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Chile Con Queso

4.5 stars based on 27 votes

At least once a week, my kids beg me to pick up take-out from their favorite Mexican restaurant. I usually say no because the restaurant is clear across town and driving there is more trouble than actually making dinner. Plus, I never understand what’s so special about this place; they order the most ordinary cheese quesadillas. They claim it’s all about the queso, which comes on the side with tortilla chips. I’ve tried several times to recreate this extraordinary queso (which, by the way, I suspect is made by melting a giant block of Velveeta-like processed cheese) but the verdict is always the same: “too fancy.” Finally, I came up with this version that suits them and suits me. It’s rich, creamy, a little spicy — and dangerously addictive when served hot with tortilla chips. I might even drive out of my way for it ;)

ingredients

Begin by melting the butter in a medium saucepan.

melting-butter

Sauté the onions and jalapeños until soft, then add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds more.

cooking-onions-and-jalapenos

Add the flour.

adding-flour

Cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute.

cooking-flour-and-onions

Then pour in the half & half.

pouring-half-and-half

Bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes, or until thickened. Reduce the heat to low and gradually add the shredded cheese, whisking as you go.

adding-cheese

When all of the cheese is incorporated, stir in the cumin, salt and tomatoes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary; if you’d like more heat, add the optional red pepper flakes.

finished-queso

Serve the queso hot with tortilla chips. If you want to make it ahead of time, it reheats well. And if the dip cools while you’re serving it, it’s fine to reheat it in the microwave; just stop and stir at short intervals so it heats evenly. Enjoy!

queso-1

Chile Con Queso

Servings: About 2 cups
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 large jalapeño pepper, finely diced (see note)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 4 ounces (about 1 cup) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces (about 1 cup) grated Pepper Jack cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • Heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced tomatoes (use only the flesh, no seeds or juice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional for more heat
  • Fresh chopped cilantro, optional for garnish

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and jalapeños and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds more. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.
  2. Add the half & half to the pot and whisk until the flour dissolves. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, a few minutes. Turn the heat down to low and gradually add the grated cheese, whisking and letting it melt as you go, until all of the cheese is incorporated. Add the cumin, salt and tomatoes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary; for more heat, add the optional red pepper flakes. (If the dip seems too thick, you can thin it out with a bit more half & half or some milk.) Transfer to bowl and serve hot with tortilla chips. If the dip cools while you're serving it, you can reheat it in the microwave; just stop and stir at short intervals so it reheats evenly.
  3. Note: The queso can be made ahead of time and reheated on the stovetop. If it's too thick, add a bit of half and half or milk to thin it out.
  4. Note: If you touch the seeds of the jalapeño pepper, just be sure to wash your hands well and avoid touching your eyes.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1/4 cup
  • Calories: 253
  • Fat: 21g
  • Saturated fat: 13g
  • Carbohydrates: 8g
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 10g
  • Sodium: 276mg
  • Cholesterol: 64mg

Reviews & Comments

  • When looking for a good recipe for Queso, I settled for this one. It sounds so good, I can hardly wait to make it. My problem is that where we live I have no access to fresh jalapeños, and I cannot imagine that the sliced ones out of a jar would work, So what do you suggest? We do not eat very hot foods, so maybe use sautéed green pepper and add a few red pepper flakes if it comes out too mild? Thanks for your advice!

    - Silke on July 2, 2017 Reply
    • Yes, I think sauteed finely diced green pepper with a pinch of red pepper flakes would work nicely as a substitute for the jalapeno here. Hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on July 2, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is delicious! We are not huge heat fans, so I used Kraft Old Cheddar and Hot Habanero Cheese and skipped the optional flakes. It gave just the right amount of heat. Will definitely make again!

    - Alicia on May 7, 2017 Reply
  • Hi- I live in London – what’s a good substitute for pepper jack cheese?

    - Lee Ann on March 8, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Lee Ann, if you can find Monterey Jack cheese in stores, you can use that and add a pinch of red pepper flakes for some heat. If not, Cheddar will work as well.

      - Jenn on March 8, 2017 Reply
  • 3 stars

    Made this queso based on reviews. I agree with another reviewer, it tasted bland, weird texture. My son said it tastes like cheese for fondue, which I have to agree. It tastes more like a fondue base rather than queso.

    - Cheryl Batten on January 3, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this for a party and it was a big hit! I added cayenne pepper instead of red pepper flakes for more kick.

