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There are days when you just have a craving for Mexican restaurant-style queso dip and our Tex-Mex Queso is a quick and easy recipe for satisfying your cheesy needs. It is addictively delicious and is perfect for tailgates, Super Bowl parties, or just as an indulgent afternoon snack.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
Creating great homemade 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 Cheddar Cheese: You can substitute cheddar cheese with other types of cheese such as asadero cheese (or white American cheese), pepper jack, or Monterey Jack. The key is using freshly grated cheese.
- 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.
- Green Chiles: Adding green chiles will give the queso some flavor and a little bit of heat.
- Tomatoes: If you don’t have any fresh tomatoes you can substitute a can of diced tomatoes. Just be sure to drain out all the liquid first.
The Best Cheese for Queso
To get the best restaurant-style queso that doesn’t use processed cheese like Velveeta use a combo of cornstarch and evaporated milk along with freshly grated full-fat American or cheddar cheese. Full-fat cheese produces queso that is creamy and smooth so avoid using low-fat or no-fat cheese. Low-fat and no-fat cheese takes longer to melt and can be stringy and tough. You will get the creamiest queso using cheese that you hand grate on a box grater or food processor. Pre-shredded cheese contains additives such as potato starch to keep the cheese from clumping which can prevent the cheese from completely melting.
How to Make Tex-Mex 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: Skip the store-bought shredded cheese. It can contain additives to help prevent it from clumping but will produce grainy queso.
1. Cook the Onions and Garlic: Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add garlic and onions, cooking slowly for about 3 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
2. Cook the Tomatoes: Add diced tomatoes and cook for an additional 3 minutes or until tomatoes begin to break down/soften.
3. Whisk in the Cornstarch and Evaporated Milk: In a medium bowl, combine evaporated milk and cornstarch. Whisk until cornstarch is dissolved. Add milk and cornstarch mixture to the saucepan with vegetables.
4. Melt the Cheese: Stir until the mixture begins to thicken and then add shredded cheese. Continue to stir until the cheese has completely melted.
5. Add Chiles and Spices: Add cumin, salt, black pepper, green chiles, and cilantro and stir.
6. Simmer: Bring queso to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes.
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 15-30 seconds increments, stirring between increments to make sure it’s heated thoroughly.
What to Serve with Queso
Queso is perfect with tortilla chips and we love topping ours with pico de gallo and guacamole. Served with a frozen margarita or two and it makes for the perfect happy-hour appetizer. Add some cooked ground beef, chorizo, or chili, and turn it into a heartier meal.
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 chicken are great additions to this queso.
- Keep it warm in a slow cooker. Tex-Mex 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.
- Use freshly grated cheese. Store-bought shredded cheese contains additives such as potato starch to keep the cheese from clumping. This can prevent the cheese from completely melting.
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.
Chili con queso is a queso that has been made with chile peppers. Queso and chili con queso are used interchangeably since most queso is made with chile peppers.
Queso is an American-invented dish that was first created in Texas in the early 1900s (although with any popular dish, this is often debated). Queso fundido translates as molten cheese and is an authentic Mexican dish that uses real Mexican cheese and is made in a clay pot or metal/cast iron skillet.
To make Queso Blanco use white American cheese instead of yellow American or cheddar cheese.
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.
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Other Recipes to Try
If you enjoy this recipe, we recommend checking out some of these:
- Large Saucepan (4 Quarts)
- Cheese Grater
- Medium-Sized Bowl
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup white onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 cup tomato, diced
- 12 ounce can evaporated milk
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 ½ cups cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 ½ ounce can green chiles
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
- pico de gallo, 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.
- Add diced tomatoes and cook for an additional 3 minutes or until tomatoes begin to break down/soften.
- 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 cumin, salt, black pepper, green chiles, and cilantro and stir.
- Bring queso to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Serve warm topped with pico de gallo and tortilla chips.