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What is queso?

Queso literally means “cheese” in Spanish, but that’s not all you’re getting when you order this creamy, gooey, sometimes spicy delight at a restaurant. 

So, what is it exactly that you’re ordering, other than melted cheese?

Queso, the Tex-Mex cheese dip that has blown up in menus and headlines around the country, is short for “chile con queso,” which translates to “chile with cheese” in English. In other words, there’s a lot more to queso than just cheese. (On the other hand, queso fresco is just a type of cheese.)

 

What are the different kinds of queso?

Queso traditionalists, you might call them, stick to a classic, tried-and-true recipe: a brick of melted Velveeta and a can of Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles.

As you might expect, however, the concept has gained a lot of traction beyond Texas, known by many Americans as the birthplace of authentic queso in the early 20th century. But can you blame the rest of the country for loving the concept so much they try to re-create it?

Today, there’s orange queso and white queso, depending on the types of cheese you use. It can take on a thinner, less gooey consistency when made with white cheddar, while some versions contain Monterey Jack. Still other recipes use yellow American cheese, and aged cheddar can be a substitute as well.

Whether it’s orange or white, queso can contain green chiles or jalapenos or both, and it may be spiced with a dash of cumin or chili powder. Some even add meat to queso, like ground beef or spicy sausage. Queso can mix and match any of the above and more, and here’s the thing: When a chef or a queso enthusiast nails a delicious recipe, they may never tell you what’s in it. In fact, recipes can vary significantly.

 

How do I use queso?

Queso is meant for dipping. While it’s not illegal to pour it over chips, burritos or tacos —frankly, queso might work on anything — you won’t find queso purists messing with the classic dipping style.

 

What are the best queso recipes to make?

With a better idea of what queso is and where it comes from, go forth and conquer your own creation. Here’s one recipe we love – or try this one if you’re a bigger fan of white queso. No matter which recipe you choose, feel free to add your own twist!