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This Hatch queso recipe is a Southwestern twist on a Tex-Mex staple that tantalizes the taste buds with its rich and creamy goodness. It takes its name from the renowned chile peppers that are grown in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico and are known for their smoky and mildly spicy flavor. With the addition of some sautéed onions, the result is a zesty, slightly smoky, and satisfying queso that’s perfect for scooping up with tortilla chips or drizzling over nachos.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
Creating great homemade Hatch Green Chile Queso does not take a lot of ingredients and it comes together quickly.
The full ingredient list and measurements are listed in the printable recipe below.
- Shredded Cheese: We used a combination of Monterey Jack and white cheddar cheese for our green chile queso. Monterey Jack has a mild, buttery flavor while the cheddar cheese can be a little nutty and sharper, bringing a bit more flavor punch. You can substitute any good melting cheese for either of these cheeses, but make sure to not pick something that might overwhelm the flavor of the Hatch chiles. The key is using freshly grated cheese since store-bought shredded cheese contains additives such as potato starch to keep the cheese from clumping. This can prevent the cheese from completely melting.
- Hatch Green Chiles: We prefer Hatch chiles for our queso for the flavor, but you can substitute with Anaheim or poblano which are slightly milder in flavor than Hatch. You can use either freshly roasted hatch chile peppers if you can find them or a can of chopped hatch green chiles.
- Evaporated Milk: To keep the queso creamy and smooth you will want to use evaporated milk instead of regular milk or water. The evaporated milk contains high protein levels with less water, making the cheese dip creamy and less likely to separate.
- Cornstarch: Cornstarch acts as a thickening agent and also helps keep the fat from separating out.
What are Hatch Chiles
Hatch chiles are grown in Hatch Valley of New Mexico and have a very short cultivation season from August to September which makes these chiles a hot commodity for a short while. They have thick skin and meaty walls which makes them perfect for roasting to bring out their buttery, earthy flavor. They are similar to an Anaheim pepper in shape and size and range in heat from mild (1,000-1,500 Scoville Units) to hot (2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Units). The heat can go from an Anaheim mild heat to a jalapeño spicy so give them a taste before adding them to a dish.
They are great added to anything from a cheese dip to a burger or your morning eggs or stuff them to make chili rellanos.
The Best Cheese for Queso
In order to get the best restaurant-style queso definitely don’t use processed cheese like Velveeta. Instead, use a combination of cornstarch and evaporated milk along with freshly grated, full-fat melting cheese like cheddar or Monterey Jack. Full-fat cheese produces queso that is creamy and smooth, so avoid using low-fat or no-fat cheese, which takes longer to melt and could be stringy or tough. You will get the creamiest queso using cheese that you hand grate on a box grater or food processor since pre-shredded cheese contains additives, such as potato starch, to keep the cheese from clumping. This can prevent the cheese from completely melting, giving your queso a less-than-creamy texture.
How to Make Hatch Queso
Here are the quick step-by-step instructions with visuals; you can find the full instructions with the exact ingredients in the recipe card below.
Pro-tip: While we normally prefer fresh pressed garlic in most of our recipes, this one actually tastes better with garlic powder, which blends better with the onions for that savory punch.
1. Cook the Onions and Combine the Cornstarch and Evaporated Milk: Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add onions, cooking slowly for about 3 minutes or until the onions are translucent and start to brown. In a medium bowl, combine evaporated milk and cornstarch whisking until cornstarch is dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture to the saucepan with onions and stir until the mixture begins to thicken.
4. Melt the Cheese: In small batches add the shredded cheese stirring to combine so that cheese melts evenly.
5. Add Chiles and Spices: Add cumin, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and Hatch chiles, then stir until everything is well combined. Bring queso to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes.
7. Serve: Top with cooked Mexican-style chorizo or a little seasoned ground meat, if desired, and serve with your favorite tortilla chips.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: Queso is best when made fresh since it will begin to thicken and get grainy as it cools due to the cornstarch. It is easy and quick to make so we recommend not making it ahead. It can be kept warm in a slow cooker or crock pot.
How to Store: Leftover queso will never be as good as fresh but if you have leftovers you can refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to 4 days. And believe it or not, we have actually frozen leftover queso. Use a freezer-safe bag once it has cooled. It can be frozen for up to 3 months.
How to Reheat: The queso will begin to thicken as it cools. To reheat it place it in a pot on the stovetop on low heat and add a splash of milk if it is too thick. It can also be reheated quickly in the microwave. Using a microwave-safe bowl add queso and a splash of milk and heat in 15 to 30-second increments, stirring between heating cycles to help ensure the smoothest possible texture.
What to Serve with Queso
It can be used as a topping for baked potatoes, drizzled on top of nachos or tacos, as a dip for taquitos, as the cheese on your favorite burger, on top of chili, as a dip for french fries or soft pretzels, or even with your morning scrambled eggs.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Add some protein. Pork sausage, ground beef, or chorizo are great additions to this queso.
- Keep it warm in a slow cooker. Hatch green chile queso can also be prepared in a slow cooker. After it has been simmered for 2-3 minutes transfer it to a slow cooker and set it to warm. Serve it directly from the slow cooker to keep it smooth, creamy, and warm.
- Serve it in a warm cast iron skillet. To keep the queso warm as its being eaten heat up a cast iron skillet in the oven then add the queso and serve.
Frequently Asked Questions
Queso translates as cheese but usually, when someone mentions queso, they are referring to the liquidy, melty cheese dip which is an American invention. It is a common appetizer in many American-Mexican restaurants.
It is mildly spicy depending on the heat of the Hatch chile. We use a combination of mild and hot Hatch peppers to give it a little heat.
Hatch chile peppers can range in heat from low-medium heat similar to a poblano pepper to spicy similar to a jalapeno pepper.
The queso will thicken as it cools because it is made using cornstarch and real cheese but will remain creamy. Stir it to prevent the film that will form on top. You can use a splash of milk or evaporated milk to thin out the queso.
Other Appetizers to Try
If you enjoy this queso recipe, we recommend checking out some of these other appetizers:
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Hatch Green Chile Queso
- Large Saucepan (4 Quarts)
- Cheese Grater
- Medium-Sized Bowl
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup white onion, diced
- 12 ounce can evaporated milk
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 ½ cup white cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
- 1 ½ cup Monterey Jack, freshly shredded
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 ounces hatch chiles, roasted, stemmed, seeded, and diced
- chorizo, optional topping
- cilantro, for garnish
- tortilla chips, for dipping
- Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan.
- Add garlic and onions, cooking slowly for about 3 minutes or until onions are translucent.
- In a medium bowl, combine evaporated milk and cornstarch. Whisk until cornstarch is dissolved.
- Add milk and cornstarch mixture to the saucepan.
- Stir until the mixture begins to thicken and then add shredded cheese. Continue to stir until cheese has completely melted.
- Add garlic powder, cumin, salt, black pepper, and green chiles and stir.
- Bring queso to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Serve warm topped with cooked chorizo and cilantro.