Cheese Dip Recipe for Nachos Cheese Fries (2023)

because it works

  • The emulsifiers in the condensed milk prevent the cheese from turning to curds and oil, creating a smooth and creamy sauce.
  • Making your own cheese sauce means you can customize it to get the exact cheese flavor, spice level, and more exactly where you want it.

Sure, you could just pop the lid off a jar of store-bought nacho cheese sauce, but what's the fun in that? More importantly, what control does it give you? Not much: you don't get to choose which cheeses go in the sauce, how spicy it is, and whether or not to add pickled jalapenos. But with this foolproof Homemade Nacho Cheese Dip, you can make those decisions and end up with a silky, gooey, perfect Nacho Cheese Dip of your own design. Whenever you want.

The path to my ideal cheese sauce began with a suggestion from my wife.

My wife, in case you haven't noticed, is an eccentric. Simply marrying me was a questionable act to begin with; I don't have much to offer. I have almost no money. My slender figure and good looks left me a long time ago (around the same time as the 500th burger). I steal the covers when I sleep.

What II couldI promise her, however, that if there is food in the world that she desires, I will not rest until the mountains fill her with food. And what, you may wonder, would my beautiful wife want to drown herself in? Foie gras? Brigadier? Sabrett Natural Gut Hot Dog Links and Links?

No. Just one thing: cheese sauce. The gooey, gooey, velvety, shiny, silky, hot, spicy, and salty that chain restaurants and movie theaters slather far and wide on their fries, hot dogs, and nachos.

The gold standard for that liquid gold, he says, is the gas pumps at Fuddruckers' fast-casual burger chain, Fixin's Station. We visited the closest location in Paramus, NJ for a taste test.

Straight out of the pump this is truly beautiful - it flows like magma, with a silky sheen and not a hint of grain.

Cheese Dip Recipe for Nachos Cheese Fries (1)

One of the true tests of cheese sauce is how it reacts after it cools down a bit. I left a cup of fudd sauce on the table while we ate our burgers, then retested the consistency by pouring it over my fries.

Still gooey, still creamy, still shiny - a stark contrast to the plastic cheese sauce they serve up at Shake Shack (hands down the worst deal ever).

Cheese Dip Recipe for Nachos Cheese Fries (2)

Of course, in terms of flavor, it leaves much to be desired. It starts off salty and spicy in a way that can only be described as "spicy" (a word I've never used before in my life), but goes downhill from there with a strong chemical finish.

My goal: a cheese sauce with the soakability, stickiness, and spreadability of Fuddrucker sauce, but with the complex flavor of real cheese. My journey has not been exactly easy.

Give me some time!

Cheese melts, right? So why not throw some real cheddar cheese into a bowl and heat it up to the perfect sauce consistency?

Well here's why:

Cheese Dip Recipe for Nachos Cheese Fries (3)


It's not great, is it?

To explain why this oily breakdown occurs, let's take a closer look at what cheese is made of:

  • AguaIt is present in varying degrees. Young cheeses like jack, mild cheddar, or mozzarella have a relatively high water content, up to 80%. The more a cheese matures, the more moisture it loses and the harder it becomes. Famous hard cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano can contain as little as 30% water after several years of maturation.
  • with hard cheesemilchfettit's suspended as microscopic granules held in a dense matrix of protein micelles (more on that in a moment). Below 90°F (32°C), fat is solid. Due to this and its suspension, the fat globules do not come into contact with each other to form larger globules: the cheese remains creamy or crumbly rather than fatty.
  • protein micellesthey are spherical bundles of milk proteins. Individual milk proteins (the main ones are four similar molecules called caseins) resemble little tadpoles with hydrophobic (water-avoiding) heads and hydrophilic (water-seeking) tails. These proteins clump head-on in bundles of several thousand, shielding their hydrophobic heads and exposing their hydrophilic tails. These micelles combine in long chains, forming a matrix that gives the cheese its structure.
  • salt and other aromasFill in the rest of the cheese. Salt can have a profound effect on cheese texture: saltier cheeses have more moisture removed from the curds before pressing, so they tend to be drier and firmer. Other flavors present in cheese are mostly intentional byproducts of bacteria and aging.

Anyone who has tried making aged cheese can tell you that careful balance of ingredient ratios, time, and temperature is critical. The heat unbalances all this balance. To explain how to do this, let me quote the seminal work of Harold McGee:About food and cooking.:

“First, around 90°F, the milkfat melts, making the cheese more malleable and often bringing tiny globules of melted fat to the surface. Then, at higher temperatures [around 150°F for Cheddar], enough of the proteins that hold the casein proteins together break down for the protein matrix to collapse."

As the cheese reaches higher temperatures, you will find that two things happen. First, the liquefied fat collects in greasy puddles and is separated from the water and protein. As you continue to stir the melted cheese, the proteins, suspended in any portion of the water that has not yet evaporated, bind with the help of calcium into long, tangled strands, forming the elastic curds that anyone who has ever eaten has eaten one together. cheese is known.

To get a cheese sauce that's shiny and smooth and not greasy or stringy, the key is to find a way to keep the fat globules from pooling and clumping together, add moisture to increase the slightly watered-down texture, and find a way to keep proteins. of separating and coming together in long strands.

Well how the hell do you do it? Lucky for us (and let me quote Peter Panhere for a moment): "It's all happened before, and it's all going to happen again."

cheeky bridge

For tips on how to melt cheese, I turned to Kraft's Velveeta.

