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Imagine a tortilla chip being dipped in a condiment that’s made from sharp cheese that’s super gooey, perfectly cheesy, and has just the right amount of heat to make it interesting. If you’re thinking cheese sauce, you’re partly right. Chile con queso or simply ‘queso’ is much more than your run-of-the-mill cheese sauce. Tex-Mex queso is primarily made with processed cheese like Velveeta and fire-roasted chiles and other spices. Cheese sauce or nacho cheese, on the other hand, is basically just melted cheese. If you’re in Texas, never, ever, call queso nacho cheese sauce and vice versa, it’s just not right.

Queso Trivia

  • Homemade queso is made out of two ingredients, Velveeta cheese and Rotel canned tomatoes with chiles.
  • There’s a rather entertaining argument which is better, Arkansas cheese dip or Texas Queso which made it all the way up to the US Senate.
  • While queso sounds like a Mexican dish, it’s a truly American invention.
  • The oldest recipe for queso can be found in an 1896 magazine called “The Land of Sunshine” and it featured a recipe that was called “chiles verdes con queso” which resembled the queso condiment we know and love today.

Queso Buying Guide

Since queso is an indulgent treat using processed American cheese and it takes all but a few minutes to make it, it doesn’t make sense to buy ready-made queso dips which have even more additives than processed cheese.

Of course, if you’re trying to avoid preservatives and additives, you can also check out your local food producers that use locally-sourced cheeses to make their queso. With the awareness of the effects of chemicals and food preservatives rising and the trend of having “better” versions of traditional food, you can easily find many local food producers selling their healthier versions of queso. If a producer is selling artisan salsa, then there’s a big chance that they will be selling queso as well.

Queso Production & Farming in Texas

In Texas, queso is pretty much synonymous with the word “dip”. You can’t find a self-respecting Tex-Mex restaurant that doesn’t have its own version of queso that is served with tortilla chips.  You can visit any farmers’ market in Texas and you can see queso being sold alongside other sauces and salsa. Even though traditional queso is very easy to make, people still purchase ready-made artisan queso because they use fresh ingredients and locally made cheeses to make their queso.

While there is something comforting about eating microwaved processed cheese with canned chiles, nothing beats the taste of queso that’s made from local cheeses and fresh peppers.

Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:

Aside from the additives used in processed cheese, commercially produced queso also contains most (if not all) of the following additives and chemicals. I guarantee that after reading through the list, you’ll have a hard time looking at overprocessed queso ever again.

  • Modified Corn Starch
  • Maltodextrin
  • Sodium Phosphate
  • “Natural Flavors”
  • Sodium Alginate
  • Xanthan Gum
  • Sodium Citrate
  • Sorbic Acid
  • Artificial Colors
  • Dehydrated Cheese Mix
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Oh, and did we mention that Velveeta cheese (the main ingredient of traditional queso) isn’t technically cheese? In 2002, the FDA told Kraft that Velveeta technically wasn’t cheese due to it having nothing similar to cheese, aside from tasting like cheese. That was when Kraft was required to call Velveeta a “Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product.” Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s totally bad, it just means that you have to limit the consumption of the product.

If you really have to have queso on a regular basis, try getting some that are made from real cheese and fresh ingredients. Both your taste buds and your body will thank you in the long run.


Commercial queso is typically packed in glass jars for retail purposes and it can also be packed in big tin cans for foodservice applications.

Freshly made queso is also packed in glass jars, but they are more commonly packed in microwavable plastic containers when freshly made.

Enjoying Queso

Queso on everything! Hmm, that came out as too enthusiastic. Queso is perfect for dipping tortilla chips and any other finger food, which includes buffalo wings, vegetable sticks, toast, and other snack bites. Queso can also be poured over grilled meat and seafood (or maybe that’s just me because I love queso so much) as a sauce.


Queso can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks as long as it is in a sealed container. Just be careful though, if you have homemade queso or have bought preservative-free queso, make sure to check the surface for any mold growth. If you see any mold on the surface, it’s safer to chuck the whole thing.

For commercial queso, refer to the storage instructions on the packaging. But with the amount of preservatives in commercial queso, it’s probably going to last for a long time.

Make Your Own Queso: (Without Velveeta!)

In a pinch, you can easily make queso with Velveeta and Rotel, but if you really want something special, you can make your own from scratch and using all locally-sourced ingredients. It may take a bit of effort, but it’s so worth it.


Unsalted Butter, 3 tablespoons
Small Yellow Onion, diced
Jalapeno Pepper, finely diced
Minced Garlic, 4 cloves
All-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons
Half and Half, 2 cups
Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese, 1 cup
Grated Pepper Jack Cheese, 1 cup
Cumin, ¼ teaspoon
Salt, ¼ teaspoon
Finely diced tomato flesh, 2 tablespoons
Crushed red pepper flakes, ¼ teaspoon

Step 1:

Melt the butter in a saucepan and sauté the onions and jalapenos for about five minutes before adding the minced garlic. Once the garlic is added, continue to cook for about 30 seconds to release the fragrance of the garlic. Add the flour and continue stirring for about one minute to make a roux-like mixture.

Step 2:

Add the milk and whisk until all of the flour mixture is dissolved. Continue simmering until the mixture thickens.

Step 3:

Once the mixture has thickened somewhat, bring the heat down low and slowly add the grated cheese and whisk as you go. Do this step slowly because if you dump all the cheese at once, you’ll run the risk of the cheese clumping together.

Step 4:

Once all of the cheese is incorporated add in the rest of the seasoning and the diced tomatoes. Serve while hot!

Note: This can be made in advance. If it is too thick for your liking, you can thin it out on the stovetop with more milk.



  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 197 10%
  • Carbs: 5.5g 2%
  • Sugar: 1.8g
  • Fiber: 0.1g 0%
  • Protein: 10.3g 21%
  • Fat: 14.9g 23%
  • Saturated Fat: 8g 40%
  • Trans Fat 0g 0%
  • Cholesterol 38mg 13%
  • Sodium 493mg 21%
  • Vitamin C 0.6mg 1%
  • Vitamin A 606IU 12%
  • Calcium 311mg 31%
  • Iron 0.4mg 2%
  • Potassium 142mg 4%
  • Vitamin B6 0mg 2%
  • Folate 10mcg 2%
  • Vitamin B12 0.4mcg 6%
  • Magnesium 19mg 5%
  • Phosphorus 229mg 23%
  • Manganese 0mg 2%
  • Copper 0mg 1%
  • Zinc 1.3mg 8%

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