This fabulous creamy homemade cheese sauce is one of the quickest, easiest sauces to make. It’s perfect for dipping broccoli and other veggies or drizzling over baked potatoes, nachos, or french fries.
You’ll be so glad to have this little recipe in your back pocket because it’s so useful and versatile.
Need a quick lunch? Steam some broccoli in the microwave and top with cheese sauce. Nachos for dinner? Cheese sauce. Baked potato feeling a little sad? CHEESE SAUCE IT.
If you have a couple of minutes and some cheddar cheese, you could probably make this sauce right this second.
- Butter: The base of this cheese sauce is a roux made with butter and flour. You can use salted or unsalted butter for this recipe.
- All-purpose flour: Using equal parts (by volume) of flour to butter helps thicken the cheese sauce.
- Milk: You can use any percentage milk you’d like in this recipe, but the higher fat the milk, the smoother and creamier your sauce will be.
- Cheddar cheese: Be sure to use full-fat cheese and start with a block of cheese that you shred yourself. The anti-caking additives in bagged, pre-shredded cheese can make your sauce lumpy. I prefer to use sharp cheddar, but mild to extra sharp will all work.
How to Make Cheese Sauce
- You start with a roux made by melting the butter in a small pot and whisking in the flour until you get a lightly golden paste. Cooking the flour with butter first cooks the raw flour taste out of the mixture.
- Then slowly pour in the milk, being careful to whisk out any lumps as they form, and stir until you have a nice bubbly, creamy sauce.
- Once the sauce is thickened, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese a handful at a time. Add salt, pepper, and optional cayenne to taste, and voilà. Perfect cheese sauce ready to tasty up whatever you’re going to pour it over.
While I love a good cheddar cheese sauce, this recipe is endlessly customizable. Here are some recommendations:
- Switch up the cheese: Any good melting cheese will work in this recipe. Give monterey jack, gouda, gruyere, or asiago cheese a try.
- Make it spicy: Use pepper jack cheese and/or stir in extra cayenne pepper to taste for an extra spicy kick.
What to serve with cheese sauce?
The answer to this is: whatever you want!! If you can dream of drizzling cheese sauce over it, you can do it. But here are my recommendations to get you started:
- Vegetables, especially broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts
- Baked potatoes with homemade chili
- Homemade pretzels
- FRENCH FRIES!
(If you’d like to make this cheese sauce for fries, go check out my Cheese Fries post, which has instructions for making homemade fries to go along with the cheese sauce.)
How do you make a smooth cheese sauce?
To get the smoothest cheese sauce possible, follow these golden rules:
- Use full-fat cheese that you grate yourself as bagged cheese has additives that can prevent it from melting smoothly.
- Let the shredded cheese sit at room temperature for a short time so you’re not putting cold cheese into hot liquid.
- Remove the sauce from heat before you stir in the cheese. Overheated cheese can clump.
Why does my sauce taste floury?
If your sauce tastes like flour, it’s probably because the roux was not cooked long enough before adding the milk. Next time, cook the butter and flour mixture until it begins to turn golden. This cooks out that raw flour taste.
Can I store this?
Sauce can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated gently on the stove or in the microwave, but it is best eaten right after cooking. It won’t be quite as smooth and creamy after refrigeration and reheating.
More Cheesy Recipes
A Note on Serving Size
As written, this recipe makes about 1 cup of cheese sauce, which generously serves 2. To change the recipe yield, in the recipe card below, hover over the number of servings (or click if you are on mobile) and slide the slider. Add a couple of minutes to the cooking time when doubling or tripling.
Easy Homemade Cheese Sauce
- 1 tablespoon (14g) butter
- 1 tablespoon (8g) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup milk any percentage
- 3/4 cup (3oz) shredded Cheddar cheese
- Pinch of cayenne to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a small pot, over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking continuously, until flour is lightly golden, about 1 minute.
- Slowly pour in milk, whisking out any lumps as they form. Continue to whisk the mixture until it is thick and bubbly, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in the cheese a handful at a time until all the cheese has been used and sauce is smooth and creamy. Add cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using them. There is absolutely no additional cost to you.
This post was originally published on 1/24/18. It was updated on 10/4/20 with additional information and tips.
Which cheddar do you recommend; mild, medium, sharp or extra sharp?
I like sharp as you can go, but any will work. 🙂
DC Evans says
I like the sharp best; I also love the Monterey and Colby Jack…the Colby can be a bit tougher to melt smoothly however tastes amazing!
