This hot cheesy queso dip recipe turns out perfectly velvety Mexican cheese dip ~ every time! Better than the one they serve at your favorite bar or restaurant, this is the queso of your dreams!
queso dip prepped in 5 minutes
I adore hot dips, but I need them to be easy and make-ahead friendly. And did I mention foolproof? Because hot dips mean friends are on their way over, there’s a game on, and I don’t want to miss a minute of it all ~ my queso has to practically make itself. And this queso stays nice and creamy, even in the fridge ~ now that’s a perfect queso!!
The origins of chile con queso
Queso (cheese in Spanish) is a Tex-Mex creation from the turn of the last century; a simple mixture of melted cheese and chiles served as a side dish, or with chips. It was possibly invented in one of the earliest Tex-Mex style restaurants in Texas, although some evidence points to a Northern Mexican origin. What type of cheese? White or yellow American cheese is the north of the border tradition (hello Velveeta!) but other meltable cheeses make appearances, too. Queso dip has a characteristic silky texture and should be drippy rather than thick and stringy.
queso dip ingredients
For me this is the only way to make queso dip: it’s super easy, without any extraneous steps, and it always comes out right…foolproof! You’ll notice I don’t include any spices like cumin, chili powder, etc., I think they just muddy a beautiful queso 😉
- grated cheese
- I used a combo of pepper jack and aged cheddar, which I grate myself. You have a lot of leeway in your choice of cheese, so go with what you like.
- American cheese, or other processed cheese
- “American” cheese was invented in 1903 by Kraft ~ it was processed: i.e melted and mixed with other ingredients, then re-solidified into various forms in order to make it creamier, easier to melt, and last longer. Happily it turns out that you don’t need a whole vat of the stuff to get the desired effect ~ a little processed cheese added to ‘real’ cheeses in sauces and dips will transform even aged cheeses into a dreamy silky consistency. While I would not choose a queso made with 100% processed cheese, a little bit of it gives the queso that famously silky consistency. Trust me on this. I always keep a bit of processed cheese on hand to make dips, mac & cheeses, and other dishes that require a creamy cheese sauce.
- canned diced tomatoes and chilis
- Rotel or your favorite brand. This is one of the most handy things to stock in your pantry. It’s a great way to start a quick salsa, too. If you prefer you can use canned chiles instead, or even a nice salsa verde.
- evaporated milk
- cow’s milk that has been heated to reduce its water content by 60%. It helps to make a creamy sauce that does not separate. I don’t recommend a substitute for this, so plan ahead and stock your pantry!
- add to taste.
- red onion, cilantro and sliced red and green chiles for garnish
how to make queso dip in 4 easy steps
1. Mix together your ingredients
You could theoretically do this right in your baking pan, but I find prepping in a separate bowl to be a neater method.
2. Transfer queso mixture into a cast iron skillet, baking dish or slow cooker
A wide flat cast iron skillet (12″) is my choice because I love how it holds the heat. You can use any baking dish or gratin dish you like, but you don’t want the queso to be too deep.
3. bake until smooth and creamy
Low slow baking is ideal for a cheese dip like this, you’re basically just cooking until it’s melted throughout and hot. It slowly melts into an impossibly creamy consistency, just give it a good stir when you take it out of the oven. I can’t help myself and give it a stir halfway through the baking time, too.
I love queso dip with a colorful garnish of finely diced red onion and some red and green diced or sliced chiles. A few leaves of cilantro makes it pretty if you have it on hand. Not only does it look pretty but it gives a little extra textural interest, too.
can you make queso dip in a slow cooker?
Yes, it’s perfect made that way. If you’ve got a smaller size crock pot, that’s best. Stir everything together and set on low for about 2-2 1/2 hours. (Alternatively you can cook on high until melted, then switch to warm for serving.) Stir, garnish, and serve!
can you make queso on the stove top?
Yes, just load everything into a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat on medium low until melted and smooth. Note that you don’t want to actually boil the mixture.
queso tips, tricks, and questions
- Can I make queso without any processed cheese?
- Yes, you can leave it out entirely if you like. The dip will be just fine.
- Can I use pre-shredded cheese?
- most foodies frown on using bagged/shredded cheese, but honestly I’ve had fine luck with good brands, and some of the Mexican cheese blends come in really handy for a dip like this, so I say go for it if you need to.
- Is this queso dip spicy?
- The way I’ve made it it has a kick, but you can substitute regular Monterey Jack cheese for the pepper jack for a mild version. Use red and green bell peppers for the garnish.
- Can I leave the tomatoes out?
- Yes, sometimes I just add canned chiles, or, for a really special dip I use chopped roasted Hatch chiles which are mild, not hot.
- What kind of meat can I add to queso?
- You can use cooked ground beef, ground turkey, or ground chicken. Crumbled sausage or bacon work well too.
- Can queso be made ahead?
- Yes! You have two choices. Choice 1: mix everything together in a bowl and refrigerate, then bake when you’re ready. Choice 2: make and bake the queso, let cool, refrigerate, and then reheat in a 325F oven until hot.
- Can you reheat queso dip?
- Yes, just put it in a 325F oven until it melts and is hot throughout. If you’re reheating a small bowl, just microwave in short 15 second bursts, it won’t take long.
- Can you freeze queso dip?
- With this recipe, you can! Use within a couple of months for best results
more hot cheesy dips to love!
- Hot Crab Dip
- Sweet Vidalia Onion Dip
- Cheesy Baked Mushroom Dip
- Baked Caramelized Onion Dip
- 10 Excuses to Have Dip for Dinner
Foolproof Queso Dip
- 12" cast iron skillet, or equivalent oven ready baking dish
- 8 ounces pepper jack cheese, grated (use any other block cheese you like), this is about 2 cups
- 4 ounces aged cheddar cheese, grated, this is about 1 cup
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 10 ounce can of diced tomatoes and chiles, do not drain (Rotel or other brand)
- 12 ounce can of evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk!)
- 2 slices American cheese, chopped in pieces
- 1/2 tsp coarse salt, or more to taste
- minced red onion
- sliced green and red chiles
- cilantro leaves
- black pepper
- Preheat oven to 325F
- Put shredded pepper jack and shredded cheddar in a mixing bowl and toss with the cornstarch.
- Add the can of tomatoes and chiles, the evaporated milk, the American cheese, and salt. Toss to combine.
- Turn the mixture into a cast iron skillet or baking dish of your choice. Bake for 20 minutes, or until completely melted and hot throughout. Give it a stir at the 10 minute mark, and again when you take it out of the oven.
- Serve asap with garnishes and corn chips.
- You might be tempted to try some of the more common Mexican cheeses in this dip, but queso fresco, queso blanco, and cotija do not melt well, so avoid them.
- If you want a good Mexican melting cheese, try queso asadero or queso chihuahua.
- I avoid using mozzarella in queso because it creates a stringy texture we don’t want.
- Queso can be used as a sauce in addition to being a dip for chips. Pour it over burritos, enchiladas, or tacos. We love it over a hot plate of fries!