This spicy homemade nacho cheese sauce recipe is easy to make and tastes just like movie theater nachos with a trick I learned behind the concession stand. Learn how to make nacho cheese!
How to Make Nacho Cheese at Home
It's time to make Homemade Nacho Cheese, my friends! As a spicy food lover, I'm sure you love a good bowl of nachos. Nachos are a quintessential snack food, with crispy tortilla chips slathered with spicy, melty cheese, heaped with all your favorite toppings.
Aside from the awesome fixings, the real key to the best nachos is the best nacho cheese sauce! You must have great nacho cheese for great nachos. Period.
Today I'm bringing to you my favorite way to make nacho cheese. It's incredibly quick and easy to make, and it incorporates a little trick I learned when I worked at a movie theater during my teen years.
The secret? Pickled Jalapeno Juice!
In the concession stand, it was my job to dump a big can of unflavored processed American cheese into a nacho cheese warmer. To make nacho cheese, we swirled in pickled jalapeno juice, along with a healthy portion of pickled jalapenos, into the cheese and served it up over corn tortillas.
It doesn't get any better than this! It gives your nacho cheese that spicy kick that it needs. Brings me back to my old movie theater days. I still love movie theater nachos. We love this recipe, and I'm happy to share it.
It's perfect for game day, or any day!
Let's talk about how to make nacho cheese, shall we?
Easy Nacho Cheese Sauce Ingredients
- Milk. Use whole milk for richer flavor.
- Cheese. You need a good melty cheese. Processed American cheese melts best for nacho cheese, but cheddar is great for flavor. See the Recipe Notes section below for options.
- Pickled Jalapeno Juice. From a jar of pickled jalapenos.
- Salt. If desired.
How to Make Nacho Cheese - the Recipe Method
Melt the Butter. Heat a small pot or saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and melt it.
Make a Simple Roux. Stir in the flour and stir continuously for 2-3 minutes to form a roux.
Add the Milk. Stir in the milk and allow to simmer. It will bubble just a bit around the edges.
Stir in the Cheese. Reduce the heat to medium low heat, then slowly add the cheese a bit at a time. Continue stirring until it all melts through.
Add the Pickled Jalapeno Juice. Stir in the pickled jalapeno juice (and some of the pickled jalapenos, too, if you want!). Keep stirring until the nacho cheese sauce is nice and smooth.
Adjust and Serve. Taste and adjust for salt, then serve with tortilla chips! Such a great recipe, the best nacho cheese sauce ever.
Boom! Done! Your spicy, homemade nacho cheese sauce is ready to go! Someone grab a bag of tortilla chips, please! I need some nachos, stat!
This will make you about 2 cups of nacho cheese.
Recipe Tips & Notes
Best Cheese for Nacho Cheese
Processed American cheese, like Velveeta brand, makes the smoothest nacho cheese sauce. However, any melty cheese will work. I love sharp cheddar cheese for this, but you can use other cheddar, Monterey jack cheese, pepper jack, swiss, colby, or others.
These can produce slightly grainy nacho cheese, though the flavor is fantastic. Consider a combination.
Don't use pre-shredded cheeses for this, as they contain anti-caking ingredients and don't melt consistently.
Pickled Jalapeno Juice is Key
This is the trick I learned from working at the movie theater for years. It works great, and gives you that authentic theater nachos experience.
If you can't use the pickling juice for some reason but still want the heat factor, add in a few dashes of hot sauce, or swirl in some cayenne pepper or other spicy chili powder. You might try added green chiles as well.
Tips for Making Nachos
Simple nachos are basically nacho cheese drizzled over tortilla chips, but you can add so many other ingredients. Consider spicy chorizo or seasoned ground beef, sliced jalapeno peppers, diced tomato, diced avocado, so many options.
What's your favorite way to make nachos?
The Perfect Cheese Sauce
Use your nacho cheese for something other than nachos! Spoon some onto your hot dog for a great Nacho Cheese Dog. Swirl it into soups for a cheesy version, like my Southwest Chicken Soup. Swirl it into a bowl of chili or to make Chili Cheese Mac.
Keep Your Nacho Cheese Warm and Creamy
It is best to keep your nacho cheese warm in a small crockpot or slow cooker, or on low heat on the stove. Stir it regularly, as it can begin to clump and harden if even heat is not applied.
Stir in a bit of milk if it starts to lose its creaminess.
You can store nacho cheese in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 5 days. To reheat it, add it to a pot and slow add in a bit of butter or milk while heating on medium-low. Continue stirring until it melts again to the consistency you prefer. Be careful not to overheat the cheese.
That's it, my friends. I hope you enjoy my nacho cheese sauce recipe. Let me know if you make it. I'd love to hear how it turned out for you. Keep it spicy!
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Nacho Cheese Sauce Recipe
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk use whole milk for richer flavor
- 8 ounces melty cheese processed American cheese melts best for nacho cheese, but cheddar is great for flavor - you can easily add more cheese for cheesier nacho cheese
- 2-3 tablespoons pickled jalapeno juice
- Pinch of salt optional, if desired
- Heat a sauce pan or small pot to medium heat. Add the butter and melt it.
- Stir in the flour and stir continuously for 2-3 minutes to form a roux.
- Stir in the milk and allow to simmer. It will bubble just a bit around the edges.
- Reduce the heat to low, then stir in the cheese a bit at a time. Continue stirring until it all melts through.
- Stir in the pickled jalapeno juice (and some of the pickled jalapenos, too, if you want!). Keep stirring until the nacho cheese sauce is nice and smooth.
- Taste and adjust for salt, then serve with tortilla chips!
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 1/27/23 to include new information and video. It was originally published on 2/7/22.