Thursday, February 4, 2021

Homemade Queso Dip

A creamy & cheesy queso dip recipe using three types of real cheese (that's right, no processed "cheese" product), onion, garlic, poblano, jalapeno, half & half, and spices. This easy (and quick) queso is perfect as a homemade dip for your favorite chips or poured over nachos, chimichurris, enchiladas, or sandwiches as a cheese sauce!

Homemade Queso Dip with Real Cheese

Let's be honest, one of the best parts of hosting or attending a gathering is the food, right? (You obviously know where my priorities lie...ahem!) Some of my favorite party snacks growing up were meat & cheese platters, sour cream & onion dip + raw veggies, 7 layer bean dip, mozzarella sticks, potato skins, hot spinach & artichoke dip, and canned black olives.

If I was lucky, the host (or mom if I was at a friend's house for a sleepover) would make hot cheese dip, fondly called queso for short. This always consisted of two name-brand ingredients melted together in the microwave or slow cooker: a rectangle of bright orange processed "cheese" (Velveeta) + a can of diced tomatoes with chiles (Rotel). 

Did you eat the same cheese dip growing up or is this just a Midwest thing? I'd be curious to know.

We always served it with Fritos scoops or tortilla chips and let me tell you...this dip disappeared lightning FAST. I have to admit, it was good. Okay, better than good. Frigging delicious. I loved this stuff back in the day!

Real Cheese Versus Processed Cheese in Queso Dip 

Eventually, (as an adult) I got the opportunity to try a queso dip made with real cheese at a Tex-Mex restaurant. I was blown away at the difference! I could tell instantly that it was made with real cheese because it had a different and more complex flavor.

Most queso dips served in restaurants across the U.S. are made with industrial canned nacho cheese or the processed cheese product that I mentioned above, so it tastes the same every single time. That's the thing about real food recipes...they use seasonal, fresh, and/or less processed ingredients so the taste is never exactly the same.

I've been seeking out the good (real) stuff at restaurants ever since. Are they few and far between? Yes, but so worth it! Cause once you have a creamy cheese dip with real food ingredients, the canned or jarred stuff just doesn't compare.

Homemade Queso Dip Recipe with Real Food Ingredients

Spice Up Your Game Day (or Party) Spread with Easy Queso Dip

Of course, I grew tired of relying on restaurants for my queso fix, so I decided to experiment with my own homemade queso recipe. This is "game day" season, after all, which gives me an excuse to try new appetizer recipes. And trust me, my better half doesn't mind either! (He was the hand model for these photographs and even took the very last one.)

After consulting the Joy of Cooking + a slew of queso recipes across the internet that actually used real cheese (the V-word is rampant), I whittled it down to a combination of ingredients that sounded good to me and prepared to give it a go. 

Homemade Queso Is Made With Simple Ingredients 

One thing that made me happy about this homemade queso recipe (that I'm sure you'll appreciate) is that it doesn't require any fancy ingredients. They're all easy to find and fairly inexpensive.

I had most of them at home already, then grabbed the rest--canned diced green chiles, fire-roasted diced tomatoes, two types of block cheese, a lime, a poblano pepper + jalapeno pepper (a.k.a. chiles), and corn tortilla chips--at my local grocery store here in Dallas.

What does this mean? Good things! If you've got 30 minutes (or less) to spare, you can make a delicious, from-scratch queso dip at home. No need to rely on the pre-made stuff! And the best part? Your guests will happily gobble it up and you can feel good about feeding them a tasty snack you made with love.

Homemade Queso Dip Recipe with Real Food Ingredients

How to Make Homemade Queso Dip: It's Much Easier Than You'd Think

The basic technique for making a creamy homemade cheese dip or sauce is to start with a roux (cooking fat + thickener), slowly stir in a creamy liquid (milk, half & half, or heavy whipping cream), then even more slowly stir in small amounts of shredded cheese until everything is melted and silky smooth. Essentially, you're creating a bechamel sauce (basic white sauce) then adding cheese + other mix-ins for extra flavor. Very easy stuff!

