5 Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce

$2.83 recipe / $0.47 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.12 from 234 votes
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I know, it seems kind of weird that I’m posting this homemade Nacho Cheese Sauce recipe the day after the super bowl. But, the reason I made this nacho cheese sauce has nothing to do with the super bowl and everything to do with the fact that I have just had a crappy week. :) After a series of unfortunate events and two recipe flops, I had an, “Ugh, I give up. Just give me some chips and nacho cheese.” moment.

Don’t judge. Nacho cheese dip is powerful stuff.

Chip dipping into thick and creamy 5 Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce

NO Processed Cheese, Please

Rather than going totally off the deep end and buying a gelatinous block of Velveeta, I decided to try to make the nacho cheese sauce myself, with real, simple ingredients. To my surprise (and probably to my detriment), this homemade nacho cheese recipe made with real cheddar cheese is extremely fast and easy to make.

Spice it Up!

The nacho cheese recipe below is the very basic version of nacho cheese, which you can customize or embellish in many different ways. Try substituting half of the cheddar with pepper jack, or stirring in a 4oz. can of diced green chiles. Experiment with the seasonings by adding a pinch of garlic powder, cumin, or even cayenne pepper. Stir in a few sliced green onions, or a can of Rotel tomatoes (drained). You can really have fun with this one.

Tips for Cheese Sauce Success

Here are a few tips to help make sure your homemade nacho cheese recipe is a success:

  • Make sure to cook the flour in the butter for one minute. This helps cook out the “floury” flavor.
  • Use medium cheddar for smoother results. Sharp cheddar tends to “break” or become grainy easier than medium cheddar.
  • Remove the pot from the heat before stirring in the cheese. Overheating the sauce once the cheese has been added can cause the sauce to seize up and become thick and/or grainy. If needed, use only low heat to help the cheese fully melt.
  • Use block cheese and hand shred it when possible. Pre-shredded cheeses sometimes contain a lot of anti-caking powders, which can cause a powdery flavor in your cheese sauce.

New to cheese sauce? Try making our no-roux Easy Cheese Sauce that melts together smoothly in minutes and is absolutely fool-proof!

Big bowl full of rich and creamy 5 Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce
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5 Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce

4.12 from 234 votes
This rich and tangy homemade nacho cheese only takes about 5 minutes to make and uses only real, simple ingredients.
Chip dipping into a bowl of nacho cheese sauce.
Servings 6 (1/4 cup each)
Cook 5 minutes
Total 5 minutes


  • 2 Tbsp butter ($0.22)
  • 2 Tbsp flour ($0.02)
  • 1 cup whole milk ($0.30)
  • 6 oz. medium cheddar, shredded (about 1.5 cups) ($2.25)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder ($0.02)


  • Add the butter and flour to a small sauce pot. Heat and whisk the butter and flour together until they become bubbly and foamy. Continue to cook and whisk the bubbly mixture for about 60 seconds.
  • Whisk the milk into the flour and butter mixture. Turn the heat up slightly and allow the milk to come to a simmer while whisking. When it reaches a simmer, the mixture will thicken. Once it’s thick enough to coat a spoon, turn off the heat.
  • Stir in the shredded cheddar, one handful at a time, until melted into the sauce. If needed, place the pot over a low flame to help the cheese melt. Do not overheat the cheese sauce.
  • Once all the cheese is melted into the sauce, stir in the salt and chili powder. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. If the sauce becomes too thick, simply whisk in an additional splash of milk.

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Serving: 1ServingCalories: 183.1kcalCarbohydrates: 4.92gProtein: 8.13gFat: 14.65gSodium: 337.23mgFiber: 0.32g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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Chip mid-dip into 5 Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce

How to Make Nacho Cheese – Step by Step Photos

Flour and Butter for 5 Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce - BudgetBytes.com

Start by placing 2 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp flour in a small saucepot.

Flour and Butter Roux for 5 Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce - BudgetBytes.com

Heat the flour and butter over medium flame and whisk together until they become bubbly and foamy. Continue whisking for about 60 seconds. This mixture is called a “roux” and is what will thicken your sauce. Letting the roux cook for about 60 seconds slightly toasts the flour and gets rid of that raw floury flavor, but you want it to stay “blonde”, so if it begins to brown, remove it from the heat.

Whisk in Milk for 5 Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce - BudgetBytes.com

Whisk in one cup of whole milk. Turn the heat up slightly and let it come to a simmer (whisking frequently). Because the small volume, it should come to a simmer very quickly (about a minute).

Thickened Milk for 5 Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce - BudgetBytes.com

When it reaches a simmer, the milk will thicken. When it’s thick enough to coat a spoon like in the photo, turn off the heat.

