Nacho cheese is one of the classic sporting-event foods that, for a long time, I never thought to attempt at home. You might be surprised to find out that making it is actually pretty simple and takes only about 10 minutes, start to finish.
Homemade nacho cheese is a béchamel cheese sauce. You start by making a roux — that is, cooking some butter and flour together. Then add milk and cook until the mixture thickens into a luxurious, creamy sauce. The cheese adds body, color and brilliant, salty flavor. The definitive nacho cheese taste is achieved by a few dashes of spices and a hearty helping of RO*TEL — the savory combination of tomatoes and green chilies completes the flavor profile. Without these extra flavorings, what you have is the base for a delicious homemade macaroni and cheese!
This nacho cheese sauce is endlessly adaptable and versatile. You can serve it as a simple dip, use it to top hot dogs or, of course, to finish off a plate of nachos. For a twist on the classic recipe below, try one of these variations:
- Replace 1 cup of the milk with buttermilk for a tangy spin.
- For a rich and hearty cheese, add 1 cup cooked and crumbled sausage before serving.
- Bring on the heat by adding a few shakes of hot sauce or sriracha at the end of cooking.
Game day nacho cheese
Makes about 4 cups
Smooth, creamy and bright, this basic but flavorful nacho cheese is an asset to any game day meal. The recipe is easily doubled or halved, depending on the size of your gathering.
- 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter
- 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional, for color)
- 3 cups grated cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup RO*TEL
- In a medium or large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon as the butter-flour mixture cooks for two minutes.
- Slowly pour in the milk, stirring constantly. Add the cumin, chili powder and turmeric and continue stirring for about five minutes or until the milk mixture thickens up enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Add the cheese and RO*TEL and stir until the cheese is fully melted. Serve immediately.
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