Irresistible Nacho Cheese Sauce Comes Down To One Special Ingredient

There is a hint of nostalgia that comes with the classic, melty nacho cheese sauce you might find somewhere like a baseball stadium or movie theater. It always has just the right amount of spice, an extra smooth consistency, and that sunset yellow color that, despite not knowing exactly why it looked and tasted the way it did, you never questioned. But if you're in search of something special to give your homemade nacho cheese sauce a perfect balance of richness and heat without being over-the-top spicy, it comes down to just one ingredient: jalapeño juice.

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Jalapeños are a great way to add heat to any recipe. Ranging between 2,500 and 8,000 on the Scoville scale, they're spicy enough to bring a bit of a kick but not quite as hot as something like a habanero, which those with a lower spice tolerance might find overwhelming. Plus, they can be eaten pickled or raw, but it's the liquid from those canned pickled jalapeños that you're going to want to incorporate into your perfect nacho cheese sauce.

Nacho cheese sauce just needs jalapeño juice

To keep that extra smooth consistency, you don't want to add chopped jalapeños; that's where the juice comes in. Pickled jalapeños are generally stored in an acidic vinegar brine (this is what pickles the peppers), but as the peppers sit, that vinegar mixture gets infused with plenty of heat. To spice up your nacho cheese, add a splash or more of brine to your preferred cheese sauce mixture a little at a time, working your way up and tasting it as you go until you've reached your desired spice level.

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Not only does this pickling liquid add heat, but its acidity also helps balance out the rich, fatty flavors from the dairy that is so essential to this condiment. You can pickle your own jalapeños with a little vinegar, water, and sugar, or speed up the process by purchasing canned ones at the grocery store. Similarly, this flavor-boosting hack works its briny wonders whether you're zhuzhing up a jar of cheese dip or making your own sauce with cheese that has been painstakingly hand-shredded.

How to get perfectly smooth nacho cheese sauce

You already know to avoid texture from chopped jalapeños, and replacing them with the juice makes this easy. However, that yellow nacho cheese sauce always has the perfect consistency; the pickled jalapeño juice plays a surprising role there, too.

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Many nacho cheese sauces start with a bechamel base (made from butter, flour, and milk) that thickens as the star ingredient is added to the pot. If you're not careful, however, you run the risk of your cheese mixture becoming overly thick. Luckily, besides adding flavor, the jalapeño brine also helps with the sauce's consistency by thinning it out just a little. Even if you choose to add another type of pickled pepper, such as pepperoncini, that juice should still be incorporated because it plays a pivotal role in achieving the ideal creamy consistency. Between the undercurrent of tanginess and heat it lends and the velvety texture it helps you achieve, it's clear that this potent pickled pepper juice is the key to the most satisfying nachos.

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