I tried coconut flour but it sucked up the butter, so I’m thinking more butter next time
Hi Paul, alternate flours can be a little difficult to substitute, and I don’t usually cook with coconut flour, so I can’t offer any advice there. You might want to search for a cheese sauce recipe that specifically calls for coconut flour if more butter doesn’t solve your problem.
Melissa L Williams says
If you want keto cheese sauce, heavy cream and cheese 🙂
Thanks for the tip, I’m going to give that a try!
Try almond flour.
You might want to try heavy cream instead of flour
Can the cheddar cheese be substituted with Velveeta? Or if increasing the servings size can you use a mixture of cheese?
Hi, James, I’ve never tried Velveeta in this, but it would probably work. You can definitely experiment with mixing in other melty cheeses, but it may change the texture of the finished product. Hope that helps!
Becky Thompson says
Can this sauce be used for mac and cheese?
It can, but if you’re looking to make the sauce just for mac and cheese, not also for dipping, I’d use this recipe: https://bakingmischief.com/2016/08/31/quick-mac-and-cheese-for-one/ It’s almost exactly the same but the sauce is a bit thicker and better for coating noodles.
I made it for Mac & Cheese and it came out perfect.
This made a great cheese sauce, thanks.
Can I use buttermilk instead of milk
I’ve never done this, but I think it should work as long as you don’t mind the buttermilk flavor in your cheese sauce. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out!
Frank W CATANZARITE says
I’ve never made a cheese sauce. My lady and I have bought Brussel sprouts with a cheese sauce. I love cooking shows, but never cook the recipes. I’m gonna make this sauce for my self tonight. If it comes out good, I’ll make it for my lady in two nights. She’ll love it. Good steak, potatoes, Brussel sprouts and my own cheese sauce. Wish me luck and I’ll tell you how it comes out!!
Good luck! Hope you both enjoy it!!
Amber Smith says
Great recipe would definitely recommend!!
Thanks! So happy to hear it!
Lisa K says
Great cheesy sauce! I made this with the Fiesta cheese blend from Walmart. Had heavy cream I needed to use up before it expired so did 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup 2% milk. This is very filling too. Put it on my steamed broccoli, which I ate first. Filled me up and I wasn’t able to finish the chicken breast I made to go with the meal.
So glad you enjoyed it, Lisa! Making this with heavy cream sounds *amazing*!!
Jennifer McGowan says
I used 1/2 and 1/2, I put in some grated parmesan for extra flavor, as well as a few dashes of garlic powder. It was so good! Thank you for the recipe!
So glad you enjoyed it, Jennifer!!
Can you store this sauce
You can, but it’s really best when made fresh. It doesn’t reheat quite as smooth.
Very easy, and very good! Used extra sharp white cheddar and skipped the pepper & cayenne (there’s a wimp in my house). Will def make again, thank you for the recipe!!
Lol! So glad you enjoyed it!!
I used bagged pre shredded cheddar mix and turned out great! Good recipe! It’s going on it’s own or even with any add ins like chiles or chorizo. Thanks!
So glad you enjoyed it, Angel!!
I made this with evaporated milk for a richer flavor. So good!
I used habanero cheddar and Jack cheese. Delicious!
That sounds amazing, Sandy!!
I followed the recipe as stated using 3/4 cup whole milk, 1/2 cup sharp cheddar, and 1/4 cup colby jack and it turned out super thick (to thick to use as a sauce) but I simply heated up 1/2 cup milk and slowly added it in which fixed that issue. I added some of my homemade taco seasoning and this made an amazing sauce for nachos! Thanks for the recipe.
I’m pretty terrible at cooking, but I made something decent (though quite thick), thanks for the recipe I’m gonna keep attempting to perfect my methods because it seems solid enough for me to learn off.
Glad it worked out for you!
This is a horrible recipe. Watery sauce, which makes sense because other recipes use 2-4x the amount of flour, and 1.5x the amount of cheese versus liquid.
I usually don’t leave a 1 star review, but we had been craving cheese sauce all day and now I don’t have any more cheese to make a real recipe. Seriously disappointed. I don’t understand how any of these reviews even got a cheese sauce. And yes, I followed the directions to a T. My sauce didn’t break. It was just watery.
Did you actually make proper measurements when you made this recipe originally? Like did you eyeball the roux and just say 1 Tablespoon when it was actually 4?
Hey Dylan, this is an incredibly condescending comment. Writing recipes is my job. Of course I didn’t just eyeball the ingredients.
I saw your post on Reddit, and like the commenters there said, this sounds like user error. A ton of people have successfully made this recipe, and I’ve never gotten this particular complaint before. As you can see from the photos, this sauce is not super thick, but it should not be “watery.” If that’s how yours turned out, something went wrong in either the measuring or the making.