Melt in Cheese for 5 Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce - BudgetBytes.com

Whisk in 6oz. (or about 1.5 cups) shredded medium cheddar, one hand full at a time, until it is melted into the sauce. If needed, put the pot back over a low flame to help it melt, but the residual heat should do most of the work.

Season Cheese Sauce for 5 Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce - BudgetBytes.com

Finally, season the nacho cheese sauce with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp chili powder.

Finished Nacho Cheese Sauce for 5 Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce - BudgetBytes.com

Taste the nacho cheese sauce and adjust the seasonings if needed. And that’s it! Now you have a real ingredient, really delicious, homemade nacho cheese dip. 

Chip dipping into a bowl of rich and creamy 5 Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce

This post either just ruined your life or made your day. Or maybe both.

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  1. While the flour/fat/milk ratio in this recipe is fine, a béchamel cannot be made in five minutes. Not a good one, anyway. Taking a little more time will result in a silky, flavorful béchamel. The butter should be melted in the pan first. The flour should be slowly added to the melted butter, preferably sifted in. Any seasoning should be added at this point. The flour/fat needs to be cooked for two or three minutes, until the floury smell has dissipated. In order to ensure a smooth, silky sauce, the milk needs to be heated. After the milk is whisked into the roux, the heat should be *reduced*, not increased, and continually stirred until the desired thickness is achieved. Then the grated cheese can be added, a handful at a time over low heat, stirring constantly.

  2. I must have done something wrong, mine came out looking like something separated. Could it have been bad flour or something else. My milk seemed to be just fine.

    1. Did you use pre-grated cheese? Bagged grated cheese is coated in anti-caking agents, usually potato starch, so it just doesn’t melt well. Grating your own cheese is almost always worth the extra effort.

  3. I made it as instructed and my family LOVED it!!!

    Can I get a version that mixes well with salsa? We love homemade salsa and love salsa con queso. But we haven’t found a good homemade recipe for salsa & real cheese (not velveta) dip.

    1. Try stirring some salsa into this version of nacho cheese. This one doesn’t use a butter and flour roux, so it tends to be more stable. :)

  4. Perfect dip for a quick weeknight snack. I used Silk unsweetened oat milk, ghee and 1/2 tsp seasoning blend that included chili and salt. Came out great. I think the key is making sure you keep whisking, especially the milk and keep the temp ok low to med low.

  5. Just what I needed! Love the site. In the past I think I got this wrong because I added all the milk at once. I found that if I add 1/3 cup of milk at a time with “1/3” of the cheese it was easier for me to control the consistency. Slowly adding the cheese should work, but I seem to be less able to get that perfect cheese/milk consistency. Little bits at a time seemed way easier for me

    1. Hi Star, You need the fat in the whole milk to help keep the sauce smooth and cohesive. We have not tried it with almond milk. xoxo

    2. I’ve tried this and other bechamel sauces with almond milk. You just need to add a bit more flour so it thickens up. Maybe not quite as rich of a sauce but works well as I usually only have almond milk on hand.

  6. My go-to nacho cheese recipe… Also use it on steamed broccoli and cauliflower ( minus the chili powder)
    I was just wondering if this can be frozen??

    1. This one probably isn’t a great candidate for freezing, unfortunately!

      1. You might have cooked it at too high a heat. Cheese proteins separate at high heat causing a gritty outcome.

      2. Did you use pre-grated cheese? Bagged grated cheese is coated in anti-caking agents, usually potato starch, so it just doesn’t melt well. That could result in a ‘gritty’ texture.
        Or, perhaps you didn’t cook the roux long enough. If your sauce was ‘floury’, that suggests your flour was still raw, that the roux was undercooked. While this is a great base recipe, a good roux-based sauce takes longer than five minutes.

      1. You used to much flour or not enough milk, it should be a little thinner than pudding

  7. Easy and delicious nacho cheese! I love how customizable it is. I like to add pickled jalapenos and serve it with tortilla chips, sliced bell pepper and cucumber.

  8. Made this dairy free by substituting earth grown vegan cheddar shreds and oat milk :) it turned out great! Added a little tajin for flavor flav.

  9. I used white cheddar and that s××× was amazing. Never thought to try a roux before. I added cumin and a little jar salsa. Then I added some leftover taco meat. We cleaned the plate. Thank you

  10. This works with heavy cream as well, just add some water to offset the fact that there is more fat and less water. I added some scoops of salsa at the end just for fun. It made the texture a bit grainy but it was still really tasty! Also, everyone saying this is bland also all have the same issue, which is that they all double or increase the amount of milk. Just barely heat the milk so the water doesn’t boil off, but is warm enough to melt the cheese. If it’s too runny, return to the heat and cook another 30 seconds to a minute or add a little more cheese. And yes, if you refrigerate a homemade cheese sauce, it will harden because of the fat content. Issues in the comments are with the cooks, not the recipe ;)