Cheese Dip Recipe for Nachos Cheese Fries (4)

A closer look at the ingredient list reveals a few clues. First of all, milk and water play an important role in its composition, which indicates that its moisture content is higher than that of pure cheese. Extra protein is also included, in the form of milk protein concentrate. finally containssodium alginate, a natural gum derived from marine algae.

"It gets greasy if you look in the wrong direction."

I know that by thickening the liquid in the cheese, the sodium alginate prevents the fat globules from sticking together and the individual proteins from sticking together too easily. It also increases the viscosity of the water and gives the sauce body. But what about the extra protein in milk? It is a well known fact that cheese with a higher protein to fat ratio melts much better. Low-fat, high-moisture, high-protein mozzarella, for example, turns into a stretchy, gooey mass almost without help; you must heat it up significantly before the fat separates. Cheddar, on the other hand, has a particularly high fat content. It gets greasy if you look the wrong way.

So where do you find excess milk protein and gummies? It turns out that most families already have some sources: cottage cheese, condensed milk and mayonnaise.

Cheese Dip Recipe for Nachos Cheese Fries (5)

Cream cheese is a cream cheese product with a relatively high fat content, which is made stable by the addition of guar gum and locust bean gum. While it is high in fat, I figured adding it to my melted cheddar would provide just enough stabilizing gum to keep the cheddar from breaking down on its own.

Evaporated milk is essentially milk that has had much of its water content removed, effectively providing a highly concentrated source of milk protein. Hopefully those extra proteins will help stabilize my sauce as well.

Finally, mayonnaise does not contain milk proteins or thickeners, but it is rich in lecithin, an emulsifier found naturally in egg yolks. Lecithin acts as a kind of link between the milk fats and the liquid, keeping them in a relatively stable harmony.

I made a few more batches of cheese sauce, one with cream cheese, one with condensed milk, and one with mayonnaise, adjusting the consistency with a bit of whole milk as needed. As a control, I also made a sauce by melting the cheese in plain milk, as well as aFlour-based morning dip.

Of the five sauces, the milk version was a complete failure:

(Video) 5 Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce

Cheese Dip Recipe for Nachos Cheese Fries (6)

It's not as greasy as melted cheese, but the proteins still settled and coalesced into a sticky, slippery, inedible mess.

The mornay sauce also had the same problem mornay sauces always have: no matter how well made, they still have a light grain and distinctive flavor that may be appropriate in aHot Brown Sandwich, but not for the fried cheese.

The other three fared much better:

Cheese Dip Recipe for Nachos Cheese Fries (7)

Each managed to combine into a bright and relatively smooth sauce, though none were quite as smooth as I would have liked; still noticed noticeable clumps of protein. The mayonnaise based sauce also tasted good of mayonnaise.

It was cream cheese or condensed milk. Cooling made the problems worse. Both sauces completely lost their flow structure, becoming gritty and brittle, like semi-dry concrete.

I needed a better way to keep fat, protein, and water together. He had already tried different chemical methods (adding proteins, adding emulsifiers), but what about a mechanical method?

"Starches are like the gorillas of the world of sauces"

Starches don't chemically affect how sauces come together, but they can help make emulsions more stable through various means. First, they absorb water and expand and thicken the liquid phase of the sauce in the same way that gummies do. But more importantly, starch is like the bouncers in the world of sauces: it's bulky and physically prevents protein and fat from binding and fusing together.

I had already tried flour (morning) without success, but what about a purer starch like cornstarch?Oit was the boost my sauce needed. This time, even after cooling completely, the sauce remained silky, shiny, and easy to dip.

Cheese Dip Recipe for Nachos Cheese Fries (8)

In the end, I decided to stick with condensed milk as it allowed for better flavor control. (In order for the cream cheese to work, I had to add a significant amount, which ended up giving the sauce its own distinctive flavor.)

I found that the easiest way to incorporate the cornstarch was to simply mix it into the grated cheese. By the time I put the cheese in the pan, the cornstarch was already so spread out that it didn't form annoying clumps.

As for flavor, using an extra spicy cheddarala along with a small dash of Frank's Red Hot gave it the distinctive spice (there's that word again) of Fuddruckers sauce. If you love adding sauce to Velveeta, you may have made a new best friend.

Want a Food Lab Triple Whammy? Combine this sauce with oursPerfect thin crispy fries.michili for fries.Snack time will never be the same.


Press play to learn how to make cheese dip for fries and nachos

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September 2010

recipe data



Preparation:5 minutes

Cook:10 minutes

Asset:15 minutes

Without totals:15 minutes

(Video) Crispy French Fries & Cheese Sauce

to meet:12 servings

Can:1 1/2 bags

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  • 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese(or a mix of Cheddar and Pepper Jack; see Notes), grated into coarse holes of a box grater

  • 1 soup spoon cornstarch

  • As12-onzaI couldCondensed milk, Divided

  • 2 teaspoon red hot franconiaor other hotsalsa


  1. Place cheese and cornstarch in a large bowl. Play to match. Place in a medium size dish.

    Cheese Dip Recipe for Nachos Cheese Fries (9)

  2. Add 1 cup of condensed milk and hot sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until melted, bubbly, and thick, about 5 minutes. The mixture looks thin and grainy at first, but thickens and clumps together after heating. Thin to desired consistency with additional condensed milk. Serve immediately with French fries, tortillas, hamburgers, or hot dogs.

    Cheese Dip Recipe for Nachos Cheese Fries (10)

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This cheese sauce is sticky and flavorful. For a spicier version, substitute Pepper Jack for half the cheddar cheese and add 2-3 chopped pickled jalapenos, or to taste.

To reheat sauce, microwave over high heat, stopping and stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted.


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