If you have ever obsessed over the cheese fries from Shake Shack, this easy homemade Cheese Sauce recipe is for you!  A combination of fresh onions, jalapeños, and cheddar cheese bring the flavor, while heavy cream and American cheese make it rich and smooth. I am obsessed and have been putting it on everything! The best cheese sauce for fries, roasted potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, nachos, burgers, hot dogs, enchiladas, burritos, the list is endless! Originally posted March 20, 2021.

two crinkle fries being dipping into a clear bowl of easy cheese sauce

So we bought a new couch and had to sell the old one. Well. “Sell” is an overstatement. It’s a 13 year old couch that has been jumped on for hundreds of hours worth of children’s pillow fights (all while their parents scream in the background, “NO jumping on the couch if you jump on that couch one more time I swear I’m gonna…”)

So after the couch sat online for a few days with it’s $20 price tag, we lowered the price to free. I guess we should have known.

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a tortilla lifting cheese sauce from a bowl

Then we started getting calls. Eric told me that several women called, asking questions like, “Is it a comfortable couch? How old is it? Are there any stains?”

Then finally a man called. “Is the couch still available? Can I come get it in 40 minutes?”

Two young guys showed up and hauled off the couch in 5 minutes flat.

a spoon drizzling homemade cheese sauce into a clear bowl

I kid you not, these guys did not even sit on the couch to see if it was sit-able. They did not check under the cushions or inspect it in any way. There was no waffling or questioning.

One of them had a shirt on that said, “idk, idc, idgaf.” Which I feel helps explain this whole transaction quite nicely. When you are outfitting your bachelor pad, who really cares about the state of the couch?

Swirling a whisk through a pan of cheese sauce

Now we are tasked with finding a new couch to replace the other new (terrible) couch we bought. Yes, really. Read all about our unfortunate couch shopping misadventures here. I think we should bring these two guys with us on our next trip to the furniture gallery. We need some of that bachelor attitude. idk, idc, idgaf indeed.

a broccoli floret being dipped into easy cheese sauce
Try this cheese sauce with Oven Roasted Broccoli. Heaven!

Cheese Sauce from Shake Shack

Welcome to the Cheese Sauce that you didn’t even know you needed in your life. Soon you will be making this sauce bi-weekly and cursing my name that you are no longer able to consume chips, fries, or broccoli without it. IT’S LEGIT GUYS.

It’s not Queso. It’s not nacho cheese. It’s just CHEESE, sharp cheddar cheese, but in dip form. Perfect for your fries, your chips, or your spoon.

crinkle fries dipped in Shake Shack cheese sauce

It’s the original recipe from Shake Shack. Remember last year when quarantine first started, and all these restaurants started publishing secret recipes for everyone? Shake Shack shared their cheese sauce recipe.

First of all, if you have never been to Shake Shack, get in the car and start driving. It is my FAVORITE place to eat fast food. Better than In N Out. Better than Five Guys. Shake Shack has the best burgers, the best shakes, the best fries (with cheese sauce!!! I mean come on!)

easy cheese sauce in a bowl with a hand dipping two french fries

Anyway, of course I had to try out their recipe. I made it and then ordered 3 large cheese fries from Shake Shack to be delivered, so that I could compare.

No surprise, the homemade one was better. It was more flavorful. I followed the exact recipe as shared on their Instagram account, but they must have to add some preservatives or something in order to mass produce? I don’t know. What I do know is that this stuff is liquid gold and I’m now adding cheese sauce to everything.

How to make Cheese Sauce

This recipe is easy! Most cheese sauce recipes use dried spices to bring in some flavor. Not this one: we are using real onions, real jalapeños, and real peppercorns!

Easy Cheese Sauce Ingredients

Here’s a quick list at a glance, the full recipe is below!

  • Oil
  • jalapeno
  • onion
  • whole peppercorn
  • kosher salt
  • white wine vinegar
  • white wine
  • cream
  • American cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
salt, peppercorns, sliced jalapeno, and sliced onion on a wooden cutting board, then in a pan

Don’t be afraid of the peppercorns. This cheese sauce is definitely not spicy. This is not Queso! It does not have Mexican flavors. It is just the savory, sharp goodness of straight up cheddar cheese, with the jalapeños and peppercorns added in for flavor, not a ton of heat.

On one of my tests making this cheese I actually added a whole sliced jalapeno (rather than just a few slices) just to see what would happen. It was delicious! Feel free to play with the spice level. As written, the recipe is quite mild. I actually tried my hand at making homemade Taco Bell Crunchwraps a few weeks ago, and added a whole-jalapeno version of this cheese sauce as one of the layers. It was so amazing. (Tell me in the comments if you want my Crunchwrap recipe!)

