Spicy Nacho Cheese Sauce

There are few things better than a good Spicy Nacho Cheese Sauce. Made with freshly shredded, sharp cheddar cheese and diced jalapenos, this dip is creamy, cheesy, spicy and poured over crunchy tortilla chips – it’s my favorite guilty pleasure! 

Nachos are pretty much a snack staple in our house. We eat them on the regular, along with other Mexican favorites like Authentic Mexican Rice and Mexican Sopes.

A dish filled with Nacho Cheese dip

NACHO CHEESE SAUCE RECIPE

Nachos have always been my all-time favorite guilty pleasure. Ball games, movies, you name it – nachos were my snack of choice. In fact, they still are!

Years ago, a friend and I were at a hockey game and we went to the snack bar for nachos. The cashier said it would be just a minute while they refilled the cheese. To our horror we watched them pour cheese sauce from a plastic bag into the nacho cheese dispenser. Stadium nachos would never be the same!

A chip being dipped into a bowl of nacho cheese sauce

WHAT IS NACHO CHEESE SAUCE MADE OF?

My cheese sauce is a staple at our house. I am not a fan of the flavor Velveeta (if you like it, no judgement – you do you), so I created a recipe using real, sharp cheddar cheese that stays smooth and creamy because of my secret weapon – a little added cream cheese!

Here are the 6 main ingredients you’ll need to make my spicy nacho cheese sauce:

  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Milk or half & half
  • Sharp cheddar cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Jalapenos (canned or fresh)

Nacho cheese sauce being poured into a blue bowl.

HOW TO MAKE NACHO CHEESE SAUCE FROM SCRATCH

This homemade Spicy Nacho Cheese Sauce is made with fresh cheddar cheese – no processed (orange box) cheese here. This is actually the same cheese sauce I use to make my homemade Macaroni and Cheese, just kicked up with some spicy jalapenos.

  1. First you make a roux with flour and butter, then add milk and whisk until it’s nice and thick and coats the back of a spoon.
  2. Once it’s nice and thick you can add the cheddar and a little cream cheese and stir it until it’s nice and smooth and creamy.
  3. Finally you’ll stir in the canned, diced jalapenos. You can also stir in fresh if you prefer. I usually use about half of the can because that’s all the spice I can handle. But you can use as much as your tongue can take.
  4. Then pour it on chips, or use it as a dip. The cheese sauce will thicken as it cools, making it hard to dip, so it’s best enjoyed hot or kept in a mini slow cooker, like this one. (affiliate link)

Tortilla chips in a bowl of nacho cheese sauce

WHAT CHEESE IS BEST FOR NACHOS?

A traditional nacho cheese sauce is going to have that deep orange hue from the sharp cheddar cheese, which I am partial too, but a white cheddar is also quite tasty. I use Fontina, white cheddar and Jack cheese in my Baked Queso Blanco Dip and that combo is delicious! Any of those cheese could be substituted for the sharp cheddar.

Whatever cheese you use, you do want to make sure that you grate it fresh for optimal melting. Pre-shredded bagged cheese has a starchy coating to keep it from sticking together but this can also prevent it from melting. The only pre-shredded cheese that I have found to actually melt nicely and can recommend is Tillamook Farmstyle Cut. This is especially nice for mozzarella that can be difficult to shred.

CAN I KEEP NACHO CHEESE IN A SLOW COOKER?

Absolutely, and I even recommend it! Make your sauce on the stove like the recipe calls for, then pour it into a small slow cooker. Keep it set to warm – you don’t want it actually cooking the cheese but just keeping it dippable.

Nacho Cheese Sauce in a blue bowl surrounded by tortilla chips and salsa.

MORE DIP RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE:

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A dish filled with Nacho Cheese dip

Spicy Nacho Cheese Sauce

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk or half & half
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese whipped or light versions work well
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 4-ounce can diced jalapenos
  • Salt to taste
  • Tortilla chips for dipping
  • Fresh jalapeno slices for garnish (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Melt butter in a 10" skillet or medium sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook until flour is lightly browned and fragrant; about 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and bring to a gentle boil, whisking often, until thickened; about 3-4 minutes.  
  • Remove from heat and stir in freshly grated cheddar cheese and cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Then stir in diced jalapenos.
  • Garnish with jalapeno slices and serve immediately with tortillas chips, tacos or pretzels. Keep warm.

Notes

*If using as a party dip, for best results keep warm in a small slow cooker, likethis one.

Nacho cheese sauce with title text

Easy Homemade Spicy Nacho Cheese Sauce - A delicious cheese sauce with jalapenos that's ready in just 5 minutes! Great for nachos, tacos and more!

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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