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This cheese sauce recipe is so simple to make, and cheese lovers will adore it! It goes wonderfully with broccoli for that classic cheesy, creamy taste.
Why you’ll love it
Cheddar cheese and broccoli are one of those iconic pairings that just belong together, kind of like peanut butter and jelly. Of course, this easy cheese sauce works with other vegetables, but that’s how we like it best. It’s a wonderful way to introduce picky toddlers to broccoli!
It’s super convenient since it uses pantry staples and is quick to whip up on a busy weeknight for your family. There’s no reason not to make it from scratch at home since it’s really simple to master and make with confidence. It’s a basic sauce that you’ll love.
What you’ll need
- Broccoli – we’re using a head of fresh broccoli
- Butter and flour – to make a roux to thicken the sauce
- Milk – we’re using whole milk
- Cheddar cheese – use a good block of sharp cheddar and not the pre-shredded bagged kind so it doesn’t end up grainy. Quality is key here.
- Garlic powder & salt – to add savory depth of flavor. It’s important use enough salt to bring out the flavors.
- Cayenne pepper – it’s optional but adds a gentle warmth. It doesn’t make it spicy!
Did you know?
- Butter, flour, and whole milk are the building blocks for bechamel sauce, which is a classic rich white sauce in French cuisine. It’s the base of this cheese sauce. Learning how to make bechamel is a great skill to have for many recipes!
How to make homemade cheese sauce
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Boil the broccoli in a salted pot of water for 2-3 minutes. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk using a balloon whisk constantly for 1-2 minutes until it’s just golden, without letting it brown, to make a roux. Very gradually pour in the milk while continuing to whisk.
After it has thickened up, take the pan off the heat, and whisk in half of the cheese and the seasonings until incorporated. Add in the remainder of the cheese, continuing to stir until smooth. Pour over the broccoli and enjoy!
- The cheddar should be closer to room temperature when you start and not straight from the fridge.
- It’s important to continuously whisk so the milk doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pan.
- For best results, I recommend using whole milk in this recipe. The fat content is important for a smooth sauce!
- Use a good quality cheddar. Old/sharp cheddar is most flavorful. And always grate your own because the bagged kinds will not melt as well due to additives they put it to stop clumping. I like this Microplane grater.
Substitutions and variations
- You can change up which cheese you use and use the same technique as long as it’s a good melting variety such as gruyere or gouda.
- Use onion powder in place of the garlic powder if you prefer.
- Want a spicy kick? Simply increase the amount of cayenne pepper you’re using. Even smoked paprika would be a fun way to change up the flavor.
What to serve with cheese sauce
- We love serving this as a quick side dish with Baked Chicken Tenders for a kid-friendly meal, this Easy Pan Seared Pork Chops Recipe, or my Easy Roast Chicken (Lemon & Herb).
- If you want to serve the sauce itself with something else, try it drizzled on top of baked potatoes, as a dip for French fries, or with cauliflower or Roasted Brussels Sprouts. It’s really versatile!
Leftovers and storage
- This will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the fridge.
- Either reheat on the stove or in the microwave. I recommend using a fairly low heat and stirring often whichever method you use. Add a splash more milk to thin the sauce if necessary.
- I don’t recommend freezing it because of all the dairy.
Any questions or comments about this cheddar sauce? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! Please leave a star rating and review if you have a moment.
Cheese Sauce for Broccoli
- 1 head broccoli cut into florets
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups grated cheddar
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper optional
- Boil a salted pot of water for the broccoli. Once the water is boiling, cook it for 2-3 minutes or until it's reached your desired doneness. Drain thoroughly.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan.
- Whisk in the flour and let it cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking often (long enough to cook the flour taste out but don't let it brown).
- Gradually pour in the milk while whisking constantly. Continue whisking for another 2-3 minutes or until it starts to thicken up.
- Take the pot off the burner and whisk/stir in half the cheese and the seasonings.
- Add the remaining cheese and continue stirring until smooth. Pour over broccoli and serve immediately.
- This recipe makes about 1.5 cups of cheese sauce. Depending on how much broccoli you cook and how much sauce you pour over it, you may end up with leftover sauce. Store in the fridge for 3-4 days and reheat over low heat (stove or microwave), stirring often. Add a splash of milk to thin if needed.
- Nutrition info includes the broccoli.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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