Inspired by cheese puffs and nacho-cheese-flavored chips, the CHOW Test Kitchen wanted to figure out whether it was possible to make a DIY cheese powder out of quality cheese. Fortunately, the process proved surprisingly easy, but it does take some patience: Just bake shredded cheese at a low temperature, blot the excess oil off of it, and continue baking until the cheese is thoroughly dried out. After that just grind the crispy cheese in a spice or coffee grinder, blend it with some seasonings like chili powder and cayenne pepper, and there you have it: real nacho cheese powder. Its cheddar-y, salty, spicy flavors pair great with pumpkin seeds for a crunchy snack to serve with drinks or throw in a lunch bag.

Special equipment: You’ll need a very clean coffee or spice grinder for this recipe.

What to buy: Buttermilk powder can be found in the baking aisle of any well-stocked grocery store.

This recipe was featured as part of our Crazy DIY Flavored Nuts for March Madness.

  • Yield: About 3 cups
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: 3 hrs 50 mins, plus 30 mins cooling time

Ingredients (9)

For the nacho cheese powder:

  • 4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons buttermilk powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the seeds:

  • 1 pound raw hulled pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


For the nacho cheese powder:

  1. Heat the oven to 200°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Sprinkle the cheese on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until the cheese melts and the oil separates out of it, about 1 hour.
  2. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and blot off any oil from the surface of the cheese with paper towels. Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake until the cheese is completely dry and brittle, about 2 hours more. Meanwhile, fold 4 paper towels in half lengthwise and place them on a work surface.
  3. When the cheese is ready, immediately transfer it to the paper towels using a flat metal spatula. Blot any remaining oil from the surface with additional paper towels. Break the cheese into small pieces.
  4. Working in batches, grind the cheese pieces in a coffee or spice grinder until a fine powder forms. Transfer the powder to a medium bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and whisk to combine; set aside.

For the seeds:

  1. Increase the oven temperature to 375°F and keep the rack in the middle. Place the seeds and oil in a large bowl and stir until the seeds are evenly coated. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and spread the seeds in an even layer. (Reserve the bowl—you don’t need to wash it.) Roast, stirring halfway through, until the seeds are fragrant and starting to brown, about 10 minutes total.
  2. Immediately transfer the seeds to the reserved bowl. (Reserve the baking sheet—no need to wash.) Add the nacho cheese powder and stir to evenly coat the seeds.
  3. Return the coated seeds to the reserved baking sheet and spread them in an even layer. Let them cool completely, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.