Queso dip, also known as queso sauce, cheese dip, or chile con queso, is a smooth, creamy dip made from cheese, milk, spices, and other ingredients. It has become a popular appetizer and party food in the United States, especially in Tex-Mex cuisine. But what type of cheese is used to make authentic queso dip?
Queso dip is typically made from a combination of Monterey Jack, Cheddar, and sometimes Velveeta or American cheese. The specific blend can vary between recipes, but these meltable cheeses are commonly used for their smooth, creamy texture.
Looking at Common Queso Cheeses
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular cheeses used in queso dip recipes:
Monterey Jack Cheese
Monterey Jack is considered a key cheese for making smooth, creamy queso. It melts easily and has a relatively mild flavor that combines well with spices and other ingredients. Originally from California, it comes in both white and yellow varieties.
Aged cheddar cheese adds a sharper, more pronounced cheese flavor to queso. It also melts smoothly. Mild or medium cheddar works well so the cheese flavor doesn’t overwhelm the other ingredients. White cheddar and yellow cheddar are both good options.
Velveeta is a processed American cheese product that is popular in queso recipes because it melts extremely smoothly. It has a mild, tangy flavor and creamy texture. The consistency it adds helps stabilize queso for dipping.
Like Velveeta, American cheese is known for being easy to melt and having a mild flavor profile. The processed version works best for the right meltability. White or yellow American cheese slices or blocks can be used.
The Importance of Meltable Cheeses
When making queso, it’s important to use cheeses that melt smoothly into a creamy, liquid sauce. Oilier, softer cheeses melt best. Hard, crumbly cheeses don’t work as well.
Here are some characteristics of the best cheeses for queso:
- High milk fat content. Ideally 35% or more fat.
- Fresh and soft texture when at room temperature.
- Mild flavor that won’t overwhelm other ingredients.
- Melts easily when heated.
- Creates a smooth consistency when melted.
Monterey Jack, cheddar, American, and Velveeta all fit the bill here. They contain enough milk fat to melt into a smooth liquid. And they have a relatively mild, complementary flavor.
Other Cheeses in Queso
While Monterey Jack, cheddar, and American/Velveeta tend to be the base of queso, other cheeses can also be used.
Pepper Jack Cheese
For a spicy kick, pepper jack adds jalapeño peppers. The melty texture still works great in queso.
Queso Quesadilla or Quesadilla Cheese
This Mexican cheese blend is specifically designed for making quesadillas, but can also be used in queso dips. It combines cheddar, Asadero, and Monterey Jack.
Asadero is a mildly flavored Mexican cheese that melts smoothly like mozzarella. It can be used alongside other cheeses in queso.
Gouda is a softer Dutch cheese that can work in queso blends provided it’s not too aged. Milder young Gouda melts well.
For a bolder flavored queso, small amounts of blue cheese can be mixed in. Blue cheese adds tang and complexity.
The soft, spreadable texture of goat cheese allows it to melt into queso. But it’s usually combined sparingly to avoid overpowering the other flavors.
Choosing a Blend of Cheeses
The best queso combines two or more cheeses to achieve the perfect meltability and flavor balance. Here are some good blending ratios:
- 75% Monterey Jack cheese, 25% cheddar – a classic blend
- 50% Velveeta, 25% Monterey Jack, 25% cheddar – Velveeta gives creaminess
- 60% Pepper Jack, 40% American – for spicy queso
- 70% Asadero, 30% Monterey Jack – Tex-Mex style
These combinations ensure good melting with a balanced, not overwhelming flavor. The cheese textures also complement each other when melted.
Other Queso Ingredients
While cheese might be the star ingredient, queso also relies on other supporting ingredients:
Milk helps form the creamy liquid base of queso. Whole milk has the right fat content. Evaporated or condensed milk also add creaminess.
Roasted Chili Peppers
Chilies like jalapeños, serranos, or poblanos add heat as well as smoky-sweet flavors. They are roasted and then blended into the queso.
Tomatoes enhance the flavor with subtle acidity and fruitiness. Diced fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes may be used.
Onions add aromatic flavors. White, yellow or red onions work well when sautéed in oil.
Garlic provides a savory kick that boosts overall flavor.
Spices like cumin, chili powder, cayenne, oregano and black pepper customize the flavor even further.
No queso is complete without tortilla chips for dipping! Corn or flour tortilla chips both pair perfectly.
How to Make Queso Dip
With the key ingredients selected, it’s time to learn how to transform them into smooth, cheesy queso. Here is an overview of the easy queso making process:
- Dice 1/2 an onion and sauté it in oil until translucent. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more.
- Add 2 cups milk and spices like cumin and chili powder. Heat just until steaming.
- Gradually add the shredded cheese blend, stirring constantly. Velveeta can be added cubed.
- Once all the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth, add the roasted peppers.
- For extra creaminess, stir in evaporated milk or heavy cream.
- Simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add chopped tomatoes just before serving.
- Transfer queso to a slow cooker or fondue pot to keep warm for serving.
