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The Best Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce has a full-bodied flavour which can be used in a variety of meals from pasta sauce to cauliflower cheese and is velvety smooth thanks to the use of sweet rice flour.
I have to be completely honest with you. At the moment I cannot get enough cheese. I am managing to incorporate it into most of my meals and desserts. Any excuse for cheesecake though, right? It must be something to do with needing more calcium during my pregnancy but for me my food choices are all about cheese cheese cheese.
If there is one gluten-free recipe that has become invaluable to me at the moment then it is this amazingly versatile cheese sauce. You can use this gluten-free cheese sauce recipe for pasta, cauliflower cheese or a delicious lasagne. I even mixed a spoonful into cooked peas and spinach the other night to encourage my 4 year old to eat his greens. It worked! This cheese sauce is magic.
Why is this Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce so brilliant?
- Gorgeous depth of flavour thanks to a bay and nutmeg milk infusion.
- Nutty gruyère provides a deep cheesy flavour.
- A pinch of Dijon mustard amplifies the cheesiness.
- Smooth luxurious texture that is indiscernible from a regular cheese sauce.
One of the most popular recipes at From The Larder is Gluten-Free Cauliflower Cheese which is made with milk, cornflour and cheese for a very simple every day cheese sauce.
The gluten-free cheese sauce we’re talking about today though is a little bit different. It is made the more traditional way by making a roux with flour and butter before adding the milk and cheese. It’s about 10 minutes more work but the flavour and texture is so much richer and more velvety.
So what’s the secret to the Best Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce?
Sweet Rice Flour
For this recipe we swap the usual plain flour for the same amount of sweet rice flour. You will be amazed by the results and I guarantee you won’t be able to tell the difference.
Sweet rice flour is such an underrated flour. Used prolifically in Asian baking it can be incredibly versatile for all manner of sweet and savoury dishes. Its gelatinous texture means it is invaluable when making gluten-free sauces and gravies. It provides a silky smooth texture, totally unlike the thin graininess you might achieve from regular rice flour or a plain gluten-free flour.
You can buy sweet rice flour in Asian supermarkets (where it’s not necessarily certified gluten-free but is very good value) or from Amazon.
What cheese do I use for a cheese sauce?
You want to use a cheese that has a robust rich flavour and has a good melting consistency.
- Gruyère – this is what I like use, it has a great rounded flavour, melts like a dream and what is recommended here for this recipe
- Fontina – not always easy to get hold of but melts beautifully with lovely depth.
- Cheddar – let’s face it you can never go wrong with a good mature cheddar. You know what you’re getting, you’ve probably already got it in the fridge and it gives good sauce.
- Mix n’Match – Why not walk on the wild side with a mixture of cheeses? Try a combo of cheddar and parmesan. Or crumble in a bit of blue cheese for a really special broccoli pasta sauce.
How do I make Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce?
- Pour the milk, bay leaf, salt, pepper and nutmeg into a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan then add the sweet rice flour, whisk together to make a smooth roux.
- Remove the bay leaf from the milk then pour the milk into the roux very slowly. Whisk all the time until the milk has fully combined and the sauce is thick, smooth and bubbling.
- Add the cheese and Dijon mustard and stir until the cheese has completely melted.
- Turn off the heat and use the sauce in whichever way you fancy.
- For a cheese sauce with deep flavour allow the infused milk to rest for at least an hour.
- Conversely if you are pressed for time then you don’t have to let the infused milk to rest at all – the flavour will still be top notch.
- Transfer the milk into a jug to make it easier to pour into the roux, then you can use the same saucepan you used for the milk to make the roux.
What do I do if my sauce is lumpy?
Don’t worry, it can be easily fixed. Check your sauce for consistency before you add the cheese. If the sweet rice flour isn’t dissolving into the sauce here are your options:
- Whisk vigorously on a gentle heat.
- Sieve – use a fine Moulin sieve.
- If the whisking and sieving doesn’t do the trick then add 50ml of cold whole milk to the sauce and bring to a gentle simmer whisking all the time. It will soon thicken up again. The flour just probably needed more liquid.
Make Ahead or Meal Prep
This cheese sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead of when you need to use it. Do you want Mac n’Cheese for Tuesday supper? Well prepare this cheese sauce the Sunday before and cut down on your dinner prep mid-week.
What can I use Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce for?
- Any pasta dish – mac n’cheese, lasagne
- Cauliflower or Broccoli Cheese
- Fish Pie
- Smothered over Chicken Schnitzel and served with salad.
Variations on Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce
- I have been known to swap out the salt for a bit of crumbled bacon salt for extra savouriness.
- Have you tried Honey Dijon Mustard? It really takes this cheese sauce to the next level. It adds just a touch of sweetness.
- Vegan Cheese Sauce – swap out the whole milk for a dairy-free alternative (cashew milk works well), then use vegan butter and vegan cheese.
Need more cheese in your life?
If you make The Best Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce then please leave a comment below and/or give the recipe a rating. If you then go on to use this recipe as a launch pad for your own culinary creation then I’d also love it if you’d share it and tag me on Instagram. It is so lovely for me to see your versions and variations of my recipes.
The Best Gluten-Free Cheese Sauce
- 550 ml whole milk
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 50 g unsalted butter
- 25 g sweet rice flour
- 100 g gruyère
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Pour the whole milk into a saucepan along with the bay leaf, white pepper, salt and nutmeg.
- Heat to a very gentle boil then turn to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for at least an hour to infuse.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan then add the sweet rice flour. Mix together until a smooth roux has formed.
- Remove the bay leaf from the milk then pour gradually into the roux. Whisk all the while until all the milk has been incorporated. The sauce will begin to bubble and thicken.
- Add the cheese and the mustard and stir in until melted.
- Remove from the heat and use however you wish.
- Cutting Corners: If you don’t have the time then you don’t need to let the milk rest but can use straightaway.
- Lumpy Sauce: If your white sauce seems lumpy before adding the cheese then whisk vigorously on a low heat. If you still can’t get rid of the lumps of flour then try sieving in a fine mesh sieve. Finally if that still hasn’t done the trick then slowly pour in 50ml of cold whole milk whisking it in firmly. This should sort it out.
- Cheese Choice: Gruyere is not your only option for this cheese sauce. You can use fontina, mature cheddar, a mixture of cheddar and parmesan or a bit of blue cheese.
- Make Ahead: You can make this cheese sauce at least 3 days ahead of when you need it. Store in the fridge.
- Serving Suggestions: Use this sauce in mac n’cheese, lasagna, fish pie or cauliflower cheese.