Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Homemade Nacho Cheese Sauce – Sure it’s Harder, But at Least it’s More Expensive!

Unlike most of the videos I post, this nacho cheese sauce recipe is not cheaper and easier to make at home. In fact, you could probably get a gallon of that industrial strength lubricant that passes for cheese sauce at the grocery store for the same cost as a single batch of this, but what you lose in cost and quantity, you more than make up for in actual food content.

I’m not really that militant about insisting people read nutritional labels. I mean, who has the time? But just for fun, the next time you’re in the processed foods aisle (if those are still legal where you live) check out the back of a nacho cheese sauce. Pretty frightening.

However, while we’re going to use real, honest-to-goodness cheese in this, we still want to mimic some of the other more desirable characteristics of that day-glow yellow cheese syrup they pump on your chips at the movies.

We want the same thin, slightly runny viscosity, so that the sauce seeps down and around all the chips on your plate. It’s a total rookie mistake to make a nacho cheese sauce too thick, since as soon as it hits the chips it tightens up considerably, and you end up with a lump of cheese, and some serious sauce-to-chip ratio issues. Even at room temp, this sauce remains fairly fluid.

As you’ll see, I used Jack, Muenster, and white cheddar cheese for mine, which gave me a pale, yet pleasantly-colored sauce, but if you want something a little “brighter,” then go with the classic orange cheddar instead. Contrary to popular believe, orange cheese is not artificially colored, and uses annatto seed to produce that iconic hue.

Anyway, if you planning on having a nacho cheese sauce involved in your Super Bowl party plans, and you really should, I hope you give this a try. By the way, I’ll show you how to do some quick-pickled jalapeno rings in a video Friday, so stay tuned for that. Enjoy!


Ingredients (makes about 5 cups of sauce):
1/4 cup melted butter
3 tbsp plus 1 tsp all-purpose flour
3 cups cold milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp chipotle pepper
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 lb Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1/4 lb Muenster cheese, grated

63 comments:

shristy said...

i was wondering where did u get this awesome looking whisk??? can i get it online?

Cindy P. said...

Would this still be super fantastic reheated?

How would I reheat such a thing? I know it's a silly question, but I haven't had such nice luck with reheating things with cheese.. It comes out thicker than usual.. :(

Morgan said...

Looks delicious as always, Chef.

Looking forward to the pickled jalapenos. As we say in Portland, "We can pickle that!"

Enzo said...

Definitely going to make this one! Just one question though, how long will this keep? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I tried that fake cheese stuff you're talking about one time at a hockey game. I had always been hesitant to try it, but finally decided to give it a go. Worst decision of my life. The aftertaste, which was horrible, lingered in my mouth for the rest of the night and all the next day despite my attempts to get rid of it.

Rob@FoodFigure said...

Well, I'm gonna make this short as I have some refried beans, nacho chips and a soon to be nachos cheese sauce calling my name.. Looks incredible! I mean come on.. anything with a little chipotle is an insta-win right?

LaceruM said...

I've tried a similar recipe a while back, but ended up with slightly gritty sauce and never tried it again... now I know what I did wrong.

But what do you do when you want to reheat it? Grainy-ness inevitable?

Ivor the Engine Driver said...

For the remainder of the video, each time you said 'nacho cheese', all I heard was 'not your cheese'. ...thanks.

:)

Chef John said...

Yes, these sauces don't reheat too well. You can heat slowly over double boiler.

Not sure of shelf life...shouldn't be around that long ;)

MoonFaCe said...

Yumm...my mouth is watering! Chef John, can you give us a tour of your kitchen, pleaeeese??

raquel@eRecipe.com said...

you video is so cool, I do really enjoy watching it. It is easy to made. Perfect!!!

Matthew G. said...

Dear Chef Jon,
Being in Australia we don't have what in the U.S. is called Monterey Jack here, or at least not where I can find it.

What style of cheese would you suggest is the best alternative/substitute?

Yours in cooking....

truthspew said...

Interesting the sauce is pretty much the same basic recipe as the sauce for macaroni and cheese. Good to know that.

philogaia said...

I've made a sauce similar to this though since I'm from New Mexico it is the chile con queso and has the required New Mexico Hatch chiles in it. I noticed when I made it that really how it differs from a normal cheese sauce is less thickener (roux) and more (a lot more) cheese.

