Which nacho cheese is gluten-free?

For those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, nacho cheese can be a tricky ingredient. Many popular nacho cheese dips and sauces contain wheat flour, wheat starch, or other gluten-containing ingredients. However, there are some great gluten-free options available for nacho cheese lovers!

In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss:

  • What makes nacho cheese gluten-free or not
  • Reviews of the top store-bought gluten-free nacho cheese brands
  • Tips for finding gluten-free nacho cheese at restaurants
  • Recipes to make your own gluten-free nacho cheese from scratch

Whether you are gluten-free yourself or cooking for others, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to enjoy deliciously cheesy nachos that are safe to eat on a gluten-free diet. Let’s dive in!

What Makes Nacho Cheese Gluten-Free?

For nacho cheese to be considered gluten-free, it must not contain any wheat, barley, rye, or derivatives of those grains. This includes:

  • Wheat flour
  • Semolina
  • Durum flour
  • Farina
  • Wheat starch
  • Malt extract
  • Malt syrup

In addition to avoiding grains, the nacho cheese must be produced in a facility that does not process any gluten-containing foods. Cross-contamination is a major concern, as even tiny amounts of gluten can trigger reactions in those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

When shopping, look for nacho cheese products that are certified gluten-free or explicitly labeled “gluten-free.” Call the manufacturer if you have any doubts.

Ingredients to Watch Out For

Aside from the obvious wheat-based ingredients, there are a few other ingredients that can indicate the presence of gluten in nacho cheese:

  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein – Adds flavor
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP) – Used as a meat substitute, often made from wheat
  • Natural flavoring – May contain gluten from barley or other grains
  • Dextrin – Made from starch, often wheat

If you see any of these on an ingredient list for nacho cheese, double check with the manufacturer before consuming. When in doubt, avoid it.

Reviews of Store-Bought Gluten-Free Nacho Cheese

Fortunately, there are a number of delicious store-bought nacho cheese dips and sauces that are already gluten-free. Here are some of the top brands to look for:

Tostitos Gluten Free Nacho Cheese Sauce

One of the most widely available and budget-friendly options is Tostitos Gluten Free Nacho Cheese Sauce. This is a shelf-stable nacho cheese sauce that comes in a 10 oz squeezable pouch.

Ingredients: Water, vegetable oil (corn, canola, and/or sunflower oil), modified food starch (corn and/or potato), cheddar cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), maltodextrin, whey protein concentrate, salt, monosodium glutamate, natural and artificial flavors, lactic acid, citric acid, potassium chloride, potassium phosphate, calcium phosphate, yellow 5, yellow 6.

This nacho cheese is made in a dedicated gluten-free facility. It has a nice creamy, tangy cheddar flavor and melts well when heated. The only potential concern is that it contains “natural flavors” but Tostitos has confirmed this product is gluten-free. At around $3 per pouch, it’s a budget-friendly option to keep stocked for nachos night.

Green Valley Creamery Nacho Cheese Sauce

Green Valley Creamery Nacho Cheese Sauce is another gluten-free shelf-stable product made with real cheese. It comes in a 12 oz squeezable pouch.

Ingredients: Water, aged cheddar cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, annatto color), modified food starch (corn and potato), buttermilk, whey protein concentrate, maltodextrin, salt, monosodium glutamate, lactic acid, potassium phosphate, sodium phosphate, natural flavor, garlic powder, sodium citrate, potassium chloride, calcium chloride, sodium stearoyl lactylate, oleoresin paprika (color), benzyl alcohol, sorbic acid.

The combination of aged cheddar cheese and buttermilk gives this sauce a nice tangy, cheesy flavor. It melts smoothly and feels creamier than some other store-bought nacho cheeses. Green Valley states this product is made on dedicated equipment to prevent cross-contamination. Priced around $4 per pouch.

Ricos Cheddar Nacho Cheese Sauce

Ricos Cheddar Nacho Cheese Sauce is a gluten-free option sold in a large 28 oz squeezable plastic jar.

Ingredients: Water, aged cheddar cheese (cultured pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes), modified food starch (corn, potato), buttermilk, maltodextrin, whey protein concentrate, salt, monosodium glutamate, lactic acid, sodium phosphate, potassium phosphate, cream, natural flavor, garlic powder, sodium citrate, sorbic acid (preservative), sodium stearoyl lactylate, oleoresin paprika (color), cellulose gel, cellulose gum, sucralose.

The generous amount of real cheddar cheese gives this sauce a rich, indulgent flavor. It strikes a nice balance between creamy and stringy. Ricos states their products are produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility. At around $5 per 28 oz jar, this is a good value.

