Chile Con Queso

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Whip up my restaurant-quality chile con queso at home—a dish so deliciously creamy, cheesy and perfectly spiced, it’ll have everyone enthusiastically double dipping!

chile con queso with chips on platter

Every week, it’s the same story: my kids make a big pitch for take-out from their favorite Mexican place. They’re absolutely crazy about the food there, especially the chile con queso, a warm dip made from melted cheese, spices, and chilies. I’ve taken a few stabs at recreating this elusive queso at home, suspecting the secret might be a Velveeta-style cheese block (not exactly my go-to ingredient). But my culinary experiments were always met with a chorus of “too fancy” from my critics.

Determined not to be outdone by a block of processed cheese, I finally hit the jackpot with a recipe that’s a win-win for both my kids and me. This chile con queso is rich and creamy with just the right touch of spice. It’s perfect for scooping up with tortilla chips and makes a generous amount for a crowd. Enjoy it warm from the stove, and watch it disappear as quickly as it came together!

What You’ll Need To Make Queso

Ingredients including diced tomatoes, half and half, and shredded cheese.

I developed this recipe using pre-shredded cheese from a bag for ease and convenience, as it saves the effort of grating cheese by hand. Note that pre-shredded cheese is coated with anti-caking agents to prevent clumping, which incidentally aids in thickening the queso, resulting in a perfectly smooth and creamy texture ideal for dipping.

Should you choose to grate the cheese yourself, I recommend increasing the butter and flour in the recipe to 3 tablespoons each. This adjustment compensates for the lack of anti-caking agents in freshly shredded cheese, ensuring your queso still achieves that wonderfully rich and creamy consistency.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

melting butter in a medium saucepan

Add the 2 tablespoons of flour.

adding flour to melted butter

Cook, whisking constantly, for about 1 minute.

whisking the flour

Add the 2 cups half-and-half to the pot and whisk until evenly combined. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, a few minutes.

whisking in the half and half

Turn the heat down to low and gradually add the 2 cups grated cheese, whisking and letting it melt as you go, until all of the cheese is incorporated.

whisking in the cheese

Stir in ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, ¼ teaspoon cumin, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon onion powder, and 1 cup diced tomatoes and green chilies. The mixture may seem a bit thick at first, but it will thin out slightly as the tomatoes warm in the sauce.

Stirring in the salt, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and diced tomatoes and green chilies.

Add the 1 tablespoon cilantro, if using, then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary; for more heat, add more cayenne pepper.

adding cilantro to queso

Transfer the queso to a bowl and serve warm 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.

chile con queso with chips on platter

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Chile Con Queso

Whip up my restaurant-quality chile con queso at home—a dish so deliciously creamy, cheesy and perfectly spiced, it’ll have everyone enthusiastically double dipping!

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

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 cups (8 oz) Mexican blend shredded cheese from a bag (I use Tillamook; see note)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes and green chiles, such as Rotel (from a 10-oz can)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro (optional)
  • Tortilla chips, for serving

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for about 1 minute. Add the half & half and whisk until evenly combined. 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. Stir in the salt, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, diced tomatoes and green chilies, and cilantro (if using). The mixture may seem a bit thick at first, but it will thin out slightly as the tomatoes and peppers release their juices. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary; for more heat, add more cayenne pepper. If the dip seems too thick, you can thin it out with a bit more half & half or some milk. Transfer the queso to a bowl and serve warm 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.
  2. Make-Ahead Instructions: The queso can be made up to 3 days 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.
  3. Note: I developed this recipe using pre-shredded cheese from a bag for ease and convenience, as it saves the effort of grating cheese by hand. An important aspect to note is that pre-shredded cheese is coated with anti-caking agents to prevent clumping, which incidentally aids in thickening the queso, resulting in a perfectly smooth and creamy texture ideal for dipping. Should you choose to grate the cheese yourself, I recommend increasing the butter and flour in the recipe to 3 tablespoons each. This adjustment compensates for the lack of anti-caking agents in freshly shredded cheese, ensuring your queso still achieves that wonderfully rich and creamy consistency.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (8 servings)
  • Serving size: 1/4 cup
  • Calories: 233
  • Fat: 19 g
  • Saturated fat: 11 g
  • Carbohydrates: 7 g
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 9 g
  • Sodium: 303 mg
  • Cholesterol: 57 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • I used Costco shredded Mexican blend. The consistency was really weird. It was smooth but not creamy. Found the flavor to be lacking also. Probably should have used a different brand of cheese?

    • — Debra Mallak on June 3, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Debra, sorry to hear this didn’t come out well for you! If you didn’t make any changes to the recipe, I’d have to assume it was the cheese. If you want to try it again, I have great luck with Tillamook brand.

      • — Jenn on June 3, 2024
      • Reply
  • Did you change this recipe? I had it bookmarked and was sure it used to have onions, fresh tomatoes, jalapenos, pepper jack cheese and cheddar cheese. Can I get the old recipe?

    • — Rachael M on April 11, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Rachael, I did update it (and think the new version is better 😊). I will email you with the old one though. I’d love to hear what you think if you try it!

      • — Jenn on April 11, 2024
      • Reply
  • Hey Jenn, made this Sunday, my 4th time. Neighbors came over for the game and of course it was gone. We like our dips spicy hot so I jack this up with double the chili and cayenne powders but that’s just us. I do recommend serving it out of some sort of warmer. I have a small crockpot I use and it works great. Keep up the great work, I’m sold.
    Jon Melvin
    US Navy Retired

    • — Jon Melvin on February 13, 2024
    • Reply
  • This is really delicious! Everyone was surprised at the smooth consistency since I did not use velveeta. Turned out flavorful and smooth. Reheats well the next day, so long as you stir while reheating, it will be just as good as day 1. Only adjustment I made was that I replaced half of the “half-n-half” with cream cheese).

