the recipe above and save it on Pinterest so you can find it to make again and again. Leave me a comment to let me know what you think about it, too!

Simple nacho cheese recipe

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The EASIEST Homemade Pretzel Bites Recipe - Honest And Truly!

Friday 27th of March 2020

[…] them immediately. I like to enjoy them in my homemade nacho cheese sauce. They would be equally good with Nutella or dipped in stone ground […]

Dawn Conklin

Thursday 2nd of January 2020

I love this cheese sauce and that it is all real ingredients! Velveeta and some of those canned/bagged cheese spreads were fake cheese to me - I never liked them. I too remember the days of putting cheese on the tortilla chips and melting them in the microwave!

I bet chipotle powder would be good in it too :)


Tuesday 7th of January 2020

Oooooo yes chipotle would be so good in this. My son wouldn't eat it then, but hey - more for me!

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[…] Homemade nacho cheese […]

Simple Hacks Living

Thursday 12th of February 2015

Perfect for dipping or nachos! Thanks for sharing on Tasty Tuesdays!

Pulled Pork Nachos + Homemade Mayo - Honest And Truly!

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[…] cut fries as the base and my crock pot pulled pork as the protein, all I needed was some of my homemade nacho cheese sauce¬†(see I posted the recipe yesterday for a reason!)¬†and favorite veggies to top it. The sweetly […]

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