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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. This sauce is delicious! I made it today with your homemade pretzel recipe. We ate quite a bit over the stove, right out of the pot! Thank you for the recipe!

  2. have you ever tried heating this in a crock pot? I’d love to make it for my sister’s bridal shower (she loves pretzels and cheese), but I wonder how it would do.

    1. Hi Andrea! I haven’t tried this in a crockpot. The butter, flour, and milk mixture would need to cook according to the directions. You could do that in the crockpot though. Let me know how it goes!

      1. Walmart sells tiny crock pots that would work better than a big one for things like this unless you plan on making that much. I bought a 2 quart with a lid and it had high and low settings for under $15. I don’t see the one I bought there anymore but I see some others with 4 1/2 star reviews. If you live close enough use the free pickup option and you don’t have to pay for delivery if it lets you.

  3. I made the cheese sauce for a dip, but it came out plain it wasn’t taking like anything and it was doughy. Do you think I may have put too much flour in it?

    1. This happened to me , too- followed the recipe but no taste at all and very floury. I may try again with half the flour.

  4. Ok- this recipe is so easy and amazing with homemade pretzels! Love it!

      1. Can I use cheese powder? If so, should I reduce the grammage of flour?

      2. Hi Adinda, fresh cheese is best. We haven’t tested this recipe using cheese powder. If you try anything, let us know how it goes!

  5. Looks amazing, planning to make for my daughters bday along with the pretzels.
    Do you think I can use low fat milk or whole milk is better?
    Thanks !

      1. Absolutely amazed. The sauce is great and so are the pretzel bites.
        Just by chance I used Franks Red Hot sauce as well.

  6. I substituted scirracha sauce & red pepper flakes—sooo delicious!! Thank you for this recipe!!!

  7. Wow, that’s good! I used Cholula instead of Franks and it’s awesome. Thanks so much

  8. Just made your pretzel recipe. They are delish and so easy. Now will try your nacho cheese sauce. Both are so easy and fast.

  9. I would like to make the pretzel bites and this sauce. I only have half & half and fat free milk on hand. Can I mix the two or can I use just the half & half?

    1. Half-and-half would be great here– or use 1 and 1/2 cups half-and-half and 1/2 cup skim milk.

  10. Such a good recipe although I like it better with Colby jack and Sriracha

    1. You should be able to freeze leftovers. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then heat over stovetop or in the microwave before serving again.

    1. I used almond milk because that’s all I had on hand. still turned out amazing! love it, love the spice.

  11. Oh my goodness! Best cheese dip. i made it with homemade pretzels..i bet sooo good w nachos too

  12. I love this stuff! It cam together so quickly! It was really hot so next time I think I will leave the hot sauce out!

  13. Love this sauce with homemade soft pretzels…..each dip got bigger and bigger until the sauce got on my hands the pretzels were so loaded with it 😉 Thanks for another great recipe Sally!

  14. What a fun recipe! In this time of stay-in-place due to COVID-19, my husband was home and we made the pretzels together. They turned out great. Also made the cheese sauce with a bit extra Frank’s. Definitely a keeper recipe. Thanks Sally

  15. I love love love spice. My husband does not. On a scale of 1-10, how spicy is this?

    1. I would say a 5 or 6, but– of course– our spice tolerance could be different. You can add however much/little spice you want. Feel free to adjust.

  16. I can’t find block cheddar in rome (where I live) do you think I can use thick prepackaged slices? And then just make thin pieces from that?

    I’m getting a huge craving for this!

  17. This is the third recipe I’ve made from your site in the last two weeks and every one was perfection. My kids and I made your soft pretzel recipe (you’re my hero) and at the last minute I decided I HAD to have this cheese with them. I didn’t have all the right ingredients and it still came out perfect! I used shredded Mexican cheese mix, oat milk (because I didn’t have any cow milk – yes, it came out great!) chili-lime seasoning and a mix of sriracha and cholula. Omg.

  18. Mine turned out a little grainy? Is that too much flour? Also my butter and flour never turned pasty, just thick? Suggestions?

    1. Hi Jill, it sounds like the butter and flour weren’t cooked long enough– and that’s why it tasted a little grainy. Cook the butter and flour until it forms a paste before adding the milk.

  19. Just made the soft pretzels (so easy), and this sauce is next with the pretzel bites I’m making Monday! Can’t wait!!

  20. Used this recipe today, only had 1% milk and fiesta mix cheese. I think the whole milk would make it creamier. As for taste — I omitted hot sauce and added 1/4 tsp Tobasco, 1/4 tsp. Garlic powder and 1/4 tsp cumin. Really delicious!!

    1. According to the recipe:
      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.

  21. if i wanted to make this batch and convert it to yield 12 cups instead of 2; how much flour should i use? i wouldn’t imagine it being 1 1/2cups, or is it?

    1. Hi Luka, We haven’t made that large of a quantity before, but the ratio of ingredients *should* stay the same.

  22. Excited to make this recipe! Can I use pre-shredded cheese or do you have more success with freshly grated?

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