Is cheese sauce keto friendly? Many cheese sauce recipes aren't suitable for keto diets. This keto cheese sauce recipe without flour uses heavy cream for thickness and creaminess. Use this keto cheese sauce for broccoli, mac and cheese, or in your favorite low carb nachos recipe. You can also use it as keto cheese dip! You'll make everything more delicious with a drizzle of this creamy cheese sauce.
Easy cheese sauce is on the menu today. And not just any drizzly, melty cheddar cheese sauce. Nope.
Today's cheese sauce is of the very low carb variety. And trust me, that means it is extra rich and buttery.
But what is keto cheese sauce? Isn't all cheese sauce low carb friendly?
Most cheese sauce actually isn't keto friendly, though cheese is certainly a keto friendly food. This is because most cheese sauces are based upon French white sauce (i.e., bechamel sauce).
To make bechamel, you would typically make a roux of butter and flour. Then you whisk in milk over heat to make the famous French mother sauce. To make cheese sauce, you simply whisk some cheese into your bechamel, letting it melt.
Both flour and milk are high carb ingredients, so cheese sauce is not keto friendly by default. However, it's really easy to make cheese sauce that is low carb; let me show you how!
I had whipping cream leftover from holiday cooking. It is the perfect low carb replacement for milk and flour in classic cheese sauce recipes. This cheese sauce has only 1.4 grams net carbs per serving!
The cream provides the liquid component instead of milk. Since it is thicker than milk, we can skip the roux used to thicken this sauce. Plus, the heavy cream makes one of the most velvety, indulgent cheese sauces around!
Benefits of Making Keto Cheese Sauce
Do I really need to tell you the benefits of cheese sauce? If you've been living under a rock most of your life (hahaha), here's why cheese sauce is a good thing:
- Good on practically EVERYTHING: What is cheese sauce good on? Let's see… all the vegetables, cooked whole grains, corn chips, bread, chicken, fish, tacos, burritos… A tougher question may be what cheese sauce is not good on. This keto cheese sauce will be one of the most versatile condiments in your kitchen.
- Nutrients that support bone health: Cheese sauce counts as a dairy food, providing lots of bone-building nutrients. Want calcium, protein, phosphorus, and potassium? Say cheese, please!
- You might start eating more vegetables: Do you have kids who are picky, or are you a bit finicky yourself? Cheese sauce can help make bitter veggies a lot more appealing to vegetable haters. I know some will just use the veggies as a vehicle for cheese, but it's better than avoiding the veggies entirely.
- You can also use it as a dip: This recipe also works as a keto cheese dip. Instead of pouring it on cooked broccoli, try using it for dipping raw broccoli. While you're at it, also try it with raw cauliflower, bell peppers, or another favorite veggie!
- Vegetarian, gluten free cheese sauce: This cheese sauce is not just keto friendly. Unlike classic cheese sauce, there's no gluten here. It's also vegetarian and fits most special diets (aside from the ones that eliminate dairy, of course).
- Sooo gosh darn DELICIOUS: You've probably tried cheese at some point in your life. It's pretty darn good, amirite?
Keto Cheese Sauce Ingredients
Here's what you need to make the creamiest, dreamiest cheese sauce around:
- Heavy cream or whipping cream
- Grated cheddar cheese
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Salt and black pepper
- Lightly steamed vegetables (for serving)
I chose to serve the keto cheese sauce with steamed broccoli, but just about any other veggie will work too. If you aren't following a low carb plan, this cheese sauce would be amazing on potatoes. Cooked radishes or jicama fries would be a terrific keto alternative.
I usually use cheddar in cheese sauce, but feel free to think outside the box. Pepper jack cheese or jalapeno cheddar would be my top picks for cheese sauce with some kick. Try other cheeses, and I bet you'll find some family favorites.
The equipment needed for keto cheese sauce is minimal. You'll need a small saucepan and a whisk. You'll also want to have equipment for preparing the veggies you'll be serving with the sauce.
How to Make Keto Cheese Sauce
It's easy getting cheesy! Haha You may want to start by steaming any veggies you'll be serving with the sauce. The veggies will likely take longer than the cheese sauce will.
Start making the cheese sauce by melting butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the cream.
Next, lower the heat a little and add the grated cheese. Let the cheese completely melt into the sauce while you whisk for 1-2 minutes. Then add the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.
Whisk in the seasonings and let the sauce thicken over the heat for 3-5 minutes. Whisk the sauce constantly to prevent sticking.
Let the sauce cool a bit before serving; it will thicken a little more. When you are ready to serve, plate your steamed veggies, and pour some cheese sauce on top. So rich and delicious!
I mean, why have this plain old plate of broccoli and a pork chop…
…when you can have the pork chop, broccoli, and cheese sauce? YUM
(And for the non-keto family members, maybe add some roasted potatoes. Cheese is pretty great on those too!)
Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). Are you using the keto diet as a weight loss tool? Keto diets often push people towards satiating foods that also lead to eating in a calorie deficit. That said, some foods that fit into the keto category may not be the best option if you have a weight loss goal.
