How to Make a Quick Cheese Sauce for Vegetables

Cheese sauce
Diana Rattray

A cheese sauce adds flavor and richness to vegetables, and it's especially good on cooked broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and many other vegetables.

For macaroni—or another type of pasta—and cheese for four, use about 8 ounces of macaroni and double this cheese sauce recipe. Toss the hot cooked and drained pasta with the hot cheese sauce and serve as is or bake in a 350 F oven with a buttered breadcrumb topping.

This recipe makes about 1 1/4 cups of cheese sauce.

What You'll Need

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • Dash of nutmeg (optional)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup milk, light cream, or half-and-half
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese or a blend of cheddar and Colby or Monterey Jack
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

How to Make It

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, constantly stirring, for 2 minutes.
  2. Stir in the dry mustard and nutmeg.
  3. Gradually stir in the 3/4 cup of milk and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened, constantly stirring (the cheese will thicken the sauce even more).
  4. Add the shredded cheese and continue cooking, stirring, until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth and bubbling. Stir in a little more milk—a few teaspoons at a time—if you want a thinner consistency.
  5. Add salt and pepper, to taste. 


Parmesan Sauce: Instead of the shredded cheddar cheese, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese to the sauce mixture.

Cheddar Beer Sauce: Replace about half of the milk or cream with beer and use sharp cheddar cheese. 

Spicy Cheese Sauce: Add about 1 teaspoon of hot sauce, such as Frank's or Texas Pete, and a dash of paprika and omit the nutmeg. Drizzle the sauce over burritos or on burgers.

Jalapeno Cheese Sauce: Use pepper jack cheese in the recipe along with a dash of garlic powder, a dash of chili powder, and a tablespoon of chopped pickled jalapeno pepper. Omit the nutmeg. This variation is a good sauce for nachos.

Pimiento Cheese Sauce: Add a drained 2-ounce jar of diced pimientos—or half of a 4-ounce jar—to the sauce mixture along with a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Omit the nutmeg.

Cheddar Garlic Sauce: Saute 1 small clove of garlic (finely minced) in the butter for about 1 minute before you add the flour and use sharp cheddar cheese. Omit the nutmeg.

Cheddar Mustard Dip: Reduce the milk or cream to 2/3 cup and omit the nutmeg. Add 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard.

Gruyere Sauce: Omit the dry mustard and add the nutmeg. Use shredded Gruyere instead of cheddar cheese. This is a nice sauce for crepes or stuffed baked chicken.