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Requesting the perfect cheese blend for nacho cheese...before this Sunday!

Hi folks I hope you can help me with my quest.

I'm in need of a perfect cheese blend for a nacho cheese sauce. Through the amazing powers of modernist cuisine I have the texture down by using sodium citrate. But every time I make the recipe with the standard cheddar I feel like something is missing.

I think the perfect nacho cheese sauce flavor should be cheesy, a tiny bit sharp, tangy, have a distinctive cheesy tongue smacking sensation in your mouth and have that final "nom nom" taste.

The closest I ever came to that flavor and taste was the yummy queso at Guero's in Brooklyn (http://www.guerosbrooklyn.com/About_U...
)I would really love to replicate this delicious taste but I'm kind of lost as to where to start.

Here is where I am for cheese blend:

base cheese: mild cheddar
distinctive cheesy sensation: monterrey jack
nom nom:

I know I sound insane but I've spent the better part of my young life trying to find the perfect cheese blend for nacho cheese. I would really love the help from you all.

Thank you for reading!

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  1. what about using a combo of sharp cheddar and regular cheddar?

    1. I'm very new to sodium citrate, but I made a cheese sauce out of cotija and it was very tangy - almost like feta. That might be perfect for your third.

      1. That perfect tang comes from either Velveeta or American cheese. Nothing else quite has the right flavor. I'd add 1/3 Velveeta to your other cheeses and see if you like the result.

        If you don't want to try Velveeta, try a sharper cheddar and see if that helps. Mild cheddar tastes like nothing at all to me.

        10 Replies
        1. re: biondanonima

          There is nothing less tangy than Velveeta or American cheese .

          They are essentially tasteless.


          1. re: C. Hamster

            That's actually completely untrue. They are not particularly cheesy but they are neither tasteless nor "un-tangy." People who report these as tasteless have usually never actually eaten them straight.

            That unique flavor the OP is looking for is almost certainly coming from Velveeta or Cheez-Whiz, foodservice packs. One-third of your mix is about the right proportion.

            They certainly have much more flavor than either mild or medium cheddar, neither of which have the assertive "smack" a Nacho Cheese *Sauce* requires and both of which will tend to clump and separate when melted unless you create a thick béchamel as your base.

            For Restaurant-style Nachos you use Cheddar. For Stadium Style Nacho Cheese *Sauce* you have to use highly processed "Cheese Food Product."

            Here's another horrible secret: to goose up the flavor more, try to find the *blue* canister of Kraft Cheddar Cheese Powder (often found in the Popcorn section) and add some of it to your sauce mix. It's close to the stuff in their Mac n' Cheese box mix and will amp up your flavor tremendously. Does it taste like real cheese? Not really, but your guests will love it ands ask you why your dip/sauce tastes so great.

            Try it and see and report back. I could be wrong.

            1. re: acgold7

              Sweet cheesus! That mac and cheese powder would be PERFECT. I will experiment.

              1. re: bamboozledpickle

                Hold firm, my friend! Don't let anyone talk you out of it!

                As others have noted, Velveeta and the like are typically used for textural purposes, which you already have covered. But I'd still recommend you buy a small amount and test it as it may give you the flavor profile you're seeking.

                As for beer for the base, I'd echo the recommendation for a Coors Light of something relatively tasteless. This is Nacho Sauce, not a fondue that's going to be served with plain bread where the delicate subtle flavors of the base beer need to shine through.

                1. re: acgold7

                  I agree with acgold 100%. I have been experimenting with sodium citrate cheese sauces recently and I like them a lot - however, sodium citrate can't replace Velveeta or other processed cheese in certain recipes. While you may not need the Velveeta for meltiness or to keep the sauce from breaking, it adds something in terms of both flavor and texture that just screams "this is what cheese dip is supposed to taste like!!!!!!!!!"

                  1. re: biondanonima

                    I guess the flavor would be very salty.

                    As for texture, are you using a carrageenan in conjunction with the citrate?

                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                      No, I haven't used carrageenan - I was considering adding a little xanthan gum to a batch, just to see if that does the trick. I have mostly been making cheese sauces for things like mac and cheese, though, not straight up nacho dip, so we're really talking about two different things.

              2. re: acgold7

                I think the secret ingredient in Cheez-Whiz is camembert. Or, mild Japanese camembert.
                Might try mixing in a little of that in the nacho cheese mix.

              3. re: C. Hamster

                oh wow I agree. Velveeta melts quite well since it's already "melted",but to me it has a completely chemical , bland, and boring taste as does Cheewiz. I am the unfortunate victim of several dishes of Velveeta and Cheez wiz nachos, even though I was assured they were not. They were, and I have eaten them straight...or rather, tasted them straight and then stopped...more times than I want to remember.

