Learn how to make cheese sauce from scratch with just a few simple ingredients. Make this recipe to use by itself or in a variety of other recipes.
Cheese goes with just about anything, and this easy homemade cheese sauce is the perfect way to take your dish to the next level.
All you need to make this recipe are freshly shredded cheese and a handful of pantry staples.
How to make cheese sauce
This recipe starts with a bechamel – one of the “mother sauces” – and then shredded cheese is slowly melted in for a perfectly creamy sauce.
- Butter – unsalted; you can also use oil or fat drippings
- Flour – use regular all-purpose
- Milk – whole milk is best; a lower fat content will result in a thinner sauce
- Sharp cheddar – use freshly grated; shredded cheese from a bag won’t melt correctly
- Tabasco – can omit if you don’t like spicy foods
- Seasoning – dry mustard, salt, white pepper
- Warm the milk – Heat the milk in a small saucepan or in the microwave just until small bubbles form around the edges. Warmed milk creates less of a reaction when added to the other ingredients and helps the sauce thicken faster.
- Make a roux – A roux is simply a mix of equal parts fat and flour, and it’s what thickens the sauce. To do this, heat the butter on low in a saucepan until just melted, then sprinkle in the flour. Whisk until combined and smooth.
Cook for another minute or two to get the raw flavor out of the flour. You’ll see small bubbles start to form in the mixture, but you don’t want the overall color to darken.
- Finish the sauce – Stir in the Tabasco and spices. Add the cheese a handful at a time, whisking continuously, until it has completely melted.
- How to thicken a thin sauce: If the sauce is too thick before adding the cheese, stir in a little more warmed milk to thin it out.
- Cook over low heat the entire time. If it gets too hot, the sauce will curdle and separate. To fix this, remove the pan from heat and use an immersion blender to make it smooth again.
- Substitutions: Replace the cheddar with any cheese that you prefer. You may need to adjust the amount of cheese based on the flavor and intensity.
No matter what type of cheese you use, buy a block and shred the cheese yourself. This is because pre-shredded cheese has preservatives and or potato starch added to prevent the cheese from sticking together. As a result, it has a waxy coating that will result in a lumpy sauce.
Uses for cheese sauce
- Soft pretzels and hot dogs
- Chicken casseroles
- Drizzled over vegetables
Watch how to make the cheese sauce recipe below!
How to Make Cheese Sauce
- 1/4 cup butter or oil, fat drippings
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp white pepper
- 3 cups milk
- 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese shredded (See Note 1)
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- Warm the milk in a saucepan or microwave in measuring cup for 1 minute on high.
- In a medium sauce pan melt equal parts butter and then add the flour.
- Whisk the flour and butter together and allow to simmer on low to cook the flour 1-2 minutes. The lightest (white color) roux will be slightly puffed.
- Gradually add the warm milk and whisk to incorporate until a smooth sauce forms on low heat. Cook several minutes, sauce will thicken.
- Add a little more milk if too thick and stir in the dry mustard, cheese and Tabasco (several dashes or more to your liking). Whisking until smooth sauce forms.
- You can substitute any cheese you prefer to suit your needs.