Nacho Cheese Sauce

I’m a spectator for all seasons.  Football takes me from fall through the winter.  Hockey gets me from winter to spring.  Baseball gets me from spring to fall.  No matter what sporting event we take the kids to see, I suspect they’re not really there for the on-field or on-ice action.  Last summer after five innings of baseball, the thing that most excited O was a controversial race between mascots dressed as a doughnut and an iced coffee. The iced coffee knocked over the doughnut, Tonya Harding style, and O’s account was akin to something you’d see on CNN.

Then there are the concession requests.  The kiddos become bottomless pits when there are vendors milling about yelling “Peanuts! Popcorn!”  We do try to limit the amount of junk food we buy when we’re at these sporting events but a guilty pleasure here and there always makes it to our seats.  O gravitates toward popcorn, which he shovels in by the handful like he’ll never have popcorn again.  M’s number one request at any sporting event (or pretty much on a daily basis) is nachos.  She is like a moth to a flame when she sees that  neon orange cheese product squirted all over tortilla chips.  Even better when the cheese is on the side for dipping, but she doesn’t get fussy about presentation.  It’s not a sporting event for M unless there’s a boat of nachos.

I wondered if nacho cheese sauce at home could possibly compare to a stadium’s neon orange liquid cheese product, and if I could make it without a ton of work or resorting to that popular “pasteurized prepared cheese product.”  Turns out, the answer is “yes.”  This won’t help when we’re out at a ballgame this summer, but when a nacho craving hits while we’re at home we have an easy solution.  Five ingredients, a little stirring, and you have a smooth and delicious topping for pretty much anything.  I don’t recommend low or reduced fat cheese for this, because it doesn’t melt like its full-fat counterpart.  I also recommend shredding or grating the cheese yourself (as I do for any recipe calling for grated or shredded cheese) because pre-shredded cheese has stabilizers in it that keep it from melting the same way as when you shred your own.  The original recipe calls for pepper Jack cheese, but I used just cheddar to keep it as close to that bright orange stuff M stares at wide-eyed as they pour it onto her chips.  I used some corn tortillas that I had after making chicken taquitos and baked them into tortilla chips for dipping.  It could also be used to top a baked potato, poured over hot dogs, or to kill a craving for some cheese fries.  I may have created a monster . . . .

nacho cheese sauce

Nacho Cheese Sauce


  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded (or 4 oz. cheddar and 4 oz. pepper Jack)
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk, divided (I used 2% and it worked great)
  • 2 tsp. hot sauce (more or less to taste)
  • pinch of salt


In a medium saucepan, combine the shredded cheese and cornstarch, tossing to evenly coat.

Stir in 1 C. of the evaporated milk and turn the heat to medium-low.

Stir in the salt and hot sauce.

Cook, stirring often, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is thickened, smooth, and bubbling.

Stir in additional evaporated milk as desired for a thinner consistency.

Makes about 2 cups.

Source: slightly adapted from Kitchen Simplicity, originally from Serious Eats


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