This cheese sauce is a high fat and high calorie addition to meals. It's not a great pick for fat loss; I think of this keto cheese sauce as an added fat.
In addition, if your primary health goal is to create a more heart healthy diet, this cheese sauce is not the best choice. It is very high in saturated fat due to the butter, heavy cream, and cheese. Diets high in saturated fat may increase your LDL cholesterol levels, and high LDL is linked to increased cardiovascular risks.
A classic cheese sauce will likely be much lower in saturated fat. You can use a small amount of butter plus whole grain flour for the roux. Add low fat milk to the roux and let thicken, then add low fat (or regular) cheese. Classic cheese sauce is not keto friendly, but it does tend to be lower in both fat and calories.
But what if your main health goal is to achieve better control of your blood sugar in diabetes with a low carb diet? In that case, this keto cheese sauce may be a better choice for you than higher carb cheese sauce.
This cheese dip is also a great way to use up some leftover cream. (As mentioned above, that's why I created it!) It's a treat that I only make once in a while to jazz up my meals.
What goes with keto cheese sauce?
There are so, so, so many amazing ways to use this keto cheese sauce and dip! Here are a few low carb ideas for cheese sauce to get the creative juices flowing. (These are air fryer recipes, but you can also make these foods in a regular oven.)
- Drizzle the sauce over Air Fryer Radishes
- Try it on Air Fryer Tilapia (instead of the compound butter)
- Dollop it on some Air Fryer Spaghetti Squash
- Use your cheese dip with Air Fryer Jicama Fries
You could also serve your cheese sauce with your favorite keto pasta alternative for keto mac and cheese. (And enjoy a little chuckle the next time someone says low carb diets are super restrictive. Lol)
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you freeze keto cheese sauce?
I don't recommend freezing this keto cheese sauce because the texture will change a bit when it is reheated. Luckily, unless you live alone or in a dairy free household, you're not likely to end up with leftovers. If you do have leftovers, I recommend putting them in the fridge and using them up within a day or two.
If you want to try freezing the sauce, freeze it in ice cube trays (regular trays or larger sized cocktail cube trays). Defrost the cubes over medium heat on the stovetop, stirring well to prevent sticking.
Which cheeses are keto friendly?
Most cheeses are OK on keto. Some exceptions would be cheeses that incorporate high carb ingredients such as honey, other sweeteners, or dried fruits.
What are some ways to thicken cheese sauce?
We used heavy whipping cream to thicken cheese sauce in this recipe. If you want to make keto cheese sauce without cream, you have other options. Here are some other ingredients I've seen used as thickeners for keto cheese sauce:
- Cream Cheese
- Xanthan Gum
- Glucomannan Powder (Konjac)
- Crème Fraiche
Can you make keto cheese sauce without milk?
Yes! Actually, many keto cheese sauce recipes have no milk since milk is a high carbohydrate ingredient. This keto cheese dip uses heavy cream in place of milk. I've seen other recipes for keto cheese sauce that use unsweetened almond milk in place of dairy milk.
Where can I buy keto cheese dip?
Most store bought cheese dips have starchy fillers that are not keto compatible. One of your best bets for a keto friendly cheese dip is to mix a little cream with Anthony's Cheddar Cheese Powder. Easier still, just sprinkle the powder on foods where you want a cheese taste.
If you're aiming for a diet of primarily whole foods, homemade keto cheese dip is the way to go. However, the cheese powder has thousands of excellent reviews on Amazon if you're looking for an alternative. (Reviewers claim the powder reminds them of Cheetos!)
Other Cheesy Recipes That You May Enjoy
Are you looking for more recipes using cheese? Check out these delicious cheese recipes if you need more dairy decadence in your life:
- Keto Parmesan Crisps
- Air Fryer Burgers Stuffed with Cheese
- Taco Stuffed Mini Bell Peppers (A cheese blanket is involved!)
- Cheeseburger Salad (Favorite Burger Copycat!)
- Make Your Own Cottage Cheese at Home (and Ricotta too!)
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
"Keto" recipes on the web may not be appropriate for those using ketogenic diets as part of their medical nutrition therapy. That includes this recipe.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let's get cooking!
Keto Cheese Sauce Recipe | Low Carb Keto Cheese Dip
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ cup heavy cream (or whipping cream)
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- salt and pepper, to taste
- lightly steamed vegetables (for serving; I recommend chopped broccoli crowns)
- This cheese sauce whips up quickly! You'll want to start steaming the veggies you'll be serving with the sauce first to ensure everything is done on time.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat on the stovetop. Whisk in the cream.
- Lower the heat a little and add the grated cheese. Let the cheese completely melt into the sauce while you whisk for 1-2 minutes.
- Whisk in the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Let the sauce thicken over the heat for 3-5 minutes, whisking constantly to prevent sticking.
- Let the sauce cool a bit before serving; this will help it to thicken a little more. When you are ready to serve, plate your steamed veggies, and pour some cheese sauce on top. I highly recommend having some broccoli with this sauce. Yum!