I have a confession: I had never had queso at a Mexican restaurant (or anywhere else) until about 5-6 years ago. Sure, there were cheese dips at parties, usually Velveeta-based dips, but I had never had white queso until I went to dinner with some friends and one of them ordered a bowl of it for the table. Looking back, it was not the best queso in the world. But there was something oddly comforting about it, scratching an itch the guacamole and/or salsa couldn’t really itch.
Since then, I feel like I have become something of a queso connoisseur. I’ve tried the good (Torchy’s Tacos in Texas is probably the best I’ve ever had), I’ve tried the bad (which, at its worst, is thin and processed-tasting but still not the worst thing) and I have experimented. What I’ve found is that a lot of people (myself included) try to fancy up the queso recipe itself.
Don’t do that.
What I learned from Torchy’s is to keep your queso recipe delicious and simple, then make it fancy with toppings. They serve theirs in a bowl that has a generous scoop of cold guacamole in the bottom, then the bowl is filled with queso and topped with cheese, cilantro, and their spicy sauce.
This queso is not a Torchy’s knock-off…I didn’t want to set out to re-create something I haven’t even tried for several months. But, not to toot my own horn or anything, this is the best homemade queso I’ve ever had.
You’ll need a pound of high-quality American cheese–look for it at the deli counter of your grocery store. Try Boar’s Head or Land O’ Lakes; those are the best American cheeses I’ve found. You’ll also need 8 ounces of pepper jack cheese, a pint of half and half, onion powder, chili powder, garlic powder, and some roasted green chilies.
Remove the paper from the American cheese slices and chop into pieces. Shred the pepper jack cheese and reserve 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese for later.
The key to success here is vigilance and patience. Low and slow. If you scorch any of the (many) dairy products we’re using here, you’ll have to start over. So keep stirring, keep the temperature low, and just enjoy the process.
Place the half and half in a medium saucepan.
Add the salt, onion powder, chili powder, and garlic powder. Cook over medium heat, stirring very frequently (constantly near the end), until bubbles form around the edges and it almost boils. Reduce heat to medium-low.
Whisking constantly, add a handful of the chopped American cheese. Stir until the cheese is completely melted, then repeat until all the American cheese has been used. Repeat with the pepper jack cheese, reserving 1/4 cup. of the cheese for later. When the mixture is completely smooth, remove from heat. Stir in chilies. Transfer to a serving dish,
add toppings as desired (I used Chipotle Tabasco, which is much more mild than regular Tabasco, green onions, cilantro, and chopped jalapeño peppers, but there are so many possibilities! Check out the notes in the recipe below for some ideas.) Sprinkle with reserved pepper jack cheese.Print
Creamy, flavorful, and 100% addictive, this is the ultimate queso recipe! Perfect by itself, or load it up with toppings too make it even more amazing!
1 pint half and half (don’t use fat free)
1 pound high-quality white American cheese, chopped (look for this at the deli counter of your grocery store, not the prepackaged slices)
8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded and divided (a block, not shreds; the shreds are coated in a powder that can impact the texture of the queso)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup (1 4.5-ounce can) roasted green chilies
See notes for optional toppings
In a medium saucepan, combine the half and half and the salt, onion powder, chili powder, and garlic powder. Cook over medium heat, stirring very frequently (constantly near the end), until bubbles form around the edges and it almost boils. Reduce heat to medium-low.
Whisking constantly, add a handful of the chopped American cheese. Stir until the cheese is completely melted, then repeat until all the American cheese has been used. Repeat with the pepper jack cheese, reserving 1/4 cup. of the cheese for later. When the mixture is completely smooth, remove from heat. Add the chilies and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Transfer to a serving dish, add toppings as desired, and sprinkle with reserved pepper jack cheese.
This queso is incredible by itself, but if you really want to send it over the top, here are a few of our favorite things:
- Add a generous scoop of guacamole to the bowl before you add the queso
- Generously shake some Chipotle Tabasco Sauce on top
- Chopped Cilantro
- Chopped Green onions
- Chopped pickled jalapeño peppers
- Pico de gallo
- Cooked, crumbled chorizo
- Chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- Serve with lime wedges
- Green (jalapeño) Tabasco sauce