Easy Cheese Sauce Recipe for Schools

Author: Jen Bove, MS, RD Nutrition Services Director
East Hampton Public Schools, Connecticut

Supply chain issues forced us to come up with a homemade cheese sauce recipe and we will never go back to the pre-packaged product. For months we couldn’t get the cheese sauce we relied on for so many of our recipes. To continue offering those items, I sat down and researched a bunch of cheese sauce and macaroni and cheese recipes on the internet. I used those recipes as a starting point to create our own homemade cheese sauce recipe.  

Once we perfected it, it was a HUGE hit with our students. I knew then we could never go back to the pre-packaged sauce in our high school again. 

This recipe takes about as long to make as it does to heat up a bag of pre-packaged sauce. It doesn’t need any special equipment, just a pot, a whisk, and a big spoon. But, it can be made in a tilt skillet. The ingredients are likely items you already have on hand! 

This is one of our favorite recipes and I am excited to share it with you. It is perfect for mac and cheese, nachos, baked potatoes, waffle fries, and more.  

Steps for East Hampton Cheese Sauce Recipe

Step 1: Gather your ingredients:  

  • butter
  • 1% milk  
  • flour  
  • spices (black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and dry mustard)  
  • shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
  • grated parmesan cheese

Note: You can substitute shredded American cheese for half of the cheddar cheese, if you’d like, for a creamier sauce. We prefer the flavor using all cheddar cheese


Step 2: Melt the butter in a pot or tilt skillet and slowly whisk in your flour. Cook until the mixture becomes very thick – like thick mashed potatoes. This step is key. If you don’t let the butter flour mixture thicken enough, your sauce will be very thin and runny. 

Step 3: Slowly whisk milk into the thickened flour and butter mixture. Be patient and go slowly. If you add the milk too quickly, the mixture will become lumpy. Bring this mixture to a simmer over medium heat and stir frequently. It is important to make sure it never comes to a full boil, as this will cause a skin to form on the surface. Continue stirring until the sauce has thickened and clings to the whisk a bit when you lift it up. 

Step 4: Remove the sauce from the heat and add in your spices and your cheese, whisking until the sauce becomes smooth.  Remember to remove the pot from the heat before you do this, otherwise the fat may separate from the rest of the sauce and float on top.  

Step 5: Put your sauce in a steam pan and cover and hold at 135F for service the same day. You can mix it in with macaroni for a delicious mac and cheese, add it to baked potatoes, waffle fries, or top tortilla chips with it – the possibilities are endless. You can also hold the sauce, covered, at 41F for up to 5 days.  

How this cheese sauce credits

½ cup of cheese sauce credits as two meat/ meat alternates. Mixing one recipe of this sauce with nine quarts of macaroni will give you a very creamy mac and cheese that credits as one grain equivalent and two meat/ meat alternates. 

Ways to spice up the sauce

This sauce is delicious on its own, but to spice it up a bit: 

  • Add chopped pickled jalapenos when you add the cheese for even more flavorful nachos.  
  • Substitute a half cup to a cup of milk for buffalo sauce, to make a tasty mac and cheese that middle and high school students will flip for. 
Click Here for Standardized Recipe and Picture Guide

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