How to make Cheese Sauce

adding vinegar to a pan of sauteed onions and jalapenos, pouring cream
  1. Saute the peppers and onions in some oil with plenty of salt, then add some white wine and white wine vinegar. Cook it down, then add in your cream.
  2. This is the only hard part. Wait 30 minutes for the cream to steep. The cream will absorb all that flavor! Have a taste! It’s delicious.
straining jalapenos and onions out of cream, pouring strained cream back in pan
  1. Then strain out all the solids and add the cream back into your saucepan. It’s retained all the flavor but is going to be perfectly smooth.
  2. Shred up your cheddar cheese, and chop your American cheese into chunks.
shredded cheddar cheese and cubed American cheese on a cutting board, adding to cream sauce in a pan
  1. Heat up the cream again. Do you see how the cream is nice and frothy? Don’t let it come to a boil, but it should have bubbles on the edge.

What is a good melting cheese for this sauce?

Then add in all the cheeeeeeeese! You are going to want to use half American cheese and half sharp cheddar cheese. The American cheese melts incredibly smooth, and the sharp cheddar provides amazing flavor. It is the perfect combo!

I don’t recommend replacing the American Cheese. It is one of the only kinds of cheese that will get you that soft, smooth texture and never go grainy on you. Read more about why I stand by American Cheese in this excellent Serious Eats article, What is American cheese anyway?

If you like you can try out this recipe using another type of cheese in place of cheddar. Mozzarella, Pepper Jack, Fontina, or Oaxaca cheese come to mind.

shake shack cheese sauce being poured into a white bowl

After adding in all the cheese, whisk until perfectly smooth, and that’s it! Dip away! Serve immediately. This recipe will thicken as is approaches room temperature. It’s best to keep it on the stove on low until the last minute, whisking occasionally.

How to make Cheese sauce thicker or thinner

If you want to thin out your sauce a bit, add in a little milk or cream, one tablespoon at a time. Be careful though, you don’t want to add so much that you drown out the perfect cheesy flavor! This sauce is meant to be a little thick. If you want it even thicker, use less cream to begin with (less than the 2 cups called for in the recipe.) But honestly, I wouldn’t. This recipe makes a nice and thick cheesy sauce.

Cheese Sauce Recipe variations

There are all kinds of ways you can change up this recipe if you’re in the mood!

  • Make it spicy! Slice up that whole jalapeno. Add two if you like, or even three!
  • Add dried spices. You could take this in a Mexican direction and add chili powder, cumin, and oregano.
  • Add 2-3 cloves freshly chopped garlic to the onions and jalapenos. Is garlic ever a bad idea? No.
  • Add a can of beans and drained tomatoes. Turn this into a more substantial dip, kind of like this Chili’s Queso recipe!

Ideas for how to use this Cheese Sauce recipe

I mean, besides your spoon straight into your mouth.

  • French Fries
  • Dip your roasted potatoes in it, or drizzle on top
  • dip for tortilla chips (or any kind of chip or cracker)
  • drizzle on broccoli or cauliflower
  • dip roasted asparagus in it
  • Stir it into cooked pasta for instant mac and cheese
  • make the best nachos of your life
  • Slather it on a burger (life-changing! I always spread the leftover cheese sauce from my fries directly on my Shake Shack burger. So good.) 
  • Top a hot dog. You know you want that.
  • Drizzle on scrambled eggs or a fried egg.
  • Use it to top eggs benedict instead of hollandaise sauce. What!!
  • Stir it into mashed potatoes
  • Stir it into homemade chili!! This would be so amazing.
  • dip tater tots (really any potato situation is a winner)
  • Top a baked potato!! Sorry about all the exclamation points, every new idea I think of sounds so amazing to me!
  • Dip soft pretzels into cheese sauce. Or these Homemade Pretzel Dogs!
  • Add it as a layer on a homemade Crunchwrap Supreme like from Taco Bell! Should I post my Crunchwrap recipe for you guys?
  • Add it to a roast beef sandwich. Can you imagine French Dip Sandwiches with this sauce incorporated??

The possibilities are endless! I can’t wait to see what you make with it! Let me know your plans in the comments, and if you make it, snap a picture and tag me on Instagram so I can see it. I love that!

cheese sauce for fries, dipping fries into the bowl

How to store and reheat Simple Cheese Sauce

Cheese sauce should be stored covered in the fridge. It will solidify when chilled. To reheat, place back in a saucepan and set over low heat for several minutes, whisking frequently. Add milk a tablespoon or two at a time until it is thinned out to the consistency you want. You can do this in the microwave too, just make sure you only heat in short increments, stirring in between.

Best way to keep Cheese Sauce warm

This cheese sauce must be served warm. It thickens as it cools. I like to serve it right from the pan I made it in, set on the stove with the heat on very low. Your event is not that fancy if you’re serving cheese sauce, right? 😉 Invite your guests into your kitchen and have them serve themselves. Or dip their chips right into the pan, this is a safe space, no one is judging you.

The other option is to transfer the sauce to a mini crock pot and set it to the “keep warm” setting. This would be a great idea for parties that are going to last a while. Don’t forget to come back and stir occasionally, whether it’s on the stove or in the slow cooker.

pouring cheese sauce over roasted potatoes
This sauce is so good drizzled on these Roasted Potatoes.