If you've ever made a creamy homemade gravy this is a very similar process, but actually quicker. In this case, the cheese will quickly help to thicken the sauce into a dip, whereas gravy takes about 10-15 minutes to reduce and thicken up on the stovetop with no added ingredients except seasonings.

TIP: Because making queso is such a quick process, make sure to prep and cook (if necessary) all the other ingredients first. This way there's no room for any distractions that'll allow the roux to burn, bechamel to curdle, or cheese to become clumpy/oily/stringy while you're trying to multitask in the kitchen.

An easy homemade queso dip recipe made with three types of real cheese, onion, garlic, peppers, and spices in 30 minutes or less. Perfect for game day parties, holiday gatherings, or a relaxing night in!

Flavoring Queso Dip: Room For Lots of Variation

Once you stir in and melt all the cheese, you essentially have a basic queso (cheese) dip. However, the queso that we (as Americans) know and love, generally includes chiles and tomatoes + seasonings, as well. Technically this is called chile con queso (cheese with chiles); however we normally just refer to it by its shortened version: queso.

The final flavor of your homemade queso depends on the types of cheeses, add-ins, and seasoning you use. In my case, I added cooked onion, mild chiles (poblano & jalapeno), garlic, fire-roasted tomatoes, cumin, chile powder, and sea salt to give the queso a balanced flavor.

You could easily add more chiles to make it spicier or more seasonings to give it a punch. I also used a brand of sharp cheddar with a strong taste, so that gave the queso a unique background flavor in combination with pepper jack + cream cheese for added creaminess. 

Want a more mild flavor? Use a mild cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese instead! There are lots of options for you to make it your own! :)

Keeping the Queso Warm 

I typically just pour my queso into a ceramic bowl and dig straight in until it's gone, but if you're wanting to keep it warm and melty for a longer period of time (say while you're watching a game) I have two suggestions.

First, is dumping the finished queso into a teensy 1.5 Quart Slow Cooker to keep it warm. One of the advantages of this is the warm setting & the lid if you want to take a break from the queso do snack on something else. It's big enough to hold the 4 cups of dip but small enough that it won't take up a ton of space.

Second, is pouring the cheese dip into a mini cast-iron skillet with a fabric hot handle holder or silicone hot handle holder that's been warmed in the oven first. If you've ever been to a Chili's restaurant & eaten their beef queso that's how they serve it. You just have to be careful not to get the skillet TOO hot beforehand or it will scorch the bottom of the queso as it goes into the pan.

An easy homemade queso dip recipe made with three types of real cheese, onion, garlic, peppers, and spices in 30 minutes or less. Perfect for game day parties, holiday gatherings, or a relaxing night in!

UPDATE (2021): Tips For This Dip (Based On Reader Feedback)

I created this recipe over five years ago and since then, it's grown in popularity on Pinterest (100K+ repins), and quite a few folks have shared their feedback in the form of comments and uploaded pics.

Most have fallen into one of three camps:

  1. This queso was amazing! We devoured the whole thing.
  2. It was okay but it was too thick for my liking. Had to add some extra cream or broth to thin it out.
  3. I didn't like it - too much cream cheese. Next time I'd add all shredded cheese.

It's true that this is a thicker queso dip and that's not everyone's cup of tea. And some folks aren't big fans of cream cheese. 

So, with that in mind, if you like thinner cheese dips OR dislike cream cheese, I encourage you to make a tweak or two as you fix the recipe. Hopefully, so it'll turn out more to your liking. (Even though I enjoy as the recipe is written.)

If you're into a thinner dip, add the 1 1/2 cups to start out with, and after all the cheese is incorporated, if it's still too thick for you, slowly stir in another 1/4 cup (or more) of cream until it's thin enough for you.