    - Sara on December 27, 2016 Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I can only get Monterey Jack cheese where I live. Would you recommend I add something (red pepper flakes, more jalapeño) to offset the flavour profile that will be lost by not having the Pepper jack cheese?
    Thank you in advance for your time and as always for having the best recipes!
    Ashlea

    - Ashlea on December 9, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Ashlea, Yes red pepper flakes will work and you can just add them to taste at the end :).

      - Jenn on December 9, 2016 Reply
  • Mine comes out grainy/powder tasting.

    - Tn on October 24, 2016 Reply
    • Hmmm, I wonder if perhaps the cheese wasn’t melted quite enough or the flour was a bit clumpy?

      - Jenn on October 24, 2016 Reply
    • Yep….I think they use too much flour. Other similar recipes call for half as much flour….one even uses 2tbs corn starch instead of flour.

      - Rich on February 19, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this last week. It was great. I cooked some sausage first and then continued with the recipe

    - Steph on October 10, 2016 Reply
  • Can this be frozen and reheated

    - Jennifer Belanger on August 26, 2016 Reply
    • Sorry Jennifer, I don’t think it will freeze well.

      - Jenn on August 26, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    My only complaint was it wasn’t enough. I could drink this dip it is so good!!! Rich in flavor, and no processed cheese.

    - Lea on June 2, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Creamy, cheesy and delicious. My family gobbled it up. Making it again tonight, but adding a little more heat. The men in my life love spicy foods.

    - Loretta G on May 10, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    A comment and a question about the Chili con Queso recipe: I used some leftover dip as a filling in an omelet, and it was absolutely delicious!

    Why do you put the chopped jalapeño into the roux? Is it to cut the heat a bit? Would it make a substantial difference to add it along with or after the cheese? I think that would preserve some of the crunch from the peppers.

    - Chuck Cairns on April 16, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Chuck, I added the jalapeño to the roux to soften them so they wouldn’t be crunchy, but it’s perfectly fine to add after if you’d prefer to have a little crunch.

      - Jenn on April 18, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Terrific recipe! Best I’ve seen out there. It basically calls for making a rather thick mornay sauce, with the onions and jalapeño in the roux, then adding the tomatoes and other flavorings at the end. So superior to using Velveeta (ugh), which is an artificial “cheese product.” They don’t even call it cheese.

    I strongly advise heating the milk (or half and half — I used milk because that’s what I had) before incorporating into the sauce. I used a red onion, again because that’s what I had. Also, I used colby jack cheese (same reason); next time I might try a sharp cheddar. I plan to experiment with different cheeses, keeping everything else the same.

    Thanks for caring about good food and for sharing! :-)

    - Chuck Cairns on April 14, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    WOW!! I will never buy Queso again. This is soooo good and fresh tasting. Don’t know if I will provide it for everyone or keep it all to myself! :)

    - Lea Van Cleave on February 7, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This was a very easy recipe to make. Which is good because my wife commandeered the kitchen for the past 28 months. Since the the economy has taken a dive I have decided to take up a hobby of cooking or making anything with chilli peppers. I made this exact to the recipe except I used 2 red Fresnos instead of jalapeños because my grocery store ran out. My wife loves this and so do I. Definitely a great recipe to save. Perfect heat and awesome taste

    - Will Schmidt on January 30, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This looks heavenly and so easy to make! Really a beautiful dip that I cannot wait to make.

    - Robin on December 21, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jen- Can I replace the half and half with organic whipping cream (heavy cream)? Thought I had half and half at home but ended up only have the heavy cream.

    - Jackie on November 15, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Jackie, Yes but you might thin it with a little milk (if you have) to get it to the consistency of half and half.

      - Jenn on November 15, 2015 Reply
      • 5 stars

        Great, thanks for the quick response!

        - Jackie on November 15, 2015 Reply
  • 4 stars

    I made it this weekend and it was a big hit! I used Colby cheese and poblano peppers. It’s a keeper!

    - Elizabeth on November 3, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I used to pat myself on the back for “making queso” by melting Velveeta and adding Ro*Tel. This was a little more effort, but the rich and creamy payback was worth it!

    - Karen on September 28, 2015 Reply
    • I was doing the same. This is worth it and about the same cost-wise where I live

      - Will Schmidt on January 30, 2016 Reply
  • 2 stars

    Tried the queso. It was very bland. I didn’t include the seeds with the jalapeno and maybe that was the problem. I added all kinds of seasoning to try to get it more flavorful. I’m not sure what happened.

