Sodium Citrate Cheese Sauce - My Two Cents

There was a thread on “sodium citrate failure.” The OP’s problem was that things didn’t work out as promised and she ended up with a separated failure.

In my case, it worked beautifully. I obtained the promised smooth emulsified cheese sauce. Problem: the consistency was simply not pleasant to me. It looked creamy, but when you ate it, that is, stuck a fork into whatever you were eating (in my case, shells and cheese), it was stringy. Not oily, stringy.

I hated that. Plus, I like the slightly diluted taste of flour and butter and milk that make up the white sauce. To a purist that is supposed to be a fault because it taints the pure taste of the cheese. I like it.

Just a personal taste. Sometimes the fussy old way is better.


I’m with you on the delights of bechamel, but mine tends to be on the grainy side after I add the cheese. Last time, I made a fairly thin bechamel and put a bit of sodium citrate in after the cheese had melted and then blitzed it with the hand blender. It worked pretty well. I did need to add a bit extra milk, but it was creamy and cheesy.

That’s great! But I think I will stay away. I now use my sodium citrate for another hobby: soapmaking. It’s supposed to increase lather, or something.

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I agree with you to an extent - there are some things that require cheese SAUCE, not just melted-cheese-that-didn’t-break. Mac and cheese is one of those things. I do sometimes add some sodium citrate to my mac and cheese sauce just as insurance against breakage, and I make my white sauce with as little flour as possible to keep the finished product loose and creamy, but I would never do a sodium citrate only mac and cheese.

That’s the exact way to put it. I would have thought before I ate it, “Oh delicious!” but things didn’t turn out that way.

Food tastes are completely illogical! I love peanut butter on bread, but not in cookies. Go figure.

I was very unhappy with sodium citrate mac’n’cheese. Reminded me a little of evaporated milk mac’n’cheese. Yes, it takes some fussing to get a non-grainy sauce the traditional way, but even if it gets grainy, it’s still okay as long as everything else was done correctly.

Rant follows:
I dislike the current trend of all food having to be the same smooth texture. I dont need my mac and cheese, ice cream, and hot sauce to be the same texture. I think the slightly chalky texture of old fashioned ice cream is beautiful. I can shake my bottle of hot sauce and I enjoy the bits of pepper that separate from the vinegar.


Hmmmmm… I make cheese sauce all the time but I make it in the microwave. It’s stupidly simple. I have a Pampered chef 8 cup measuring cup that I always use for this. I’m no fan of Pampered Chef but this cup has a round bottom - no corners the whisk doesn’t get in to.

Anyway I use 2 T of butter & 2 T of flour. Flour on top so the butter doesn’t spatter. Nuke 1 min. Whisk & Nuke 30 seconds. Add 1/4 t cayenne pepper & salt if you like. Add milk - 6 cups or so. Whisk & nuke for 6 mins. Whisk again & nuke till it boils. Add whatever cheese you want & let it stand till the cheese melts. Whisk till smooth. If you really add a lot of cheese you might have to nuke it again for another minute. No more than a minute - if you overheat it the sauce will break. Whisk till smooth.

Never breaks, never grainy, never oily. I’ve used all sorts of cheese - they all work.



Imagine - actual bits of pepper in the pepper sauce. Revolutionary…

Yes, this is the problem with baked mac and cheese, especially if you use a lot of an easy-break cheese like yellow cheddar. Even if your sauce looks perfect on the stove, if you bake the mac too long, it may over heat and break in the oven. Adding a little sodium citrate to the sauce in that case is a nice insurance policy against breakage.

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Can’t disagree with you on baked mac and cheese. In your experience, what cheeses are less prone to breakage?

Basically anything is better than cheddar, lol. I find that a blend is less likely to break than any single cheese. Jack and fontina are both great smooth melters, but they don’t bring a lot of flavor to the party. I usually use one or both of them in combination with cheddar and gruyere so you get that sharp flavor as well. A bit of fresh chevre can add some good tang and creaminess too.

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My problem: I always overbake and end up with dry mac n cheese. Have to admit the stovetop that I made with the sodium citrate was lusciously creamy, although as stated I disliked the mouth feel.

I don’t even think mac n cheese needs to be baked. I do it out of habit and to make a top crust.

I feel the same way, but my eaters insist it must be baked because they want crust. So I put it in a dish and broil the top to get crusty pasta or, if I want a breadcrumb topping, I pretoast the breadcrumbs in a skillet, then layer on top, and bake quickly at high heat to finish toasting and give the illusion of baked mac. The pretoast trick I learned from a book at the library, the title of which escapes me at the moment.


An alternative to sodium citrate, at least one that works for me, is to add a tiny bit of vinegar, half teaspoon, to the sauce. It mimics SC and will allow cheddar to relax into a smooth emulsion. It will not affect flavor.

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