MiCuisine Mexican Nacho Cheese Sauce Mix

If you prefer a shelf-stable nacho cheese powder, MiCuisine Mexican Nacho Cheese Sauce Mix is certified gluten-free.

Ingredients: Maltodextrin, cheddar cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), modified corn starch, salt, whey protein concentrate, yellow 6, yellow 5, sodium phosphate, citric acid, cellulose gel, cellulose gum, guar gum, natural flavors, lactic acid, oleoresin paprika (color) and extractives of turmeric and annatto (color).

To prepare, you just mix the powdered sauce with water or milk. It makes a nice thick, creamy nacho cheese with bold cheddar flavor. The only potential concern is that it contains “natural flavors” but MiCuisine has confirmed the mix is gluten-free. Priced around $7 for two 1.25 oz pouches that make 10.5 oz of sauce each.

Finding Gluten-Free Nacho Cheese at Restaurants

Eating out with gluten-free needs can feel challenging at times. But with good communication and some smart ordering, you can enjoy nachos at many restaurants safely. Here are some tips:

Ask About the Cheese Sauce

Don’t assume the nacho cheese is gluten-free. Politely ask your server what brand the restaurant uses and if they can verify it is gluten-free. Many large restaurant chains have this information handy.

Specify Corn Chips Only

Make sure your nachos come with plain corn tortilla chips, not flour-based chips that could be cross-contaminated. Corn tortillas are naturally gluten-free.

Avoid Extra Toppings with Gluten

If the restaurant offers nacho toppings like chili or shredded chicken, check that these are made without gluten-containing ingredients. Stick to simpler toppings like salsa, guacamole, beans, etc.

Ask for a Clean Plate

Request that your gluten-free nachos are prepared on a clean plate, not one that previously held food containing gluten. This prevents cross-contact contamination.

Mex-Mex Restaurants are a Good Bet

Mexican restaurants naturally cater well to gluten-free needs. Corn tortillas, rice, beans, salsa are staples. Just watch out for flour tortillas and soy sauce in marinades.

Being upfront with restaurant staff about your gluten-free needs is important. With good communication, you can work together to ensure you have a safe, delicious dining experience.

Gluten-Free Nacho Cheese Recipes to Make at Home

For the most control over ingredients, making your own homemade nacho cheese is a great option. This allows you to use a trusted gluten-free flour blend and avoid preservatives or additives. Here are some tasty recipes to try:

Simple Stovetop Nacho Cheese Sauce

This quick stovetop nacho cheese recipe from the blog What Great Grandma Ate uses just a handful of ingredients.


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the cornstarch until smooth.
  2. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened.
  3. Remove from heat. Add the shredded cheese and salt. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.
  4. Pour over your gluten-free tortilla chips and enjoy!

This easy stovetop sauce comes together in just 10 minutes. The corn starch gives it a nice thick, creamy texture.

Baked Queso Nacho Cheese Dip

For a cheesy baked nacho cheese dip, try this gluten-free recipe from the blog Tyrannosaurus Rachel.


  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Gluten-free tortilla chips, for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a small baking dish.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar, Monterey jack and salsa. Stir until well blended.
  3. Fold in the green chilies and spices until incorporated.
  4. Transfer the cheese mixture to the prepared baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes until hot and bubbly.
  5. Serve right away with your favorite gluten-free tortilla chips!

The combo of salsa and spices gives this nacho cheese dip a tasty kick. Roasting it in the oven makes it extra decadent!

5-Ingredient Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce

This ultra simple recipe from the blog Vegan Huggs makes a creamy vegan and gluten-free nacho cheese sauce with just 5 ingredients.


  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked at least 2 hours
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Drain the cashews from their soaking liquid.
  2. In a high-speed blender, blend all ingredients with 1/2 cup water until very smooth and creamy.
  3. Transfer to a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk continuously for 5-10 minutes until thickened.
  4. Serve warm over tortilla chips.

The cashews give this dairy-free nacho cheese a luxuriously thick, creamy texture without any weird aftertaste. It’s a great option for vegans as well as those avoiding dairy.


While most traditional nacho cheese contains gluten, there are still plenty of easy gluten-free options available. From trusted store-bought brands to customized restaurant orders to homemade recipes, you can enjoy deliciously cheesy nachos on a gluten-free diet.

With the detailed information provided in this guide, you now have all the tools to choose your favorite gluten-free nacho cheese brand or make it yourself at home. No more missing out on cheesy nacho night!

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