Queso Dip Tips
December 30, 2008 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Help my roommate make better queso dip.

He bought some queso fresco and tried to duplicate the melty white dip we had a few weeks ago. All he got was a bunch of curds. He tried adding milk and olive oil in different amounts and it still wouldn't get creamy. I saw a recipe online with sour cream, but the dip did not taste like it had any sour cream in it. Can you help him make it creamier?
posted by soelo to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Queso fresco won't melt, as your roommate noticed. It's feta-like in that it's crumbly, not melty. This site recommends Chihuahua cheese for queso fundido. You might also try queso blanco or Monterey Jack in a pinch.
posted by cabingirl at 7:05 PM on December 30, 2008

Rick Bayless also recommends Chihuahua, followed by quesadilla/asadero (they're the same cheese), then monterey jack or chedder. Bobby Flay says a 50/50 mix of mozzarella and monteray jack. I've made a great queso-like dip by melting cream cheese with leftover green chile pork stew.
posted by TungstenChef at 8:16 PM on December 30, 2008

Try this: http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/2008/04/more-natural-chile-con-queso.html

I haven't made it (yet) but just look at it!
posted by apricot at 8:47 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Processed cheeses (such as American and White American) and "pasteurized process cheese foods" like Velveeta work well as a base for queso dip. They possess freakish melty emulsifying powers. I typically use maybe 1 part fake cheese to 2-4 parts shredded jack/colby, or perhaps some pre-shredded Mexican cheese blend if I'm feeling lazy. White American and jack would make for a good totally-white dip.

I often use pepper jack or add roasted chopped green chiles for flavor. Salsas work well too, but I love using very hot roasted chiles and nothing else when possible. Then you get subtle green bits floating around and awesome, simple flavors.

I throw the cheese in a medium saucepan, pour in some milk to help get things going, and heat to medium, whisking gently along the way and adding more milk to reach the desired thickness. You may want to stick with low heat depending on the type of saucepan you're using, but I'm typically too impatient.

This isn't the most authentic "queso" but it comes out well. If you skip the fake cheese it's still key to use shredded cheese and a milk+whisk technique to get nice 'n melty queso.
posted by aydeejones at 8:58 PM on December 30, 2008

Are you talkin about queso fundido?

Chihuahua, Asadero and Oaxaca are traditional; here in San Francisco the cheap Monterrey Jack from the corner store has worked great. Make sure to use a broiler oven to get the golden crust, and if you cook it in a thick clay or cast iron container, it will keep hot and soft long enough for you to finish it.

I like to sprinkle crumbled Cotija on top of the finished cheese while it is still very hot, the cotija does not melt, but adds texture and a lot of flavor.

This guide to Mexican cheeses gives you some substitutions.
posted by dirty lies at 9:18 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Velveeta + Rotel = crazy delicious
posted by chrisamiller at 9:32 PM on December 30, 2008 [3 favorites]

chrisamiller, that's the queso I recall, vey gooood!
posted by raildr at 9:52 PM on December 30, 2008

If you're going for the melty white dip that Mexican restaurants in America serve under the name "Queso Blanco", this'll work.

In my area (SE USA), Wal*Mart sells a special preseasoned Queso Blanco cheese. Just add milk and melt, and it's a near-perfect replica of what you'd get in the restaurant.
posted by Gianna at 10:06 PM on December 30, 2008

try putting a little beer in that queso..
posted by jockc at 10:36 PM on December 30, 2008

Processed cheeses (such as American and White American) and "pasteurized process cheese foods" like Velveeta work well as a base for queso dip. They possess freakish melty emulsifying powers.

Hah, I wasn't going to admit it, but I've found a can of Campbell's Nacho Cheese Soup in dip to have the same freakish emulsifying effect. It'll turn "melted cheese" into "creamy cheese dip" in no time flat.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:24 PM on December 30, 2008

chrisamiller, HEB has a white version of their store-brand Velveeta-alternative -- muy bueno.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:50 AM on December 31, 2008

Seconding Velveeta + Ro-tel.
posted by charlesv at 8:04 AM on December 31, 2008

soelo, I cannot tell if you are hoping to make a runny cheese dip that is eaten on tortilla chips, or a thicker dish that is forked into a warm tortilla and is essentially broiled cheese (down here we call the former "queso" or "queso dip" and we call the latter "queso flameado" or "queso fundido.")

Either way, you have received many good pieces of advice regarding what cheese to use. I agree with aydeejones that a blend of fake cheese and real cheese gives you a great base. I disagree with Bobby Flay, even if he did marry a Texas girl; putting mozzarella in queso dip is like calling backyard burgers a "barbecue."

Now, I have come to give you the real secret to making your queso smooth and melty, straight from Texas:

Evaporated milk, straight out of the can.

It's thin enough to keep your melted cheese nice and emulsified, but it is more concentrated than regular milk, so it has a richer flavor. Also, since evaporated milk starts at room temperature unlike regular milk, it incorporates more quickly and doesn't make the dip too runny. Melt your cheeses, and then drizzle in the evaporated milk while you whisk, until you get the consistency you seek.

I think sour cream is one of those ideas that seems good on paper but wouldn't really help you in the cooking process.

(Another trick that is popular down here is to add a small pat of butter to the cold cheese as you heat it, then stir it in as it melts. It also keeps things smooth and consistent. Frankly, when using real cheese I prefer evaporated milk to butter as the cheese can put off a lot of oil so the butter just exacerbates that and adds more work on incorporation. But if I'm throwing a 1-lb block of Velveeta into the microwave, a pat of butter is perfect and fast.)
posted by pineapple at 8:20 AM on December 31, 2008

If you go the Velveeta + Rotel route (um, which I highly recommend) DO NOT discard the liquid in the Rotel can. That shit needs to be in the mix. I do one big block of Velveeta + 2 cans rotel (regular heat...no mild, no hot) or one small block Velveeta + 1 can Rotel.

And don't forget -- DO NOT DRAIN THE LIQUID.
posted by junipero at 9:41 AM on December 31, 2008

Have you thought about adding some cooked hot pork sausage to the mix? I know it's not traditional, but lord, that is some good queso with a nice beer!
posted by lucydriving at 4:03 PM on December 31, 2008

What do you mean not traditional?
posted by dirty lies at 4:56 PM on December 31, 2008

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