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Nothing makes me quite as satisfied as a plate of nachos covered with delicious melted cheese. The combination of salty tortilla chips and hot gooey cheese seems to hit all the pleasure centers in my brain. To recreate that perfect plate of restaurant nachos, you need to know the best cheese to use.
The best cheese for nachos is a semi-hard cheese with a higher fat and moisture content, as these will melt nicely. Avoid crumbly cheese, sliced, and pre-shredded cheeses, as these will not make good sauces. Cheeses that work best for nachos include Colby, Monterey Jack, and Cheddar.
Not all cheese is created equal, and when it comes to nachos, you need a cheese that melts well and gives a bit of robust sharpness. Making a cheese sauce is how you get a perfect consistency to melt over your nachos. I’ve taste-tested different cheeses to find the ultimate nacho cheese topping.
Best Cheese For Nachos & Where To Buy
Firstly, if you want the best cheese for your nachos, you’ll want to avoid standard American cheese slices. These preserved, plastic slices will do your nachos no favors, so don’t even think of using them. Pre-shredded cheese has stabilizers that prevent them from melting well, so avoid them.
You’ll need a cheese that melts well to get your topping just right, so avoid crumbly cheeses like fetas or expensive cheddars. For a perfect cheese sauce for nachos, it’s best to melt the cheese over low heat before adding it to your nachos or serving it on the side for dipping.
Even better is to combine the cheeses to create a perfect cheese sauce that has just the right level of strong flavor and meltability.
Here are the best cheeses I’ve found for making a delicious sauce for your nachos.
Cheddar is one of the best all-round cheeses to use for making the best cheese sauce toppings for nachos. It has a sharp, strong cheese flavor and melts well. It’s easy to grate, and you can use it either grated directly on nachos and melted in the oven or prepare a cheese sauce.
You don’t need to buy the most expensive cheddar – I’d avoid the high-end, aged cheddars as they tend to be rather crumbly and a bit too sharp in taste. As the cheeses are matured, they lose moisture content and take longer to melt.
Buy loaf cheese and shred it yourself to avoid the added preservatives that prevent your cheese from melting well. I suggest a medium cheddar, such as the Medium Cheddar Block from Tillamook, available at many grocery stores such as Walmart and Kroger nationwide. I “had” to taste teste over 20 cheddar cheeses here, plenty of them would make great toppings for nachos if you want more options.
This cheese is the super-melter of cheeses, and if you want to make a creamy cheese sauce, Monterey jack will be the star. An America cheese that is semi-hard, with a mild, slightly sweet flavor,
Since Monterey Jack is generally only aged for a short period (two weeks-one month), it has high moisture content and, if made with whole milk, a high-fat content. Monterey Jack is the star cheese in making melted nacho sauces in Mexican restaurants and can be mixed with cheddar cheese.
If you prefer to add a bit of spice to your cheese, try using Pepper Jack, which is mixed with hot, pickled peppers. You can find Monterey Jack (and its different flavor options) in groceries around the country. If you prefer to shop for your cheese online, you can get an everyday value Monterey Jack loaf from the Amazon Whole Foods Market.
A quick tip for making nacho toppings with lots of herby and spicy flavors is to buy a flavored Monterey Jack cheese. You can grate this to melt and pour it over your tortilla chips without needing to add extra seasoning.
While similar to cheddar, the creamy orange-yellow Colby has gone through a slightly different process, resulting in a softer, milder cheese. With its semi-hard texture and high moisture content, Colby is a delicious melting cheese and the one we use for our Oven-Baked Nachos Recipe.
Originally developed in Wisconsin, Colby is an American cheese that is the perfect cheese to use for making nacho toppings. You can also buy Colby mixed with Monterey Jack, which produces a marbled cheese called Colby Jack.
You can buy Colby Cheese, or Colby Jack loafs at most grocery stores, but we recommend Shullsburg Creamery’s delicious Colby Cheese. Their online shop stocks a vast range of cheese, so it’s worth looking if any products seem like they would be an excellent addition to your nacho cheese.
Asedero cheese hails from Northwest Mexico and is a light, semi-firm cheese that melts beautifully without releasing a lot of excess oil. If you prefer a more authentic taste for your nachos, I recommend going with Asedero (or the similar, slightly drier Oaxaca cheese).
This white cheese has a slightly different texture to standard American cheeses, and the pulling process used to make it results in a stringy texture more like Mozzarella.
With its soft texture and mild creamy flavor, this is the best cheese for nachos; it melts superbly, and the mild, fresh taste complements added herbs, chiles, and spices.
It can be challenging to find this cheese in groceries (unless you live in the Southern states, where it will be more popular), so one way to source it is through Mexican groceries and stores. You can also use the product store search at Cacique to find shops near you that stock their Asedero or Oaxaca.
If you’re keen on making cheese, try making your own Asedero at home.
As far as white, semi-firm cheeses go, it will be easy to source mozzarella, and you’re probably most familiar with it as the best cheese for pizza. If you find Asedero hard to the sauce, try using Mozzarella instead.
If you prefer your cheese sauce to have a more robust taste and a yellow color, melt your Mozzarella with Colby or cheddar cheese. Mozzarella is also a pulled cheese, which gives it a similar, slightly stringy texture to Asedero.
When using Mozzarella, I prefer regular full-fat buffalo mozzarella rather than reduced-fat ones. I find that the reduced fat cheeses have a far more plastic texture and don’t melt very well. Buy fresh mozzarella balls rather than pre-shredded Mozzarella for the best taste and texture.