    • — Renee on November 2, 2022
    • Reply
  • Can one make this without wheat flour?

    • Hi Libby, I’d recommend flour here, but think you could use a gluten-free flour. Hope that helps!

  • The pickled out of a jar would work great, just add right after sautéing the other veggies.

  • Absolutely loved this! I found the cheese and flour added enough thickness to the dip and the butter enough creaminess, so I used milk and no cream. I served this up with tortilla chips beside a spicy Mexican stew and the balance of flavours was to die for. 10/10 and will definitely the making this again.

  • I LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe! I had been searching for the right queso recipe for years and this one stopped the search. I’ve made it no less than 10 times in the past year. I’m so happy everytime I do and anyone that eats it keeps going on and on about how wonderful it is.

  • I made this today and it was a total hit! I made it together with the Cornbread Muffins and the Best Ground Beef Chili! We bought good quality cheese for a splurge and it paid off. It was easy to make and soooo yum! Thanks for a great recipe that I will make again for sure.

  • Wow!! This was so good! Easy to make- and even easier to eat!

  • Disappointing. Something is missing in this recipe.

  • Great recipe! I cooked for the first time last night for a dinner party. We did carne asada and I wanted something for dipping besides guac and salsa. I usually like to try recipes before using in large settings but the ingredients seemed solid and the recipe is very forgiving (you don’t have to be exact). I roughly multiplied the recipe by 5x, cooked it on the stove and then transferred to the crock pot to keep warm. I will definitely use again.

  • Made it twice, with some variations. Used spring onions (take around 100 grams of fresh spring onions, cut and remove 2/3, where remaining 1/3 is mostly a white part, finely chop), whole milk instead of half and half (which is not available where I live). Also for creamier texture replaced flour with 1 1/2 tbs cornstarch. My favourite spices for this are nutmeg and chilli flakes with sea salt. Tried with tomato as well as large bell pepper, baked in a microwave for 3-4 minutes. Equally good. Cheddar is great for this, but I prefer Gouda. Spring onions provide a nice flavourful kick to the sauce.

  • Fun fact: cooling cheese does harden a bit, guys.
    I didn’t want to buy a fake, shelved product for a dish I was making (who knows what they put in those!) so I substituted with this recipe. It was FANTASTIC! We followed these instructions, and it turned out perfect the first time. It tasted great! My family was eating it straight from the pot before I’d even served it. Would definitely make many more times.

  • Delightful and perfect! So excited to find this recipe and this blog. Easy to make and much better ingredients than most queso recipes. We’ll done!

    • — Carolyn Brodersen
    • Reply
  • This queso had really great flavor! On flavor it’s for sure a 5 but for our liking it was too thick which is why I’m giving it a 4. Perhaps adding some milk in addition to the half and half will help and that’s what I will try next time. I also recommend serving in something that keeps warm so that the cheese doesn’t stiffen up too quickly! I will be trying again- thank you for another wonderful recipe!

  • Hi Jen, this sounds yummy! I want to make it for a super bowl party on Sunday, do you think it would be ok if I made it today and kept it in the fridge?

    • Sure – just reheat it in the microwave. Enjoy!

  • Made this for friends, who asked for the recipe!

  • Can this be kept warm in a small crock pot?

  • I’d love to try this recipe, but I’m wondering if I can use whole milk or fat free milk instead of the half and half?

    • Hi Dee, I think is best with half and half, but whole milk should work too. Enjoy!

  • 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.

    • Tastes more like an alfredo sauce…… should’ve read some of the reviews before I made it. It doesn’t taste like texmex queso I was hoping for.

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

  • Mine comes out grainy/powder tasting.

    • Hmmm, I wonder if perhaps the cheese wasn’t melted quite enough or the flour was a bit clumpy?

      • Using packaged grated cheese rather then grating a block of cheese will find the sauce grainy from the chemicals in the packaged cheese to prevent the grated cheese from clumping in the package

    • 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.

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

  • Can this be frozen and reheated

    • — Jennifer Belanger
    • Reply
    • Sorry Jennifer, I don’t think it will freeze well.

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

  • 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.

  • Terrific recipe! Best I’ve seen out there. It basically calls for making a rather thick mornay sauce, 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 plan to experiment with different cheeses, keeping everything else the same.

    Thanks for caring about good food and for sharing! 🙂

  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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. My wife loves this and so do I. Definitely a great recipe to save. Perfect heat and awesome taste

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

  • 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.

    • Hi Jackie, You’ll need to thin it with a little milk (if you have) to get it to the consistency of half and half.

      • Great, thanks for the quick response!

  • I made it this weekend and it was a big hit! It’s a keeper!

  • 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!

    • I was doing the same. This is worth it and about the same cost-wise where I live

  • 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.

  • I was wondering if the flour could be replaced with cornstarch to make this recipe gluten free.

    • Hi Emma, I think you’ll have better luck using gluten-free flour. Hope you enjoy it and please come back let me know how it turns out.

      • 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!

      • Hi Jenn, I used the method you described here and it worked great. I also used Hatch green chile (I’m in New Mexico) for more heat. This is a great recipe for those of us who don’t want to have “cheese food” in their queso.

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

    • So glad you enjoyed it 🙂 It should keep well for 3-4 days; just reheat in the microwave.

  • 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.

    • Good advice, Kim. You can also reheat it in the microwave.

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

  • Can fat-free half and half be used?

    • Sorry, Louise, I don’t think it will work.

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • Glad you enjoyed, Danita. Next time, if it seems too thick you can always thin it with more half & half or milk.

      • 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.”

        • 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, 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

    • 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 🙂

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