From their clever cartoon cows scheming to get people to eat less beef and more chicken to their crispy and grilled chicken sandwiches, waffle fries, and famous chicken nuggets, Chick-fil-A is a fast-food staple.
When you order a meal at Chick-fil-A you are presented with the ever-popular Chick-fil-A, honey mustard, and BBQ dipping sauces, but unbeknownst to many, there is a secret cheese dipping sauce that is by request only!
This dipping sauce is not available at every Chick-fil-A location, but if you’re looking for a cheesy addition to your meal it’s a breeze to replicate and super delicious.
How to make Chick-fil-A Cheese Sauce
The word on the street is that the cheese sauce used in the Chick-fil-A mac and cheese and the cheese dipping sauce are one and the same.
While there is no shortage of mac and cheese variations in the United States, the Chick-fil-A mac is undoubtedly one of the most popular on the market because of this sauce.
One of the great things about this cheese sauce is that, unlike many cheese sauce recipes, you don’t have to rely on a roux to thicken the cheese and milk mixture.
Instead, this version relies on American cheese to bind and emulsify the ingredients. This cheese has a specific emulsifier called sodium citrate, and as such, it cannot be substituted.
However, there are an additional 4 kinds of cheese, so if you want to substitute other cheeses on the list you are more than welcome to do so!
- 1 1/4 cups of whole milk
- 1.5 tbsp unsalted European-style butter such as Kerrygold
- 4 oz American cheese torn
- 4 oz (1 cup) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1.5 oz ( ¼ cup) white cheddar cheese, grated
- 4.5 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- 1.5 tbsp grated Romano cheese
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
Place a medium-sized saucepan over low heat and carefully melt the butter, taking care not to burn.
Once the butter is melted, slowly add in the milk and stir a few times. Increase the heat to medium/low. Add in salt.
Stirring regularly, bring the milk up almost to a boil. Once the milk starts to bubble around the edge of the pan, reduce the heat to low.
Add in the American cheese. The pieces should be torn or cubed, but don’t need to be tiny. Using a wooden spoon or spatula stir continuously until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth.
If the cheese isn’t melting well, increase the heat slightly, stirring continuously to prevent any burning. Turn the heat back down to low once everything is incorporated.
Remove the saucepan from the heat, and let the sauce sit uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes to thicken while it cools. It should have the consistency of queso.
Carefully transfer the cheese sauce into a serving dish and enjoy!
The great thing about cheese sauces is there is tons of room for substitutions where cheese is concerned. You can easily tailor the ingredients to fit your taste preferences. You could even add in a jalapeño pepper for a bit of heat.
As mentioned before, the only non-negotiable ingredient in this recipe is the American cheese, though Velveeta can be used if needed. Feel free to use pre-shredded cheese to save yourself a step.
For the other cheeses, however, there is so much room for swaps! While blue cheese is not recommended for this recipe, most other cheeses will work.
Here are a few ideas for substitutions that will enhance the Chick-fil-A cheese sauce without changing it beyond recognition.
Gouda is a great substitution for cheddar cheese if you’re looking for a cheese that can add some depth of flavor without being too overwhelming.
When choosing a gouda cheese, there are a few things to take into consideration, namely age and whether or not it’s smoked.
Gouda originated in The Netherlands and is one of the most widely consumed cheeses in the world, so you will probably come across many options in the cheese section of your local grocery store.
For this recipe, look for a young gouda or a moderately aged gouda. The older the gouda is, the harder it becomes and the more difficult it is to melt. So stick to softer variations.
If you’re looking for a smoky undercurrent in your cheese sauce, smoked gouda is an excellent option. Try it before you use it in this recipe to gauge the smoke intensity. If it’s very strong, cut the quantity you’re substituting by half.
2. Edam Cheese
Edam cheese is another great alternative that is not dissimilar from Gouda.
Edam is a medium-firm cheese and has a nice nuttiness. Edam cheese melts well and the nutty notes will add richness to the sauce.
Look for a young edam cheese as aged Edam hardens and melts unevenly.
Manchego, like most cheeses, has young and aged variations, and the older the cheese the harder its texture. Reach for a medium-aged manchego to keep the texture of the sauce consistent.
Pecorino is a hard goat cheese from Italy that is an excellent substitute for parmesan.
Pecorino has more of an earthy flavor with bright grassy notes, and though it looks similar to parmesan, it is typically aged for a shorter period of time and is not as overpowering.
It is a wonderful addition to any sauce, and you could even sprinkle it on top of the sauce for an added cheesy element without drowning out the other flavors in the sauce.
What to serve with Chick-fil-A cheese sauce
The world is your oyster when it comes to using this cheese sauce. It can be used as a dip or a topping for vegetables. You could even pour it on top of macaroni and cheese if you’re feeling extra indulgent.
Here are a couple of ideas for serving the Chick-fil-A cheese sauce, but they don’t stop here! Be creative, there is no such thing as too much cheese when it’s served as a condiment.
The classic pairing for this cheese sauce is, of course, chicken tenders. Chick-fil-A specializes in fried chicken and this sauce was made to pair with them.
Chicken tenders are easy to source, so if you can’t make it to Chick-fil-A or don’t have one in your area, they can easily be found in the freezer section of most grocery stores.
Another excellent pairing for this cheese sauce is french fries.
While most people opt for ketchup or mayonnaise to accompany their french fries, this cheese sauce is perfectly creamy and is a wonderful compliment to the salty crunch of the fries.
You can even use it to make cheese fries!
Roasted vegetables are wonderful partners for the Chick-fil-A cheese sauce and a great choice for people trying to increase their vegetable intake.
How to reheat Chick-fil-A cheese sauce
If you prefer your sauces at room temp, you can simply remove it from the refrigerator one hour before eating. But if a warm sauce is your preference, these are the best heating methods.
How to reheat Chick-fil-A cheese sauce in the microwave
While this sauce doesn’t necessarily need to be reheated, if you prefer to have a warm sauce it is very easy to heat it up.
Make sure the sauce is in a microwave-safe container and warm on high heat for 1 minute, stirring once.
How to reheat Chick-fil-A cheese sauce on the stove
If you aren’t a fan of reheating food in the microwave, you can also reheat the sauce on the stove. Simply heat a small saucepan over low heat and gently warm until heated through.
Be careful not to increase the heat too much so as to prevent burning, and stir frequently.
How to store Chick-fil-A cheese sauce
This sauce is very easy to store in the refrigerator. If the sauce is warm, make sure it cools down completely before transferring it to an airtight container.
It can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Chick-fil-A Cheese Sauce Recipe
- 1 saucepan
- 1 and 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1/2 tbsp unsalted European-style butter
- 4 oz American cheese torn
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup white cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 and 1/2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- 1 and 1/2 tbsp grated Romano cheese
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- Place a medium-sized saucepan over low heat and carefully melt the butter, taking care not to burn. Once the butter is melted, slowly add in the milk and stir a few times. Increase the heat to medium/low. Add in salt. Stirring regularly, bring the milk up almost to a boil. Once the milk starts to bubble around the edge of the pan, reduce the heat to low.
- Add in the American cheese. The pieces should be torn or cubed, but don’t need to be tiny. Using a wooden spoon or spatula stir continuously until the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth. If the cheese isn’t melting well, increase the heat slightly, stirring continuously to prevent any burning. Turn the heat back down to low once everything is incorporated.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat, and let the sauce sit uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes to thicken while it cools. It should have the consistency of queso.
- Carefully transfer the cheese sauce into a serving dish and enjoy!