The Ultimate Queso

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

The Ultimate Queso

  • Author: kate jones

Description

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!


Ingredients

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


Instructions

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.


Notes

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

26 comments

  1. I really, really want this to be THE ONE. How long would you say it stays melty? Have you used it in a small crockpot after you’ve finished cooking it to keep it warm for a party?

    1. Dang!! Thanks for catching that! Add them after you melt the pepper jack and remove it from heat. I can’t change the printable recipe right now because I’m away from my computer, but it’s changed in the post. Thank you for the heads up!!

  2. this sounds amazing Kate. especially the cold guacamole in the bottom. what a fun and unexpected surprise
    Thanks julie

  3. This was a cruel post for a very pregnant woman to read who can’t make it to the store today. The craving is now very, very real. I will forgive you… after I make it to the store tomorrow and seriously queso it up around here.

    1. Definitely! Transfer it to an airtight container until you’re ready to reheat it. Ideally, reheat it on the stove over medium low heat, stirring very frequently—you may need to add a little water to thin it out. If you’re in a pinch, you can reheat it in the microwave in a microwave-safe dish for about 20 seconds at a time, stirring each time the microwave beeps, until the desired consistency is reached (you can add water here, too, if you need to.)

      Hope that helps!

  4. We live just a few minutes from Torchy’s and it is hands-down the absolute best queso ever. I’ve looked for copy cat recipes and haven’t found any I’m happy with. I’m excited to try this!

  5. Since I know you’ve tried and loved Torchy’s queso I know I must make your recipe!! So excited. Thanks for doing the hard part. Can’t wait to try it tomorrow!

  6. I made this exactly like you posted and it was AWESOME! Easy to make and we all loved it. This recipe is a keeper for sure. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Any idea on # of servings? I’m serving sweet pork nachos for 50 women and this would be the only cheese sauce.

    1. This makes a lot of queso for, like, a family, but for what you’re describing, I think I would at least double it, maybe triple just to be safe.

  8. I made this to go along with some chicken tacos for dinner last night and it was a huge hit! My kids had gotten into the shredded pepperjack cheese while I wasn’t looking, so I had to sub a little additional sharp cheddar at the end to make up for it. It was still delicious!

  9. SOoooo, funny story here. I made this recipe but I misread the ingredients and added a quart of half and half instead of a pint. As I was pouring it in I was thinking- man this is going to make a TON, maybe I should have halved the recipe? Haha, then I read the amounts again and yep it sure did make a ton! Anyway the funny thing is that it tasted great! Like aside from being really runny it has great flavor, so we just mixed it with guac and ate it on everything for like a week straight, and I probably gained 10 pounds but I regret nothing. Anyway I can’t wait to make it the right way next time, I can’t imagine how much more awesome it’ll taste!

  10. Hmmm, this Ultimate Queso looks so delicious, Kate! Never have I ever tried it at any Mexican restos too. Finally going to have a taste of it without having to spend lots of money! One question though, can there be possible changes on its taste if I will not use white American cheese? Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful recipe!

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