I'm on a mission to recreate boxed mac and cheese or velveeta shells and cheese.

I've used sodium citrate to make a creamy cheese emulsion from normal cheese. However, I feel that my sauce still lacks a certain tart/piquant/tangy/sour taste.

I've tried adding lactic acid, and while this helps, it only adds more sour, but no "salty tang".

I've read the ingredients list, but off hand can't identify the one thing that makes these "artificial" cheese sauces taste as good as they do!

FWIW, obviously it is easier/cheaper to just buy these sauces off the shelf, but I'm drawn to the challenge and learning that come with replicating at home!

I also understand that these sauces are industrially engineered products with many ingredients and that exact replication would take all ingredients in the original, but I have a hunch that there is a single ingredient that could take my sauce quite a bit closer in flavor.


2 Answers 2


When you say "salty tang", I immediately think "sodium citrate".* Increasing the percentage of that, and probably of the lactic acid as well, might get you close enough.

*Okay, that's the second thing I think of.


Looking through the ingredients for mac and cheese you linked to suggests that the ingredients don't tell the whole story.

The cheese sauce mix contains a lot of things, but just like 'real cheese', the same ingredients can be used to make a number of cheese that taste different- the one that stands out is cheese culture. Different cheeses use different cultures to give different flavours.

The enzymes noted also react with the milk to give it a tang when making cheese.

So rather than trying to emulate a cheese, I would use some real cheese.

For a salty touch that could also be described as tangy, I would try a hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino.

  • Thanks for the suggestion! I've tried several real cheeses ranging from soft Gouda to parmesan. Any suggestions for which cheese to try for the most sour/salty/tang? Jun 4, 2021 at 4:36
  • 1
    The other answer's mention of sodium citrate has helped me notice that citric acid is in the listed ingredients. As an acid, I imagine this will add a sharper taste.
    – user85471
    Jun 4, 2021 at 5:43
  • 1
    As for cheeses, I (personally) would try an aged cheddar or perhaps even a blue cheese. These might add more of a savoury/umami flavour, though.
    – user85471
    Jun 4, 2021 at 5:44

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