P.S. I took 483 photos of this cheese sauce. No joke. I usually take at least a couple hundred photos when I’m doing a food photoshoot, but 483 is a little excessive, even for me. This cheese is just gorgeous, I couldn’t stop myself. (Okay, that’s a lie. The real story is that this cheese sauce gets a film on top almost immediately if it’s not being stirred, which makes it a nightmare for getting shots that look smooth and creamy. Even though the sauce really IS ridiculously smooth and creamy.)

photo shoot set up: fries, chips, broccoli, cheese dip on a wooden board with brown table runner

Here is my porch set up after an hour and a half of screaming at cheese and fries. My neighbors probably think I’m insane. You can see all the discarded fries and chips that I dipped in sauce for a photo and then set aside. Because while yes, I can hold my own when it comes to carb-loading, I can’t ACTUALLY eat 3 large orders of Shake Shack french fries on my own. Dip, take photo, set aside off camera. Times 483. Sometimes being a food blogger is a weird job, you guys.

More dips, appetizers, and sauces you are going to love!

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Simple Cheese Sauce Recipe

5 from 18 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Steep Time: 30 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 3 cups
If you have ever obsessed over the cheese fries they have at Shake Shack, this easy homemade Cheese Sauce recipe is for you!  A combination of fresh onions, jalapeños, and cheddar cheese bring the flavor, while heavy cream and American cheese make it rich and smooth. I am obsessed with it and have been putting it on everything! The best cheese sauce for fries, roasted potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, nachos, burgers, hot dogs, enchiladas, burritos, the list is endless!


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 6 slices jalapeno, seeds included
  • 3/4 cup sliced onion
  • 2 tablespoons whole peppercorn
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 2 cups heavy cream*
  • 2 cups American cheese, 8 ounces, cubed
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, 8 ounces, shredded


  • Slice the jalapeños and onions. 6 slices of jalapeño is about half a small jalapeño. You can slice and add the whole thing if you want your sauce to have a little kick to it. You need 3/4 cup onions, which is about 1 very small onion or half a medium onion.
  • Set a medium frying pan over medium high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon oil. It should shimmer right away. Add the sliced jalapeño, sliced onion, and 2 tablespoons peppercorn.
  • Sprinkle with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and saute for 3-5 minutes.
  • Add 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons white wine (I used cooking wine). 
  • Continue sautéing until the liquid has mostly evaporated and absorbed into the onions and jalapeños. 
  • Add 2 cups cream and stir it together. After about 30 seconds, when the cream is warm but not starting to bubble, remove from heat.
  • Set aside and let steep for 30 minutes. 
  • Chop 2 cups of American cheese while you wait. (2 cups is 8 ounces.) Shred 2 cups of cheddar cheese. Set aside.
  • After 30 minutes, use a sieve to strain out the jalapeños, onions, and peppercorns. Add the smooth cream back into the pan you were using. You don’t need to clean the pan, but make sure you’ve scraped out all the solids.
  • Set the pan of smooth cream back over medium heat and stir occasionally. When the mixture starts to get frothy on the edges and form small bubbles, add the American cheese and Cheddar cheese in increments, stirring with a whisk as you go. Turn the heat down to low. 
  • Continue whisking until the mixture is completely smooth.
  • Serve immediately while hot! If your cheese starts to thicken, heat again on low and stir in milk a tablespoon at a time to thin it to the consistency you like.
  • Cheese sauce should be stored covered in the fridge. It will solidify when chilled. To reheat, place back in a saucepan and set over low heat for several minutes, whisking frequently. Add milk a tablespoon or two at a time until it is thinned out to the consistency you want. You can do this in the microwave too, just make sure you only heat in short increments, stirring in between.


*Heavy cream is found next to the milk in the store. It is the heavy part of milk that rises to the top. It is not coffee creamer. It may be labeled heavy cream or whipping cream; either kind if fine for this recipe (the names differentiate fat content levels in the cream)
Source: Recipe is from Shake Shack!


Serving: 1g | Calories: 1289kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 118g | Saturated Fat: 70g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 35g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 390mg | Sodium: 3255mg | Potassium: 542mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 4308IU | Vitamin C: 37mg | Calcium: 1666mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: American
Calories: 1289
Keyword: best, cheese, dip, sauce, shake shack copycat
Did you make this? I’d love to see it!Mention @thefoodcharlatan or tag #thefoodcharlatan!

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  1. Wanted to give a quick option if anyone was interested. 4 oz cream cheese, 1/4c shredded cheddar cheese, 1/4tsp of rubbed or ground sage. Way easier to make, and to me, tastes more like Shake Shack’s recipe :) Makes for a good Mac n cheese sauce too!

    *edit- oops, forgot the half n half. 1/4c :)

    1. Erin I have this terrible habit of throwing out, “should I blog this recipe” questions and then never following up! I recently got myself a crunchwrap from Taco bell and remembered just how much I loved the version I made last summer. I definitely need to get to this! Thanks for the renewed inspiration!

      1. I am definitely going to make this cheese sauce and would love to see your recipe for crunchwrap
        Thank you for all the delicious recipes you share with us.

        1. I hope you love it RR! I love me a crunchwrap and have been meaning to get to that copycat for so long!! I will get there someday I promise!

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