Processed cheese

I am about to make a cheese sauce for a tuna pasta bake from the remnants of cheese in my refrigerator. Apart from the regular cheddar, I also have some processed (American style) cheese.

I have approximate 240g (~ 2 cups) of traditional cheese and 150g (6 slices) of processed cheese so the cheddar will be dominant. This is from a block, and has no additional additives etc. to aid separation.

How will this affect the taste and consistency of the sauce? Will I need to make any adjustments to the flour/milk ratio to compensate for the cheese slices?

  • 1
    What ratio (and by weight or volume) do you normally use for roux? I ask because I'd try an unmodified recipe with 1:1 fat:flour by weight, but not with more fat.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 18:57
  • Generally between 0.75-1.25 to 1, depending on how well my eyeballs are working !
    – Greybeard
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 21:47
  • 1
    Eyeballing suggest you're measuring by volume, and 1:1 by volume is a bit on the rich side (I always work by weight so can't say how rich). I'd bias towards the floury end of that range
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 8:08

3 Answers 3


I would not expect it to be noticeably different from having 100% cheddar.

The American cheese slices generally contain some real cheese, and some oil, milk solids, and emulsifiers. If you were heating it above 100C, then you might worry about the oil separating, but in a white sauce, you won't be heating it that hot. If anything, the emulsifiers will make the sauce smoother.

It's also very common for tuna casserole recipes to specify using American processed cheese.

So I wouldn't adjust the recipe at all.

  • Didn't realise that TCR used American processed cheese, but I can confirm the addition works well with a standard roux. Was it smoother and creamier? Hard to tell, I use full fat milk so my sauces are quite rich anyways.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 21:52
  • 1
    It doesn't have to. But tuna noodle casserole is a 1950s "back of the box" recipe, so it's pretty common for it to use a bunch of mass-market packaged foods, including processed cheese.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 22:44

Processed cheese contains sodium citrate, an emulsifier which changes the consistency of melted cheese from "stringy" to "gluey". Sodium citrate is what boxed macaroni and cheese uses (along with powdered dried cheese product) to get that classic consistency. "Fancy" macaroni and cheese, in contrast, is made with mornay sauce -- a bechamel sauce with grated cheese added -- and has a thicker, starchier, slightly stringier texture.

The sodium citrate in the processed cheese will likely change the texture significantly, moving it towards the "boxed mac&cheese" texture. Not necessarily in a bad way: even when I'm making mornay sauce I often add a pinch of sodium citrate, for safety (it prevents graininess) and to make the texture more gooey and unctuous.

You don't need to make any adjustments. The sauce may be slightly runnier than intended, but not problematically so.


It depends what you mean by 'traditional'.

Cheese sauce made with processed cheese is going to taste of processed cheese, of course. I very much doubt the cheddar 'will be dominant' unless you have very mature, aged cheddar. If you do, I'd just leave the processed cheese out altogether.

If you're making it for the kids, fine, but I wouldn't present anything with processed cheese to dinner guests.

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