If pre-shredded is the only local option, I recommend trying either Craft or Tillamook brand mozzarella.
Gruyere is one of the pricier options for best cheese for nachos, but it is a delicious, buttery, slightly nutty cheese that melts deliciously. When heated, it creates a smooth cheese sauce, which is why it’s the prominent cheese used for Swiss cheese fondues.
The creaminess and slightly salty, rich taste make this such a great cheese for melting, but when it comes to nachos, you might find it a little too expensive. Save this one for special occasions, or combine it with other cheese types to make a piquant cheese topping for your nachos.
You can buy Gruyere at major groceries such as Whole Foods, Walmart, or Kroger and as part of Swiss cheese assortment boards.
Since Gruyere is made in Switzerland, you might prefer to save money by getting the cheaper Norwegian Jarlsberg cheese, which is significantly cheaper while similar in taste and texture.
Varieties of Jarlsberg are made in Ohio, making this a significantly less pricey alternative. It has a similar taste to Dutch Gouda. Jarlsberg’s nutty, earthy flvor goes really well with the crisp saltiness of nachos.
Jarlsberg cheese can be found in most stores, and you can beef it up with some additional Pepper Jack for extra flavor, taking your nachos to a new level.
Best Cheese To Add to Nacho Cheese Sauce
There are a couple of great cheeses that work well as additions when it comes to combining cheese for extra flavor and smoothness in your cheese sauce. While you don’t want to use these on their own, adding them t a base of Cheddar, Asedero, or Colby cheese will kick your sauce up a notch.
Several of these cheeses have strong flavors, so buy a small sample if you’re unsure and taste test. Some of them, like blue cheese, can generate love-hate reactions due to their intense flavors.
Below are some of my favorite cheeses to add to nacho cheese sauces.
This soft French cheese is made from cow’s milk and tastes similar to Camembert. Both kinds of cheese are deliciously soft and creamy, and mature cheeses have a strong taste. If your Brie has ripened too much, it will have an ammonia taste, which is rather unpleasant.
If you want to add rich, complex taste and creaminess to your nacho cheese sauce, consider mixing Brie (or Camembert) into your slowly melting Cheddar or Colby. You can add the rind to the cheese sauce as it is also edible.
While Brie is officially a French cheese, the name isn’t trademarked, and you can buy Brie made all over the world. Some types have added herbs and flavorings to add to your sauce. You can buy Camembert in small wheels, while Brie is often sold as a wedge portion of a wheel.
Camembert is the slightly stronger tasting of the two cheese types, with a more pungent smell. Both Brie and Camembert can be found in most large grocery stores.
Blue Cheese is one of those love-them-or-hate-them cheeses. I’m a massive fan of the robust flavor of ripe Blue cheese, but a little can go a long way. Crumble a bit into your cheese sauce to add a sharp, salty taste.
Some people cannot abide the smell of Blue cheese (also sometimes known as Gorgonzola, Stilton, and Roquefort), so take care with this one. It melts well when crumbled over other cheese like Mozzarella or Cheddar.
If you prefer to keep your added cheese types a little more authentic, I recommend adding some aged Enchilada cheese. It’s a firm, salty cheese that is rolled in paprika. This cheese added to your cheese sauce is the best cheese to add to give the sauce a little kick.
Traditionally, this Mexican cheese was made from goat’s milk, but these days it is more likely to be made from cow’s milk.
Because this cheese is quite crumbly, I don’t recommend using it as your base cheese, but adding it to fattier, creamier cheeses like Monterey Jack for extra flavor. Try buying your Enchilada cheese from Mexican grocers, or online Mexican stores like MexGrocer.
While I would never recommend Velveeta for the best cheese for nachos, it’s a surprising secret ingredient that adds creamy velvet texture to a cheese sauce. Add it to cheese like Cheddar or Colby for a smooth texture.
Velveeta might not be the cheese product you want to layer on oven-baked nachos; I add it to cheese sauces to give them a rich, smooth texture.
Velveeta is readily available, making it an excellent stand-by for recipes and adding to more expensive cheeses to make your nacho cheese sauce go further.
The reason for this one is right there in the name – delicious cream cheese is a perfect way to add a softer, creamier texture to a nacho cheese sauce. Stir it into your Monetary Jack and Asedero blend to make your cheese sauce even better.
Because cream cheese is quite bland, it can be an excellent addition to sauces for people who don’t like intense flavors. I find it helpful in making kid-friendly cheese sauces. Cream cheese is readily available in groceries and is a good kitchen cheese staple.
How to Melt the Best Cheese for Nachos
While you can tope your nachos with your shredded cheese and pop it in the oven like that, this can sometimes result in cheese burned at the edges.
You can pre-cook your nachos, take them out to add the cheese for the final grill, or make your cheese sauce separately and pour it over your oven-baked nachos before serving.
I often like to serve the cheese sauce separately so people can dip their salty tortilla chips, so these days my preference is to make the sauce first. When making a cheese sauce, keep the heat low. I make a quick roux of flour and butter and a little milk, then add my shredded cheese, stirring over low heat until all the cheese is melted.
There are many kinds of cheese to choose from, and the best cheese for nachos will be ones that melt well, have a flavor you like, and can be mixed with other cheeses. Blending different cheese is a great way to get the cheese sauce you like – with the correct ratio of creamy meltiness to flavor.