If you're not into cream cheese, simply omit that and add an extra 4 ounces of shredded cheese to the dip (either cheddar or pepper jack). If you like it super cheesy, you could even add another 4 ounces on top of that.

Watch The Recipe Video 

If you're a visual learner, make sure to watch my short recipe video. It shows just how easy it is to make homemade queso dip!

Looking for more dip recipes? Try one of these next:

homemade queso dip, cheese dip, how to make, easy, best
Yield: 4 cups (approximately)
Author: Elaina Newton - The Rising Spoon
Homemade Queso (Cheese) Dip

Homemade Queso (Cheese) Dip

Prep time: 8 MinCook time: 22 MinTotal time: 30 Min
An easy homemade queso dip made with three types of real cheese, onion, garlic, peppers, and spices in 30 minutes or less. Perfect for game day parties, holiday gatherings, or a relaxing night in!


  • 1 teaspoon of cooking oil (like avocado oil or light olive oil)
  • 1/2 a yellow onion, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, deseeded & diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded & diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour (or your favorite thickener with a smooth texture)
  • 1 1/2 cups of half & half (adjust according to desired thickness)
  • 8 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated*
  • 4 ounces of pepper jack cheese, finely grated
  • 4 ounces of cream cheese, cubed
  • 1 (4 oz) can of chopped green chiles, undrained
  • 7 ounces (1/2 a can) of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained OR fresh tomatoes diced
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder or chile powder (such as ancho or New Mexico chile powder)
  • Sea salt, to taste (I like to use flaky salt or Celtic salt)
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste


  1. Prep the ingredients first so you're not distracted while making the cheese dip: peel and dice the onion, dice the poblano and jalapeno pepper (after removing the stem and seeds), peel & mince the garlic, shred both the cheeses, cube the cream cheese, measure out the butter, flour (or preferred thickener), and half & half, and drain and measure out the tomatoes. Set the sea salt, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, lime, and chopped green chiles to the side to add last.
  2. Add the cooking oil to a skillet set over medium heat. Follow this with the diced onion, jalapeno, and poblano. Sprinkle the veggies with a little sea salt (to taste) and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then turn off the heat and set aside.
  3. Add the butter to a saucepan set over medium-low heat and let it melt. Slowly sprinkle in the flour a bit at a time, stirring constantly, then let the butter/flour (roux) mixture cook for about 5 minutes, or until it's lightly browned. Slowly pour in the half & half, stirring constantly (and well) to prevent clumps.
  4. Bring the mixture up to a slight simmer (you will see bubbles form around the edge of the milk), reduce the heat to LOW, then slowly add the shredded cheese about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly to prevent clumps or the cheese from separating. The KEY to success here is to let each portion of cheese melt fully before adding the next amount.
  5. Once all the shredded cheese is fully incorporated and smooth, add the cream cheese in chunks and stir until fully dissolved. Gently fold in the cooked onion, peppers, garlic, diced green chiles (undrained), tomatoes (drained), cumin powder, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. Taste the mixture and add sea salt to taste, as well as more spices, if you feel necessary. Remove from heat and serve immediately with chips or your favorite dipping foods.


SHREDDED CHEESE: For this particular recipe, it's best to buy block cheeses and grate them by hand, as pre-shredded cheese is covered in anti-caking ingredients that can cause it to clump instead of melting into a smooth dip. Block cheese is also cheaper, so this will save you money. If you have leftover cheese after this, store it in a ziplock bag in your freezer and save it for other dishes.

MEAT OPTION: If you want to make this dip heartier, brown some ground Mexican chorizo or ground beef seasoned with taco seasoning & salt in a separate skillet. Stir the cooked meat in at the end right before serving.

FRESH TOPPINGS: If you want a little extra color & texture, portion the hot queso into your preferred serving vessel (bowl, skillet, mini slow cooker, etc.) and top with a small pile of homemade pico de gallo.

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Easy Homemade Queso Dip with Three Types of Real Cheese (Yummy Game Day or Party Appetizer)

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