I was watching a YouTube video from ChefSteps on how to make cheese sauce. They used sodium citrate and sodium hexametaphosphate. What are the reasons for including these in the recipe? What are the alternatives to using these ingredients?

  • 2
    there's a link below the video to the recipe on their web site with ingredient links that explain exactly what you're asking. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 21:52
  • @jim : yes, it says what they do (and a direct link for those, so you don't get stuck with annoying auto-playing videos w/ loud, obnoxious music) ... but "Sodium hexametaphosphate is a sequestrant that binds with calcium ions" doesn't mention what potential alternatives are, or what that actually means in terms of the recipe.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 1:56
  • I voted this up, because it's a good question ... but then had to cancel it because I was so annoyed by that video. (admitedly, I had my volume all the way up, because of a video that had been really, really quiet)
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 1:58
  • ChefTips don't generally have people talking in their videos. Just some background music and sharp editing. The videos are very short and direct to the point. I like them. Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 2:04
  • @Joe : ok, as to the question of substitutes. i put some time into checking these ingredients out. there are a few well known candidates for the functions sodium citrate performs (just google: sodium citrate substitutes). sodium hexametaphosphate (SHMP) might not be so simple. A substitute for that may require two to three other additives. i'd have to ask a food chemist, and i don't know any food chemists Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 14:29

2 Answers 2


Citric acid and sodium hexametaphosphate are often used in processed cheese as emulsifier. These kinds of salts improve the protein's swelling capacity and emulsification and thus inhibits the leakage of water or fat from the product (forms metal complexes). Some salts are also acid buffers. 1 In this wikipedia article (in German, but chemical names are quite similiar to the Engish ones) is a list of possible substitutes of citric acid and sodium hexametaphosphate. Or just look here (in English) for E 325, E 326, E 327, E 331, E 332, E 333, E 339, E 340, E 341, E 450, E 451, E 452.

The receipe of the cheese sauce has the same ingredients of common processed cheese2.

1 Source: Wikipedia: Schmelzsalz. My bad attempt to translate this article :-\
2 "Processed cheese [...] is a food product made from cheese (and sometimes other, unfermented, dairy by-product ingredients); plus emulsifiers [note from me: the mentioned salts], saturated vegetable oils, extra salt, food colorings, and/or whey [note from me: or watery liquids like water or milk] or sugar. "


an alternative to using these ingredients directly is to use common processed cheese as an ingredient, which adds those ingredients already in the common processed cheese

yes, I've done it a lot. works great for making cheese sauce with other cheeses

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