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Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce

Skip the sketchy ingredients in the store-bought sauces and whip up a batch of gluten-free cheese sauce from scratch. 
a spoon with gluten-free cheese sauce over a saucepan

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Make the creamiest homemade Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce in under 15 minutes! Skip the sketchy ingredients in store-bought cheese sauce and whip up a batch from scratch today. 

a grey plate with roasted broccoli drizzled in gluten-free cheese sauce

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What’s better than perfectly roasted veggies or homemade air fryer pretzel bites? Well, those things but with a delicious, creamy, and EASY homemade gluten-free cheese sauce!

Seriously, give me 10-15 minutes and you’ll be the hero of dinner time.

This sauce is small-batch, but you can easily double or triple it. Down in the printable recipe card you’ll find an option to increase the servings.

Oh, and this sauce is pourable; if you’re looking for a thicker, solid sauce, check out our Jalapeño Cheeseball or our Pub Cheese recipe.

How to Use Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce

The possibilities are endless, but you can drizzle it over Air Fryer Asparagus, Roasted Frozen Broccoli, Crispy Potato Wedges, Air Fryer Tortilla Chips, or use it in place of the grated cheddar on these Lentil Nachos.

You could also boil some elbow noodles or rotini and combine them with the homemade cheese sauce, bake it for 15 minutes at 350F and have a delightful quick mac and cheese. Related: Instant Pot Mac and Cheese.

How Long Does Cheese Sauce That’s Gluten-Free Last?

You can keep this covered in the fridge for 2-3 days. To reheat: cook over low heat, stirring slowly with a whisk (this whisk is similar to the one you see in my photos) to make sure the sauce doesn’t curdle or break.

You can also microwave it in 15-second increments, stirring gently with a spoon each time it has finished.

shredded cheese, butter, milk, and other ingredients on a white board

Gluten-Free Roux Options

A roux is essentially combining fat with flour or another starch and cooking it slowly to form a smooth paste. The roux is the base of most homemade cream sauces and it’s traditionally made with all-purpose flour.

To make a cheese sauce that is gluten-free, you can use: cornstarch, arrowroot powder, tapioca starch, or sweet rice flour. A cup for cup gluten-free flour (like King Arthur) will also work. My preference is cornstarch as I think it creates the smoothest roux.

Why Does Cheese Sauce Become Grainy?

Many people give up making homemade cheese sauce when it turns grainy the first time they make it. Don’t worry, I’m here to help!

The best way to keep it from getting grainy in the first place is to use low heat, cook things slowly, and add additional ingredients slowly while whisking constantly. Also, you must use warmed milk in your homemade cheese sauce to keep it smooth.

Whenever possible, grate your own cheese for the smoothest homemade cheese sauce. Pre-shredded cheese from the store often contains cellulose to keep the pieces from sticking together. A side effect of cellulose is cheese that doesn’t melt evenly.

If possible, allow your grated cheese to sit at room temp for 10-15 minutes before it is added to the hot roux/milk mixture. This will prevent the cold cheese from breaking the sauce when incorporated.

How to Fix Grainy or Curdled Cheese Sauce

So, you cooked your sauce too quickly at too high of a heat, and it broke and became grainy. It happens!

To fix it, you’ll first want to remove the pot from heat. Continuing to overcook the sauce will not fix anything.

Next, add in 2 tsp of lemon juice OR white wine OR warmed heavy cream. Use ONE of these – do not use a combination. Then, whisk smoothly but vigorously off heat until the sauce has become smooth.

6 photos showing how to make cheese sauce.

Homemade Cheese Sauce Variations

This recipe calls for a mix of extra sharp cheddar and a bit of shredded Parmesan. You can use all extra sharp cheddar if that’s all you have on hand.

Other great options are mixing up multiple kinds of cheese with extra sharp as the base. A few great options are gruyere, gouda, emmental, and colby Jack.

If you’re looking for something closer to a pourable nacho cheese sauce, leave out the Parmesan and use all extra sharp cheddar, PLUS chop up some canned pickled jalapenos to give it some kick. Stir them in after the sauce has finished cooking.

Pro Tips/Recipe Notes

  • Do not skip the step of warming the milk before adding it to the gluten-free roux. This will prevent the sauce from breaking/curdling.
  • When you first add the milk to the roux, it’s going to get lumpy and look like a hot mess (see the third photo on the right in the photo grid above). Just keep adding the milk bit by bit, whisking constantly.
  • Add in a pinch of black or white pepper if desired.
  • If you aren’t using a strong cheese (like extra sharp cheddar), the sauce may taste a bit underwhelming. Try adding sea salt 1/8 tsp at a time, tasting with each addition.
  • Using 1/2-1 tsp of dry mustard powder and/or chicken bouillon powder can also intensify the taste of the sauce.
  • I use garlic powder in this recipe to keep the texture extra smooth. But if you prefer the taste of fresh garlic, finely minced garlic or even garlic paste will work.
a spoon with gluten-free cheese sauce over a saucepan
a spoon with gluten-free cheese sauce over a saucepan
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Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time15 mins
Skip the sketchy ingredients in the store-bought sauces and whip up a batch of gluten-free cheese sauce from scratch. 

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk {warmed}
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/4 cup extra sharp cheddar {shredded}
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan {shredded}
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Equipment

Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium-low heat.
    2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Sprinkle in cornstarch and then whisk gently for ~3 minutes or until the cornstarch and butter have taken on a caramel color.
    2 tbsp cornstarch
  • Slowly pour in the warmed milk (about 1/2 cup at a time), garlic powder, and salt, whisking constantly. Cook for 2 minutes while whisking.
    1 1/2 cup whole milk, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • Add the extra-sharp cheddar and Parmesan and stir gently on low heat until melted. This can take 3-5 minutes.
    Pro tip: the Parmesan will be the last to melt because it is a harder cheese.
    1 1/4 cup extra sharp cheddar, 1/4 cup Parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Notes

  • Do not skip the step of warming the milk before adding it to the gluten-free roux. This will prevent the sauce from curdling/breaking.
  • Whenever possible, grate your own cheese for the smoothest homemade cheese sauce.
  • You can keep this sauce covered in the fridge for 2-3 days. To reheat: cook over low heat, stirring slowly with a whisk to make sure the sauce doesn’t curdle or break. Or microwave in 15-second increments, stirring each time.
  • Cornstarch alternatives: arrowroot powder, tapioca starch, or sweet rice flour. A cup for cup gluten-free flour (like King Arthur) will also work.
  • Using 1/2-1 tsp of dry mustard powder and/or chicken bouillon powder can also intensify the taste of the sauce.
Nutrition Facts
Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce
Amount Per Serving (2 tbsp)
Calories 73 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Fat 6g9%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 16mg5%
Sodium 128mg6%
Potassium 44mg1%
Carbohydrates 2g1%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 3g6%
Vitamin A 181IU4%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 110mg11%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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