Queso is a quintessential Tex-Mex dish.  It is typically served with tortilla chips as a dip but can also be used to top french fries, baked or roasted potatoes, or as a condiment on hot dogs and burgers.  Queso has many variations based on regional preferences or the chef’s background.  Regardless of personal preferences most queso is good, this restaurant style queso recipe is great!  It is adapted from the queso we serve at my restaurant, Whiskey Bird.

this queso recipe is thick, rich and delicious

Why I love queso

Queso is delicious.  It is gooey, cheesy, and spicy.  It is an absolute comfort food and something that is at its best when made with simple, grocery store ingredients.  But for those of you that love queso as much as I do, it is much more than the sum of its basic ingredients or cheese, chiles, canned tomato and spices. It is hard to make a version at home that tastes as good as your favorite restaurant, but I think this restaurant style queso recipe gets you very close.

the restaurant style queso served with chips and guacamole

Ingredients in restaurant style queso

The trick to great queso is American Cheese.  I prefer to use Land O Lakes Extra Melt White American Cheese, but Kraft Deluxe American and Velveeta also work.  These cheeses give the queso a super creamy, gooey, thick and rich texture that you want for a great queso dip.

ingredients in the restaurant style queso recipe include cheese, jalapeños, chili paste or hot sauce, whole milk and ro-tel tomatoes

Extra melt American cheese is the base of my restaurant style queso recipe and what makes that beautifully smooth, thick and gooey dip.  You get just enough cheesy flavor while still allowing the flavors from the chiles, tomato and spices to come through. Remember you can also use Velveeta and make a great queso.

Whole milk is used to help melt and thin out the cheese.  You can adjust this amount based on your desired thickness

Rotel fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles are used as the canned tomatoes in this restaurant style queso recipe.  You want to reserve the liquid and include it in the queso to help get a little extra flavor and the right thickness. You will have some left over Rotel tomatoes which are great when added to scrambled eggs with some peppers and onions for a quick Southwest scramble.

Granulated garlic and ground cumin give the queso a little extra spice.  Because we use hot sauce I do not add any chili powder

Jalapeños I prefer to use canned/jarred/pickled jalapenos that are then diced.  I like the acidity/vinegar and spice consistency of the pickled version over fresh jalapenos for this recipe.

Hot sauce is where I deviate away from some more classic recipes.  I like to use gochujang as the hot sauce or chili paste component.  Because gochujang is a thick paste and does not have as much vinegar as options like Tapatio, Cholula, Franks or Velentina I think it works really well in this recipe.  It also adds a more interesting flavor and nice red coloring.  I recently made this version with a Harissa chili paste which was deliciously spicy and added a more pronounced cumin flavor.

How to make restaurant style queso

This restaurant style queso recipe is very simple but there are two tricks to making this queso.  First, make sure you shredd or cube the cheese into relatively small pieces.  This will make the process of melting the cheese much faster.  Second, go low and slow.  Keep the temp down and stir frequently to prevent scorching on the bottom.  The queso needs to get quite hot to fully melt the cheese so the bottom can burn if you are not careful. If you are looking for a quick and easy cold queso style dip you can try this cheesy queso style sour cream dip.

Cheese should be fully melted when done
cheese should be fully melted and the queso should have a smooth texture
  1. Chop or shred cheese.  
  2. Combine all ingredients in a medium heavy bottomed pot or sauce pan.  
  3. Heat over medium-low heat until fully melted and just bubbling.  Stir every few minutes to ensure you do not scorch the bottom of the queso.  
  4. Remove from heat and let cool slightly before serving.  
  5. Queso can be reheated on the stove or in the microwave.
Restaurant style queso ready to enjoy
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restaurant style queso with chips

Restaurant Style Queso Recipe

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  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 3 cups 1x

Ingredients

Scale

1lb Extra Melt American Cheese (or Velveeta), cut in 1inch cubes or shredded

3/4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup Rotel Fire Roasted Tomatoes with green chiles

2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 cup Jalapeños (canned or jarred), drained and chopped

1/4 cup gochujang chili paste or hot sauce (Tapatio, Cholula, Sriracha, Valentina, Franks)

Instructions

  • Author: Anthony Vipond
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Category: Dips
  • Cuisine: Tex-Mex

Anthony Vipond

Hi! I’m Anthony Vipond, the head chef at Weary Chef. I have been a restaurant professional for over 20 years, and in 2017, I opened my first restaurant, Whiskey Bird, in Atlanta, GA. I look forward to sharing my recipes with you.

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