Perfect Nacho Cheese Sauce

By Catherine Newman

Photo: Linda Schneider

The cheese sauce is easy and almost foolproof (as long as you don’t use pre-shredded cheese, which will make it inclined to solidify). Plus, there’s none of that disappointing lack of cheesiness you can experience when you make the classic kind of cheese sauce that starts with a béchamel and ends with the feeling that there’s not enough cheddar in the world to make it taste the way you want it to. This one is sharp and tangy, smooth and rich, and, in a word, perfect. Stirred into cooked noodles, it makes a wonderful mac and cheese. Or skip the hot sauce, serve it with cubed bread, and call it fondue.


Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Serves 4


8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated by you (not pre-grated)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup evaporated whole milk (but keep the rest of the 12-ounce can handy)

1-2 dashes of hot sauce


  1. In a large bowl, toss the cheese with the cornstarch.

  2. Put the cheese mixture, evaporated milk, and hot sauce in a medium-sized pot over low heat.

  3. Heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce is smooth and not quite as thick as you want it to be, since it will thicken as it cools. This will take 5 to 10 minutes, and it will go through different phases as it heats: clumpy, grainy and thin, then glossy and gorgeous. If it gets too thick, you can thin it with additional evaporated milk.