The person I got the recipe from said you can reheat in a double-boiler (as Chef John said) though when I made it (an alarmingly huge batch) there wasn't any left over to find out. My guests practically licked the bowl. You folks can give up the chemical waste dump now and make this sauce. You'll never go back.

Anonymous said...

Jalapenos rings??

Couldn't wait. I would love if it would be the start of really hot dishes tourne. Maybe sth with habanero ;>

Jenny said...

Looks good! I would gladly pay the extra money and put in the extra work rather than eat all of those nasty preservatives that are in the store-bought kinds.

KD said...

Could you pre-make up through adding the milk, then just before serving heat sauce and add/melt-in the cheese?

Chef John said...

Yes!

Steve said...

Chef:

This may be quibbling at semantics, but isn't using annato to color cheddar cheese by definition "artificial?"

While annato is certainly a natural ingredient, it's not one that is necessary to the cheese making process and, thus, an artificial color.

Not that I object to yellow cheddar -- there are some dandy yellow aged cheddars I buy at my local cheese shop and consume with great glee.

But just sayin'.

Chef John said...

"artificial" as in not a natural food product. Slow day? ;)

Me.Eat.Food said...

Wow....

That's all I can say about this recipe!

Wow....

Anonymous said...

Chef John,
I've feeling down lately and it makes me feel so much better looking at your recipe videos! So thank you so much and keep showing those wonderful ways to treat ourselves! :)

XTeenuh said...

I had the 'restaurant' Mexican cheese today...filling, thick, gross, yes good. What perfect timing on your end! Stoked to make this and share it with my cheese loving friends.

And the pickled jalapenos video may make my fiance propose again. Cant wait to watch the video. His obsession with jalapenos is beyond me...

Thanks for the video!!

Steve said...

Chef:

Quibbling at semantics is one of my great joys in life.

By the way, what are these "friends" I keep reading about?

Anonymous said...

I've been looking for one of those whisks locally for a year! I keep forgetting though... so not the whole year. I just marked it on Amazon, it's a "ball whisk", yay!

I just know it will be perfect for some of the things I do.

We'll be making the cheese this weekend too. Now I know what to do with the electric fondue pot my parents gave my girlfriend :-)

-Pyrofish

Paul in WNC said...

Hey Chef!

What should we do if we want a slightly thicker cheese sauce? Less milk? More roux?

This has so many other possible applications!

Thanks!

Chef John said...

Yes, just up the roux a bit, and you'll be good to go.

Chris said...

Entertaining as always, Chef. To make mine even more like the day-glow nacho sauce, I add trisodium-phenylbiphoscarbopeptidestuff only as a preservative, of course.

Emerald_Mara85 said...

So this ball whisk...how is it any different from a normal whisk?

Derek said...

Two questions: first, if I wanted to add onions and peppers for flavor, do I salutes them first or cook into the roux? Secondly, if I wanted a bigger batch, do I need to increase the roux base as well, or just the milk and cheese? Thanks, Chef. Can't wait to try it! (p.s., will this keep well in a slow cooker for the duration of the game?)

Chef John said...

Yes and yes!

Derek said...

Sorry, that first question was supposed to be "do I SAUTÉ the onions and peppers first, or do I put them raw into the roux and milk mixture until they're tender?". (Autocorrect failed me again.)

Chef John said...

Yes, sauté in the butter first then make roux.

Paul in WNC said...

This looked so good, I went to the store on my way home Friday and picked up a few ingredients. The sauce was great!

When I went to heat it on Superbowl Sunday I was so dissapointed to find out that I couldn't reheat the sauce. I microwaved it, double boiler medium heat, double boiler low heat, but all I got was liquid and cheese curd.

I made a roux with 1tbsp butter and 1tbsp flour. Then I added the cheese sauce slurry to the roux and it reconstituted the unheatable sauce!

New rule Chef John! Hot roux + cold cheese slurry = great sauce!

meg said...

Hi chef John, I can't find Montery jack and muenster cheese in the uk can you please tell me which cheese can I substitute for these cheese... Thank you so much for these awesome recipes....

Chef John said...

Just use a mild cheddar!

Chef John said...

Btw, talk to someone at the cheeseshop. You can definitely find very similar cheeses in Europe!

Derek said...

So my sauce came out gritty yesterday. What did I do wrong?

Chef John said...

Heat was too high probably.

Poirot said...