                To my taste, both have much less flavor than cheddar or jack. And cheese food is not food.

                The OP is asking for taste, not melt-ability or smoothness.

                I was initially opposed to the condensed milk (not sweet variety) idea, but I once made both green and red chili nacho sauces with it, and it got the creaminess/smoothness there without a lot of added chemical additives or non taste/gross taste.

                The old Moosewood cookbook had a great recipe for Nachos sauce that did involve a long simmering with beer and lots of cheese and other seasonings. It does taste like hops, depending on the beer you use, so I use less than a bottle, and it takes a lot longer to prepare (cooking time), but it suits me very well.

                The dried cheddar cheese powder if of good quality is great, adds a huge punch of flavor.

                But as I well know, many others prefer things I don't like, so to each his/her own.

              4. re: biondanonima

                I have no idea what the queso at Guero's tastes like, but I do love the 3-cheese queso from Qdoba, which their website says is made with Monterey Jack, American and Cheddar. Perhaps start with that combo and swap out your mild cheddar for sharp for some tang.
                I make a white queso dip with either Asadero, or white American cheese and green chiles, but it's probably a milder flavor than what you're looking for.

              5. I would use asadero for the tang, I don't have a clue what you mean by nom nom (in our house "noms" are cat food- particularly, gushy noms, being canned cat food.)

                1 Reply
                1. re: weezieduzzit

                  mmmmm asadero cheese. I had some delicious nachos with individual silces of asadero cheese and pickled jalapeños at a restaurant. They were delicious.

                  Maybe asadero would work for the base flavor.

                2. Kenji on Serious Eats recommends Pepper Jack and pickled jalapenos. He also uses evaporated milk. I made this a couple of weeks ago. It was very good, but still too cheddary for my taste. Next time, I would use a higher proportion of Pepper Jack. http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                  1. I would go with a sharp aged cheddar instead of your mild cheddar. As you said, the sodium citrate takes care of the melty creaminess (which also eliminates the need for velveeta, as someone else recommended). I made a nacho cheese dip with beer as the liquid, a really sharp cheddar, a bit of chile powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. My in-laws literally huddled around the little fondue bowl and ate it until it was gone.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: TorontoJo

                      What beer would you suggest? This crowd is 50/50 split of beer drinkers. I would assume something light but not completely tasteless.

                      1. re: bamboozledpickle

                        I just used some Coors Light that someone had brought over. Any inexpensive beer would do, I would think. This is not the place to use a pricey craft beer. :)

                        1. re: TorontoJo

                          I disagree. I wouldn't use a double IPA or anything like that with serious hop presence, but a nice wheat beer, APA, cream ale, or something else with decent grain flavor and some yeast complexity will definitely add something to the overall dish.

                    2. I like 60/40 aged cheddar and aged gouda. I don't see the point of using anything mild, and Jack is not especially distinctive in my humble opinion.

                      Use some beer as the liquid, to add a bit of additional flavor and tanginess.

                      For nachos you might also want to dose it with a bit of hot sauce (Cholula or similar is nice IMO -- additional tang, plus some heat).

                      1 Reply
                      1. Land o lakes white american

                        1. not exactly authentic, but i find if i just nuke tj's jalapeño pub cheese it makes for a good dip- also shmear it on a burger for a good cheeseburger

                          1. It has already been mentioned that a lot of restaurants use Land of Lakes American cheese as their base for nacho sauce. There are also some flavored processed cheese logs like this one http://www.olemexicanfoods.com/queso-... that are sold in the Mexican Food section of many supermarkets.

                            1. I've used Velveeta and a can of Campbell's Cheddar Cheese Soup. The soup still gives it that creamy texture and adds a little bit of a different cheesy taste. It also works great for a cheese sauce over steamed veggies.

                              1. American is a must for me. I like what gouda, smoked or aged) or gruyere add for flavor.

                                1. Okay folks so here is what ended up happening.

                                  After some small testing I realized I had to dump the sodium citrate nacho cheese. Despite numerous liquid to sodium citrate adjustments the sauce always had this weird paste like texture.

                                  I ended up using serious eats nacho cheese recipe (http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...) out of pure desperation. The only adjustment I made was that I did half sharp cheddar and half monterey jack and added extra tabasco sauce.

                                  It was perfect. I was going to add American cheese since so many of you said that missing taste is the flavor of American cheese but it was perfect as is. I do believe that this nacho cheese sauce will serve as a perfect base for many other cheese additions.

                                  Thank you all for your help!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: bamboozledpickle

                                    Can you describe the "weird paste like texture" in more words? Do you mean too thick? Lumpy? Coated the palate in a weird way? And can you share the ratios and procedure you used? I think -- if you're interested -- it can be fixed.