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This is my favorite recipe for cheese dipping sauce. This spicy nacho cheese sauce is absolutely awesome with veggies, soft pretzels, and nachos! None of that processed stuff, either.

dipping a chip into bowl of nacho cheese sauce

Seriously! What is better than a bowl of silky, creamy, spicy nacho cheese sauce? Nothing. A far cry from processed, this spicy nacho cheese sauce is to die for. I love serving it with soft pretzel bites or pouring on top of a big bowl of broccoli. It’s how I get everyone to their vegetables. Just kidding… but not really.

Making nacho cheese sauce at home is not difficult. It’s actually one of the easiest and quickest little recipes around. There is no excuse to buy anything from a can or from a jar. Homemade cheese sauce, made from real sharp cheddar cheese, is the only way to go. Plus, it tastes worlds better.

Shredded cheddar cheese on a wood cutting board
nacho cheese sauce in a saucepan with a wooden spoon
wooden spoon dipped into nacho cheese sauce

I love serving this spicy nacho cheese sauce right from the stove when it’s warm. But this cheese sauce keeps well covered tightly in the refrigerator for about 1 week. Just heat it up before serving– it’s a great item to make ahead before the guests arrive.

How Spicy is this Nacho Cheese Sauce?

That completely depends how spicy you want it. I can tolerate a little spice and I LOVE this homemade cheese sauce. In fact, sometimes I add even more hot sauce and cayenne than the recipe lists below. If you don’t like spice, leave both out.

Feel free to adjust the amount of spice based on your heat tolerance.

Crusty jalapeño cheddar bread with homemade spicy nacho cheese sauce

What to Serve with Spicy Nacho Cheese Sauce

Everyone is going to go bonkers over this stuff.

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dipping a chip into bowl of nacho cheese sauce

Kicked-Up Cheddar Cheese Sauce

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: about 2 cups 1x
  • Category: Appetizers
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American


This is my favorite recipe for cheese dipping sauce. This spicy nacho cheese sauce is absolutely awesome with veggies, soft pretzels, and nachos! None of that processed stuff, either.


  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (31g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 2 cups (480ml) whole milk
  • 2 cups (250g; 8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt + pepper to taste


  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the top, stirring constantly until a thick paste forms, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Slowly add the milk to the flour/butter paste in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Continue cooking, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. It should be thick but still pourable. Add the cheese, whisking constantly until it is melted. Add the hot sauce and cayenne. Taste, then add salt and pepper to taste. Add more cayenne and/or hot sauce if preferred.
  3. The sauce will thicken upon cooling. Store leftovers covered tightly in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Heat over stovetop or in the microwave before serving again.


  1. Half Batch: You can easily halve this recipe!
  2. Spiciness: You can leave out the hot sauce and/or cayenne.

Keywords: nacho cheese sauce, homemade cheddar cheese sauce

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. About how much in grams is the cheese? Would it be 470 grams if grated?

    1. Hi Anna! We like to use Frank’s, but you can use whichever hot sauce you enjoy.

    1. Hi Kathleen, for best taste and texture, we recommend freshly grated cheese.

  2. I used Tabasco and cut the spices in half. Plenty spicy for us with the pretzels. Leftover sauce I’m having with some nacho chips!
    If you think it tastes floury, you didn’t cook the flour with the butter long enough before adding milk.

    1. Hi Tracy, those will both be too thick – best to use milk if possible!

  3. I cooked the flour longer than normal and it still tasted floury. Have you tried making this without flour? I’m tempted, because roux’s seem to make cheese sauces floury.

    1. I tend to swap out flour for cornstarch. It doesn’t seem to make it grainy like flour.

  4. Can you freeze this? Just made the sauce and pretzels and they were both incredible! Thank you for sharing these recipes.

    1. Hi Clare, so glad you love them! You should be able to freeze leftovers. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then heat over stovetop or in the microwave before serving again.

  5. I followed the recipe exactly and this turned out perfect. You have to very consistently whisk. It actually tasted like an elevated version of the nacho cheese sauce you get at ballparks etc. I followed the high end of the spicy ingredient measurements included here – my spice tolerance is fairly low and I found it perfect. Just a nice kick of heat at the back end of the bite. I made the soft pretzel bites (amazing) as the accompaniment.

    1. Hi Freda, the cheese can be left out for a short while at a party or while serving, but it will thicken as it cools so you may want to periodically reheat it. For any longer than a few hours, it’s best to store it in the refrigerator.

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