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What is Nacho Cheese?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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The sauce that gives a plate of nachos so much appeal, nacho cheese is flavorful blend of melted cheese that is often combined with a few light spices and chopped or sliced chili peppers. The combination is poured over tortilla chips and served immediately, or served as a side dip for corn chips, tortilla chips, or flavored taco chips. These cheese sauce can be prepared with ease in the home, or purchased in prepackaged containers in most supermarkets.

Nacho cheese sauce can be created using mild or sharp cheddar, or with any blend of cheese that a person wants. Usually, the cheese will be grated and then allowed to slowly melt into a thick sauce. As it melts, some recipes call for adding some sort of liquid as a means of thinning the mixture slightly. One popular recipe calls for the addition of chopped tomatoes and chili peppers to the melting cheese, and a further refinement adds ground beef or sausage that has been crumbled and cooked to the mixture. This type of dip has been popular as a party dip for many years, and is often served in small slow cookers that help to maintain the temperature and texture of the cheese.

In addition to use in the creation of nachos and as a hot dip spiced with meats and peppers, nacho cheese can also be used in other types of recipes. For example, the sauce can be added to elbow macaroni to create a simple macaroni and cheese side dish that has a more exotic taste than the traditional recipe. It can be substituted for other cheeses in a variety of casseroles as well, often adding another layer of creamy texture to the dish. Even a simple omelet can be enhanced with a filling of cheese and various peppers and herbs.

Relatively inexpensive and versatile, nacho cheese can be used in a number of simple and tasty dishes. Commercial versions of the cheese can be found in jars, cans, and even in the frozen food section of some supermarkets. Often, the sauce can be heated in a double boiler or melted in a microwave oven with ease, making it simple to work with.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including DelightedCooking, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon289356 — On Sep 03, 2012

Nacho cheese is a misnomer. Nacho cheese is not a cheese in the sense of Swiss or mozzarella. As mentioned in this article, cheddar can be used to create a sauce for nachos, but so can other cheeses. For clarity, nacho cheese sauce is simply the cheese dip made for nachos. Commercially, it is usually processed "American cheese" made into a liquid honey like consistency by processing it adding salt and whipping it up with emulsifiers (and if you like whey protein, so dental floss is on the right track thinning with milk for a more healthy home-made nacho cheese dip).

Doritos actually do add processed, dried cheddar powder after it is emulsified, but any cheese can be used with great results. This is why Velveeta works well, and why it is the most common base for commercial nacho cheese dips. Velveeta is based on real cheese. The only reason it got into a naming scandal is because of the added milk protein (whey protein) isn't considered for a cheese spread, but it is fine as a cheese product. These distinctions are really just confusing, as they are all milk based products. Some are just cheesier and some just run more.

By DentalFloss — On Jan 04, 2011

@succulents, I think that they taste the same because Velveeta is not really cheese, and neither is most of the "cheese" dip found in the chip aisle.

I think you can have a little more luck with cheddar if you add milk to thin it, though then you have to worry about the milk burning. I haven't made it in a long time, so I would probably say find a good recipe.

By succulents — On Jan 31, 2010

I can never get the cheddar to melt right without separating, so I use Velveeta to make my own nacho cheese. Just cube the velveeta and add some salsa, then melt in the microwave. Tastes just like the jars you find in the chip aisle. Melts smoothly without separating and even makes a better grilled cheese sandwich than using American Cheese slices.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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