Easy Cheddar Cheese Sauce

Easy cheddar cheese sauce poured over broccoli florets

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  • Total: 20 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 10 mins
  • Yield: 8 servings (2 cups)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
364 Calories
32g Fat
10g Carbs
9g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 servings (2 cups)
Amount per serving
Calories 364
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 32g 41%
Saturated Fat 19g 96%
Cholesterol 92mg 31%
Sodium 390mg 17%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Protein 9g
Calcium 271mg 21%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

A made-from-scratch cheddar cheese sauce is easy to prepare at home. This recipe uses a simple white sauce base and shredded cheese to create a delicious sauce that you can use in a variety of ways. It cooks up quickly and is gently seasoned with dry mustard, salt, and pepper, so it has a universal flavor that you can build on.

Use this classic cheddar cheese sauce on broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, or other vegetables. It's perfect for pasta and makes an easy macaroni and cheese that your family is sure to enjoy. You can also add it to rice, nachos, or any other dishes that you want extra cheesy.

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Click Play to See This Easy Cheddar Cheese Sauce Recipe Come Together

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper (or white pepper)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (or light cream)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (mild or sharp)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather ingredients.

    Ingredients for easy cheddar cheese sauce
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat; remove from heat. Stir in the flour, salt, dry mustard, and pepper.

    Adding and mixing into the melted butter, the flour, salt, dry mustard, and pepper
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga  
  3. Put the saucepan back on the heat and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

    Stirring as the butter-flour mixture heats
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  4. Gradually add milk or light cream, stirring until well mixed.

    Milk is added and stirred with a wooden spoon
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  5. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes.

    Stirring until the mixture becomes thick and smooth
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  6. Add the cheese and cook, stirring, until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth and well blended. 

    Grated cheddar is added and stirred until melted and smooth
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 
  7. Serve with pasta or vegetables and enjoy.

    The finished cheddar cheese sauce in a saucepan with wooden spoon
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 

How to Use

  • Macaroni and Cheese: To make a quick macaroni and cheese, combine the sauce with 3 to 4 cups of cooked and drained macaroni. Transfer to a buttered baking dish and top with buttered breadcrumbs and more cheese, if desired. Bake in a 350 F oven until bubbly and breadcrumbs (if using) are browned (about 20 to 25 minutes). 
  • Stuffed Baked Potatoes With Broccoli: Bake 4 to 6 large russet potatoes until tender. Split the potatoes open and fluff the potato lightly with a fork, leaving the shell intact. Arrange on plates. Top with hot cooked broccoli and ladle cheese sauce over the broccoli.
  • Chicken or Turkey Sandwich Melts: Arrange 4 thick slices of toast on a baking sheet. Top each slice of toast with turkey or chicken slices and a slice of tomato. Drizzle with cheese sauce then top with bacon. Put under the broiler until heated and cheese sauce is bubbly. 

How to Store and Reheat Cheese Sauce?

Store the cheese sauce covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. It can be reheated on the stovetop over medium heat or in 30-second increments in the microwave.

Why Isn't My Cheese Sauce Smooth?

One reason may be that the roux—the melted butter and flour mix that thickens the white sauce—might be overcooked or burnt. The recipe's recommended heat and cook times should prevent that. It's also important to add the dairy slowly and stir constantly while doing so. The cheese may be a factor as well. Freshly shredded cheese works better than packaged shredded cheese. When adding it, the heat should be low to avoid breaking the cheese, which will cause a grainy sauce. Try adding half of the cheese and stir that in until it melts, then add the rest. You can also remove the pan from the heat during that step, heating it only if needed to aid melting.

Recipe Variations

  • Switch to smoked cheddar for a smoky-flavored sauce.
  • Use a combination of cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses.
  • Add diced pimentos to the cheese sauce for color and flavor.
  • Spice it up with a pinch of cayenne and a dash of garlic powder.
  • A Mexican blend of cheeses and chile peppers are great when using the sauce in a Tex-Mex style dish, including nachos.