Queso, sometimes called queso dip, is a popular Tex-Mex style dip made with melted cheese, peppers, and other ingredients. It’s often served as an appetizer with tortilla chips for dipping. While traditional queso recipes call for ingredients like Monterey jack, cheddar, or pepper jack cheese, some modern recipes also incorporate evaporated milk. Using evaporated milk in queso can result in a creamier, smoother texture and more melted consistency.
What is Evaporated Milk?
Evaporated milk is a canned dairy product in which about 60% of the water content has been removed through evaporation. This results in a shelf-stable, thickened and creamy milk that is double concentrated compared to regular milk. Evaporated milk has a slightly caramelized, cooked flavor due to the heating process used to remove water. It has less lactose than regular milk, as some of the lactose converts to caramelized sugars during evaporation.
Commonly found in the baking aisle, evaporated milk is used in desserts, creamy sauces, casseroles, and more. When the can is opened, evaporated milk looks similar to regular milk, but with a slightly thicker, creamy viscosity. It can be used as a substitute for heavy cream in reduced-fat recipes.
How Does Evaporated Milk Make Queso Creamier?
There are a few reasons why evaporated milk makes queso creamier:
Higher Fat Content
Evaporated milk has a higher fat content than regular milk – about 7.5g of fat per 1⁄4 cup serving compared to 4.6g in regular milk. This higher fat content translates to a richer, creamier consistency in the queso. The extra fat coats the cheese and helps it melt into a smooth, creamy dip.
Since up to 60% of the water is removed from evaporated milk, it has a naturally thicker consistency than regular milk. This thicker texture helps give body and viscosity to the melted cheese in queso.
Evaporated milk contains emulsifiers that help bind ingredients together smoothly. When melted cheese is combined with evaporated milk, proteins and fat emulsify to form a thick, homogenous texture. The emulsifiers help prevent separation and keep the queso dip stable.
The cooking process to concentrate evaporated milk results in slight caramelization and browning. This imparts a sweet, nutty flavor that complementscheese flavors. The deeper, toasted notes balance out the rich dairy flavors in queso.
How Much Evaporated Milk to Use in Queso?
For a creamy queso dip, substitute 1/4 to 1/3 of the total liquid ingredients with evaporated milk. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream, use 1/2 to 2/3 cup evaporated milk and the remaining liquid as regular milk or cream.
The evaporated milk ratio can be adjusted based on personal preference:
– Use 1/4 cup evaporated milk for a mild, subtly creamy queso
– Use 1/3 cup evaporated milk for a rich, velvety texture
– Use up to 1/2 cup evaporated milk for an extra thick, ultra creamy queso
Make sure to reduce the amount of regular milk or cream so the total liquid amount stays the same when adding evaporated milk. Taste as you go to get the perfect creaminess and melted cheese flavor.
Evaporated Milk Queso Recipes
Here are some delicious queso recipes that use evaporated milk:
Classic Evaporated Milk Queso Dip
– 1 tbsp butter
– 1 small onion, diced
– 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
– 1 cup whole milk
– 1/2 cup evaporated milk
– 8 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
– 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
– 1 tsp cumin
– 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
– Salt to taste
– Tortilla chips, for serving
1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add onion, jalapeño and garlic and cook for 5 minutes until soft.
2. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
3. Gradually whisk in the milks until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a gentle boil.
4. Reduce heat to low and stir in the shredded cheeses a handful at a time, until fully melted and smooth.
5. Stir in the cumin, cayenne, and salt to taste.
6. Transfer queso to serving bowl and serve immediately with tortilla chips.
Queso Blanco with Evaporated Milk
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1/2 cup chopped onion
– 2 tsp minced garlic
– 1/4 cup evaporated milk
– 1 cup whole milk
– 8 oz white melting cheese like monterey jack, grated
– 4 oz cream cheese, cut into cubes
– 1 tsp chili powder
– 1/2 tsp cumin
– Salt to taste
– Chopped cilantro, green onions and diced tomato for garnish
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft, about 3-4 minutes.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the evaporated milk, milk, grated cheese and cream cheese.
3. Cook, stirring frequently, until cheese is fully melted and sauce is smooth.
4. Stir in the chili powder, cumin and salt to taste.
5. Transfer to serving dish and top with chopped cilantro, green onions and tomato. Serve warm with tortilla chips.
Jalapeño Bacon Queso with Evaporated Milk
– 8 oz bacon, cooked and crumbled
– 1 small onion, diced
– 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
– 1 1/2 cups whole milk
– 3/4 cup evaporated milk
– 1 lb white American cheese, shredded
– 1/2 cup grated pepper jack
– 1 tsp ground cumin
– Salt to taste
– Sliced green onions, for garnish
1. In a skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy. Transfer to paper towel lined plate to drain.
2. Add onion, jalapeños and garlic to bacon drippings. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until soft.
3. Whisk in flour and cook 2 minutes more.
4. Gradually whisk in milks until incorporated and smooth. Simmer until mixture thickens slightly.
5. Reduce heat to low and stir in cheeses a handful at a time until fully melted.
6. Remove from heat and stir in cumin and salt to taste. Fold in crumbled bacon.
7. Transfer queso to serving bowl, garnish with green onions and serve immediately with tortilla chips.
Tips for the Best Evaporated Milk Queso
– Use good quality, freshly shredded cheese for the best flavor and smooth meltability. Avoid pre-shredded bagged cheeses which contain anti-caking agents.