- Serve with tortilla chips for dipping!
The keys are taking it slow when melting the cheese and making sure everything is fully incorporated. This prevents clumping or oil separating from the cheese.
Different Types of Queso
While traditional queso is smooth and creamy, there are also some fun variations to try:
Contains diced tomatoes and chili peppers throughout for texture contrast.
Black Bean Queso
Adds cooked black beans for a heathier, fiber-rich twist.
Uses white cheeses only, instead of yellow cheddar.
Includes crumbled cooked bacon for smoky, savory notes.
Jalapeño Popper Queso
Mixes in chopped jalapeño poppers for heat and crunch.
Blends in lump crab meat for seafood flair.
Queso is best served warm right after making for optimal texture and flavor. Transfer the queso to a fondue pot or slow cooker to keep it warm for dipping.
For parties, queso makes a fun communal appetizer when placed on the table in a warm dip bowl, surrounded by baskets of tortilla chips.
Queso also pairs well with other finger foods like:
- Beef or chicken taquitos
- Jalapeño poppers
- Mini quesadillas
- Tortilla chips
- Fresh cut vegetables
For a full Tex-Mex feast, queso dip is the perfect start to a meal of fajitas, enchiladas, tacos, and more.
Storing Leftover Queso
To store leftover queso, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4-5 days. When ready to reuse, gently reheat on the stove or in the microwave until hot and creamy again.
The texture tends to firm up when chilled, so the queso may need a splash of milk stirred in when reheating to regain its smooth, dippable consistency.
Where to Find Great Queso
To try some top-notch queso, visit any of these locations in Texas and the Southwest:
- Chuy’s – Austin-based Tex-Mex chain known for its smooth “Chuy’s Famous Queso”.
- Torchy’s Tacos – Austin taco shop with addictive “Green Chile Queso”.
- Uncle Julio’s – Tex-Mex restaurant with made-from-scratch queso.
- Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen – Houston and Dallas chain with hot, melty white queso.
- Rusty Taco – Tex-Mex street tacos served with signature melted “Velveeta queso”.
Outside of the Lone Star State, check any local Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants. Many feature at least one or two queso options.
For homemade queso, use the guidelines above to make your own dip with fresh, melty cheeses from the grocery store.
Key Facts About Queso
- Originally from northern Mexico, not Texas.
- Smooth, liquid texture comes from melting cheese into milk or other liquids.
- Uses cheeses that melt easily like Monterey Jack, cheddar, Velveeta.
- Spices like cumin and chili peppers add Tex-Mex flavor.
- Roasted chilies and tomatoes provide added depth.
- Served warm with tortilla chips for dipping.
- Also called chile con queso, cheese dip.
- Variations include chunky queso, black bean queso, crab queso.
- Refrigerate up to a week, reheat before serving again.
Tips for the Best Queso
Follow these tips for queso success:
- Select the right cheeses – Use fresh, melty cheeses like Monterey Jack, cheddar, Velveeta, Asadero.
- Grate, shred or cube cheeses – This gives more surface area for smooth melting.
- Heat gently – Melt cheese slowly over low heat, stirring frequently.
- Emulsify – The milk helps bind everything into a creamy emulsion.
- Watch the consistency – Adjust thickness with added milk or cheese.
- Flavor balance – Let cheese flavors shine through, without overpowering spices.
- Keep it warm – Transfer to a slow cooker or fondue pot for dipping.
- Refrigerate leftovers – Store in an airtight container up to a week.
Common Queso FAQs
Here are answers to some frequently asked queso questions:
What cheese makes the best queso?
A blend of melty cheeses like Monterey Jack, cheddar, and sometimes American/Velveeta results in the creamiest, smoothest queso.
Is queso better with white or yellow cheese?
Both work well! White queso has a milder flavor, while yellow queso is more intensely cheesy flavored.
Does queso have to be refrigerated?
Queso is best kept refrigerated for food safety until ready to reheat and serve. It can last 4-5 days in the fridge.
Can I freeze queso dip?
Freezing is not recommended. The texture suffers when frozen and thawed. Refrigeration keeps it fresh for several days.
What is in queso fresco vs queso dip?
Queso fresco is a crumbly fresh Mexican cheese used for cooking. Queso dip is a smooth, melted cheese sauce made from cheeses like Monterey Jack and cheddar.
Why is my queso grainy?
Graininess means the cheese didn’t fully melt. Make sure to heat gently, stir constantly, and emulsify with milk to create a smooth liquid texture.
Queso begins with cheese, but great queso dip comes down to the right blend of melty cheeses like Monterey Jack, cheddar, and sometimes American/Velveeta. Tex-Mex spices and roasted peppers lend signature flavors. Other cheeses can also be mixed in for unique queso creations. Just remember to heat gently when making queso, stirring milk into the melted cheese to form a creamy emulsion for dipping with tortilla chips.
Now that you know what makes queso queso, it’s time to try the recipes for yourself. Grab some cheese, fire up the slow cooker, and let the gooey queso dipping begin!