    - Pam on June 30, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hola!
    Grandes recetas!
    Me gustaría presentar un sitio que vende moldes de queso: http://www.moldesparaquesos.com/
    Gracias,
    Aline.

    - Aline on May 7, 2015 Reply
  • 4 stars

    I used whole wheat flour instead of white. I upped the cumin to a 1/2 tsp. I skipped the salt. I cut up cherry tomatoes and added them with the skin and seeds. I used fresh oregano instead of cilantro for garnish as it was what I had on hand.

    - Erika on March 26, 2015 Reply
  • I was wondering if the flour could be replaced with cornstarch to make this recipe gluten free.

    - Emma on March 23, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Emma, I think it would work the but the process would be different. Use half as much cornstarch as flour and whisk it into the cold half-and-half instead of adding to the onions and garlic. Hope you enjoy it and please come back let me know how it turns out.

      - Jenn on March 30, 2015 Reply
      • 5 stars

        In case anyone would like to know, I substituted GF all-purpose flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill) for the regular flour. Same amount and followed the directions exactly. I did need to thin it out with a little extra milk, but it turned out perfectly! Thank you for this fantastic recipe!

        - Christy on November 6, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    made this for a dinner party and everyone loved it! how long does it keep in the ref?

    - mrs y on March 13, 2015 Reply
    • So glad you enjoyed it :) It should keep well for 3-4 days; just reheat in the microwave.

      - Jenn on March 13, 2015 Reply
  • 4 stars

    We made this tasty dip for a Super Bowl party and it was very well-liked… until it got cold. If you decide to make it, be sure to serve in a small crock pot, or some other serving dish where you can keep the cheese warm easily scoop-able.

    - Kim on March 6, 2015 Reply
    • Good advice, Kim. You can also reheat it in the microwave.

      - Jenn on March 6, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Thank you for this easy and great tasting recipe! I blew my Beau’s mind to pieces with this tasty treat!

    - Lisa Morris on February 15, 2015 Reply
  • Can fat-free half and half be used?

    - louise on February 12, 2015 Reply
    • Sorry, Louise, I don’t think it will work.

      - Jenn on February 12, 2015 Reply
  • 4 stars

    Just made this – yum. Used milk in place of half/half and added a bit more cumin. No pepper jack in Switzerland so made do with just white cheddar. Surprised how much heat cooked out of the jalapeño – should I leave the seeds in next time, cut up 2 instead of 1, or just trust in the red pepper flakes at the end? Thx for your great recipes!

    - Audrey on February 5, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Audrey, Yes, the jalapeno isn’t that spicy without the seeds. For extra heat, you can either reserve the seeds and add them to taste at the end or just add red pepper flakes.

      - Jenn on February 5, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this queso for our Super Bowl party the other night and it was devoured within about 10 minutes! Next time, I will double the recipe. Thank you!

    - Bethany on February 3, 2015 Reply
  • 4 stars

    Made this for the game today. I’m guessing your not cheering for the same team as those of us in the PNW :)

    I accidently bought white cheddar, but it turned out good albeit a little thick.

    - Danita on February 1, 2015 Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed, Danita. Next time, if it seems too thick you can always thin it with more half & half or milk.

      - Jenn on February 2, 2015 Reply
      • 1 stars

        I see allot of 5star reviews on this recipe, I made it and had to throw it away it was absolutely horrid

        - Kendall on November 1, 2016 Reply
        • Yeah, you should just stick with Cheez-Whiz. Sounds like that’s more your speed. Otherwise if you followed this recipe at all, there’s no way it could’ve turned out “absolutely horrid.”

          - Sara on December 27, 2016 Reply
          • 5 stars

            I’m cracking up that people are defending you Jenn:)
            I am on a roll with your recipes – having so much fun! I have loved everything! Brussel sprout/kale salad, big Italian salad, Spinach meatballs, Texas chili, spicy sweet potatoes, buttermilk chicken tenders and more….my kids are sure glad I found you! Thanks so much – really having fun cooking!

            - Julie Martin on January 13, 2017
  • Julie, I love following you recipes, Thank You for them. I was wondering if you might have a good recipe for a hot clam dip? (and what to serve with it or dip into with ?) Thank You, Christiane Coady

    - Christiane on January 30, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Christiane, So nice to read you’re enjoying the recipes! I don’t have a tried and true hot clam dip recipe but I will add it to my list. Thank you for the suggestion :)

      - Jenn on February 2, 2015 Reply

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