– Stir the cheese constantly as it melts to prevent clumping and achieve a smooth dip.
– If the queso seems too thick, thin it with a splash of milk or cream to reach desired consistency.
– For extra richness, stir in a spoonful of cream cheese or mascarpone at the end.
– Customize the flavors to your taste with spices like cumin, chili powder, paprika, cayenne and garlic powder.
– Garnish the finished queso with toppings like sliced jalapeños, pico de gallo, crumbled chorizo, shredded lettuce, etc.
– Allowing the queso to sit for 10-15 minutes off heat helps the flavors meld.
– Use milder cheeses like monterey jack, goat cheese or queso fresco for a kids friendly queso.
– For the best texture, avoid boiling the queso. Gentle simmering helps prevent separation.
Can I Make Queso Without Evaporated Milk?
While evaporated milk adds creaminess, you can certainly make queso without it. Here are some alternative liquid ingredients to use:
– Regular Whole Milk – For a classic queso flavor, whole milk is an easy 1:1 swap for evaporated milk. The dip may turn out slightly thinner.
– Half and Half – For added richness, half and half or heavy cream can provide a similar texture to evaporated milk. Use a 1:1 ratio.
– Cream Cheese – Blending in a block of cream cheese will make the queso extra thick and creamy. Use 4-6 oz per batch.
– Sodium Citrate – This emulsifying salt helps any cheese melt into creamy queso. Use 1/2 tsp per cup of cheese.
– Vegetable or Chicken Broth – For a lower fat option, substitute some of the dairy milk with broth or stock. Use a 1:1 ratio.
– Beer or Wine – For happy hour queso, replace up to 1/4 cup of the milk with beer or white wine. Adds fun flavor.
– Pureed Vegetables – For a nutrition boost, puree roasted red peppers, butternut squash or cauliflower to replace some milk.
– Greek Yogurt – Substitute up to 1/4 cup of the milk with Greek yogurt for a tangy flavor and thick texture.
Storing and Reheating Leftover Evaporated Milk Queso
Properly stored, leftover queso made with evaporated milk will keep for 3 to 5 days refrigerated. Here are some tips for storing and reheating leftover queso:
– Let queso cool completely before transferring to an airtight container. Cover surface with plastic wrap to prevent skin forming.
– For longer shelf life, transfer queso to shallow containers to allow rapid cooling in the fridge.
– Reheat gently over low heat on the stovetop, adding a splash of milk or cream if too thick.
– Use the microwave to reheat queso in 30 second intervals, stirring between each.
– Stir often when reheating to ensure even heating and prevent scorching on the bottom.
– If queso separates upon reheating, quickly blend it with an immersion blender to re-emulsify.
– For the best texture, avoid letting queso boil when reheating.
– Add extra spices and cheese as needed to refresh the flavor.
– Refrigerate leftovers again immediately after reheating. Do not leave queso sitting out at room temperature.
Uses for Leftover Evaporated Milk Queso
Besides serving as a dip, leftover queso also shines in these handy applications:
– Nachos – Top tortilla chips with queso, beans, salsa and garnishes for easy nachos.
– Enchiladas – Stuff tortillas with queso, chicken and veggies, then drizzle with extra queso on top.
– Empanadas – Fill pastry dough with queso and potatoes or ground beef for hand pies.
– Breakfast Burritos – Add queso, eggs and fillings like chorizo or bacon for a hearty breakfast wrap.
– Quesadillas – Spread queso over tortillas with protein fillings like shrimp or steak. Grill until crispy.
– Baked Potatoes – Top baked russets with queso, broccoli and bacon for irresistible loaded potatoes.
– Mac and Cheese – Stir queso into macaroni and bake until browned and bubbly.
– Sliders – Top mini burger patties with queso, pickles and onion for easy game day food.
– Pizza – Spread queso over pizza dough, add toppings and bake for queso pizza.
Evaporated Milk Queso FAQs
Is evaporated milk the same as condensed milk?
No, evaporated and condensed milk are different products:
– Evaporated milk – Milk is simmered until 60% of water evaporates. No sugar added. Shelf stable. Used in cooking.
– Condensed milk – Milk is simmered with up to 40% sugar until thick. Needs refrigeration after opening. Often used in desserts.
Can I substitute sweetened condensed milk in queso?
It’s not recommended. Sweetened condensed milk will make the queso taste very sweet instead of savory. Stick with unsweetened evaporated milk for the proper flavor.
What cheese is best for queso?
Good melting cheeses like cheddar, monterey jack, pepper jack, fontina, etc work well. Using a blend of cheeses creates complex flavor. Avoid cheese with additives that inhibit melting.
Is queso gluten free?
Queso is naturally gluten free when using evaporated milk, real cheeses, and corn tortilla chips. As always, check labels to confirm gluten free status for any packaged ingredients.
Can I freeze leftover queso dip?
Freezing is not recommended for queso. The texture tends to break down and separate upon thawing. Refrigerating for 3-5 days is better for storing leftovers.
Evaporated milk is a handy secret ingredient that makes queso extra creamy and luscious. Its thick texture and emulsifying properties allow the cheese to melt into a smooth, liquid gold dip. A small amount of evaporated milk balances and binds the ingredients, without overpowering the cheese’s flavor. Whether going for a classic white queso or experimenting with fun add-ins, evaporated milk is sure to impress at your next Mexican food night.