I don't know how to ask a question about a previous recipe, but I attempted to make the updated version of no-Knead pizza dough (twice because I thought I must have measure incorrectly). Both times it came out as a heavy mass of dry dough. When I looked at the original recipe it only uses 2 1/2 cups regular flour compared to about 4 cups in the updated version -- seems like 16 oz is not right for the updated recipe?

Violet said...

Hi Chef,

Greetings from Barcelona! Longtime viewer here. Can you please tell me what brand/type/size pot you used in your nacho cheese episode? I'm looking for a decent cast iron pot and that looks just about right. I only seem to find Le Creuset but am also wondering if there are other brands worth recommending? Thanks for all your recipes!

Christoph said...

I'm going to give this a try tomorrow night.
Oddly enough, I live in Münster (Germany) but I can't find the cheese of the same name ^^

Beth said...

Hello chef John!

I tried this sauce as a mac and cheese sauce and it curdled! I know I had the heat too high (turns out on an electric stove turning it to low doesn't mean the temperature comes down right away). Is there any way to fix the texture? Or maybe another application for the sauce that this texture wouldn't be so bad in?

Many thanks!

John C said...

Chef at this point ive made about four of your recipes and my family and friends still dont believe i made them. its kind of annoying. Where can i get a foodwishes recipe certification?i want authenticity. too bad i cant brand my plates with your logo. haha!!

Anonymous said...

A local pub/microbrewery in my area has a very similar cheese sauce. I have tried to replicate it with no success. They claim to use some of their beer in the recipe. (It's a red beer similar to Killians.) While your recipe is close, I believe it would be right on with the beer. How and, at what stage would you incorporate beer into this recipe?

BuffaloWingWear.com said...

This came out great! Perfect consistentcy for nachos. My husband said he 'tasted' the flour. Have you ever had this issue and/or should I use some other type of flour or maybe corn starch?

Alaskan Girl said...

I made this last night. There is a little bit of grit/powder like texture to the sauce that I cannot figure out. I followed the instructions. Hmmm..can you help me out?

Alaskan Girl said...

I made this last night...but there is a grit/powdery texture that I cannot figure out. What may have happened. I live a remote area...and the only spice I cannot get is the Ancho Chili Powder.

Chef John said...

Usually means it was too hot and the cheese separated. Also more likely if it's a inferior brand of cheese.

Mel said...

Hey chef! I was so excited to make this sauce and it seemed to be coming along really well; everything was going perfectly until the cheese melted. It didn't incorporate with the white sauce at all; it's not gritty or curdled, it just won't mix no matter how I stir it. The cheese sits at the bottom while the sauce rests on top, making it basically unusable. Any tips on how to fix it?

Mel said...

Me again!
Could it be because I used 1% milk and full-fat cheese? I know combining two dairy products with different fat contents can cause trouble when making yogurt, but I didn't think it would matter in something made so quickly.

Chef John said...

Milk Shouldn't matter!

Chef John said...

Put in blender and blend smooth.

Wendi and Matt said...

So not sure if I did anything wrong but my cheese was thin. Like too thin! I used a gluten free flour and butter oil. Not sure if those 2 things made it not happen but it worked out! My husband put it in rice and ate with chips and said it was very yummy. He even had some leftovers he'd poured into the rest of the rice and heated it up today and it was good! Thanks for a great recipe!

Chef John said...

it was the flour! thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

this warms up well the next day if you add a touch of cream cheese. keeps it smooth without altering the flavor. we enjoyed this for the 4th of July. Thx

Anonymous said...

Not sure why the sauce did not come out as your video (it was quite thin). Only sub I made was pepper jack for the muenster, added fresh cayenne (plus dried), fresh jalapenos and subbed chipoltes in adobo for the chipolte powder. But I can tell you it made one heck of a mac and cheese.

Daniel Knippschild said...

Oh man, I really want to make this but the only cheese I can get in Germany is cheddar. Can you recommend what to use instead of Monterey Jack and Muenster? How about Gruyere and Gouda? I really have no idea what would taste good together.

Chef John said...

Cheddar and Gouda would work great!!

skad4 said...

How would one make a thicker version? More flour? less milk?

skad4 said...

How would one go about making a thicker version? More flour? Less milk?

Gian D said...

Can you add beer to this? Like something hoppy?

Gian D said...

Can you add beer to this for a variation?