Y’all, if you love spicy queso dip, or you think the queso you get at your favorite Mexican restaurant isn’t as spicy as you’d like it to be, I’m here to help teach you how to make spicy nacho cheese.
We’re going to make some spicy easy queso dip, and you will be so very happy! Let’s get to it.
If you like your dips a little more meaty, try my spicy chili cheese dip. It’s super good.
For ease of browsing, here are all of my appetizer recipes. Thanks for stopping by!
Why This Recipe?
Give me some truly flavorful cheese dip with bits of green chile and diced, fire-roasted tomato in it, and that’s a dip I will pay attention to.
This queso is more nuanced in flavor than the mass-produced kinds that are often flavored with oleoresins and whatnot.
This dip is
It uses two kinds of cheese, both for flavor and for mouthfeel. No graininess here, friends. Just smooth, spicy, molten cheese.
You can also adjust the heat to your liking by adding more of the spicy ingredients. Or less.
How to Make It
This cheese dip is not at all hard to make. I’ll walk you through it before we get down to the recipe.
Here’s what you’ll need.
- butter: salted or unsalted is fine. You’ll need less additional salt if starting with salted butter
- flour: use all-purpose here. To make it gluten-free, you can sub in cornstarch for the flour.
- onion powder: or dehydrated onion
- garlic powder: or granulated garlic
- Ro-Tel: use any flavor you like here. They have a spicy version that is quite good. If you don’t have Ro-Tel, substitute a small can of diced tomatoes (undrained) and a small can (drained) of diced green chiles
- half and half: You can substitute whole milk or 2% milk here, but you want to keep the fat content fairly high so the sauce doesn’t break when you reheat it. Don’t sub anything less than 2%, and stay away from heavy cream because your sauce will just be too rich. Yes, that is a thing!
- pepper jack cheese: for body, “meltability,” and flavor
- American cheese: for body. American cheese melts really smoothly. It also adds to the orange color, but you can sub in white American if you’d like. Feel free to use Velveeta as well. If there’s one thing Velveeta is great at, it’s melting into smooth deliciousness
- chipotle powder: adds smoke and spice. You can also sub in your favorite chili powder blend if you prefer. Or even cayenne if you’re not concerned about smokiness. Smoked hot paprika would be great here too
- ground cumin: I love the flavor of cumin, so I use it a lot. It’s not strictly necessary here, but I find it brings a lovely earthiness to the sauce
- salt: add at the end. I normally advocate for salting as you go, but some of the individual ingredients already contain salt, so taste and adjust at the end as necessary
If you have never made a roux, trust me that it’s the hardest part of the whole process, and making a roux is as easy as 1, 2, 3:
- Melt fat in a pan (butter, oil, bacon grease, etc)
- Add an equal amount of flour
- Cook the two together, stirring the whole time, until it turns a pale golden color
Even if you don’t recognize that procedure as “making a roux,” you may recognize it as the first step to making a creamy mac and cheese on the stove top.
Once you understand the basics of making a roux, this queso really does come together quickly.
- Melt butter together with some of the spices.
- Add flour and cook until bubbly and golden.
- Heat half and half until hot but not boiling.
- Whisk hot half and half into the cooked roux a bit at a time.
- Bring to a boil and turn heat down to simmer 3-4 minutes.
- Add diced tomatoes and green chiles (I use RoTel) and bring to a boil.
- Turn off the heat and add the cheese, a bit at a time, stirring until smooth between each addition.
- Season with additional spices and serve.
PRO TIP: At this point, you can stir in any cooked pasta you like and make a spicy stove top mac and cheese.
Watch Me Make This Cheese Sauce on Facebook Live
If you’re a fan of watching people cook in real time so you know what to expect, I made this on Facebook live. Here’s the video. It’s about 35 minutes long, but know you can make this queso in about 15 minutes or so.
NOTE: This video is not for the exact recipe in this post, but the procedure is exactly the same. Feel free to make your own variation with your favorite cheeses and spices.
Why Start with a Roux?
This queso is based on a roux, a cooked combination of equal parts fat and flour that serves two purposes in the recipe:
- it adds body,
- it prevents the cheese from getting grainy and sad from the heat during cooking. (Reheating is another story.)
Since this queso is roux based, it is not a gluten free queso.
PRO TIP: To make this gluten-free, substitute cornstarch for the flour in the roux.
If you aren’t gluten-free, you’re going to love this queso as is, friends.
If you’re looking for a cheese dip that is not roux-based, try my spicy chili cheese dip. If you can find a can of gluten-free chili (or use homemade) you can absolutely make that gluten free as well.
How to Reheat Queso
This spicy queso turns into a block of solid cheese in the fridge.
- spoon out a portion into a microwave safe dish or to a small saucepan
- Add a splash of whole milk or half and half and heat gently.
- Use power level 3-4 in the microwave in 30 second bursts or heat over medium-low heat on the stove, stirring constantly just until hot.
- Don’t let it boil.
If it boils, it has the potential to get grainy even with the roux, so low and slow is the name of the game.
It will regain its liquid texture as it warms up.
Q & A
Yes. Substitute cornstarch for the flour in the roux, and check all your other ingredients to make sure they are gluten-free.
Spice this nacho cheese up even more by adding minced pickled jalapenos to the sauce. If you like things super spicy, go with a judicious amount of minced habanero. You can also increase the amount of ground chipotle for more smoky spiciness.
To thicken up your sauce, you can either add a touch more flour to your roux, reduce the amount of dairy a little, and/or add additional cheese.
Since there are no preservatives and this dip is dairy based, refrigerate for up to a week but really no longer than that. It does make a lot, so plow through it or make a half recipe. Which brings me to:
Absolutely. Cut all the ingredient amounts in half. And to make a ton of queso, you can even double amounts.
Reheat very gently. Add a splash of half and half and heat on the stove over medium low heat, stirring frequently until hot. Don’t let it boil, or you run the risk of having the cheese get grainy. You can also reheat in the microwave. Add a splash of milk or half and half to your container and reheat in bursts on medium power, stirring every 45 seconds or so until melted and hot but not boiling.
If you have questions about this post or recipe, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can leave a comment on the post and I will get back to you within about 24 hours.
If your question is more urgent, please shoot me an email, and I will respond within 4 hours, unless I’m asleep.
More Delicious Dips
If you’re here for the spicy queso, you probably have all you need.
But in case you’re considering other cheesy dipping options, you may enjoy my beer cheese sauce that I serve with soft pretzels.
And if you like to go super old school, I suggest giving a classic Swiss Cheese fondue a spin.
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
This is the scale I use, love, and recommend. If you’re unsure, please read my post about how to use a food scale.
Don't let its small price and small size fool you. The Escali Primo is an accurate and easy-to-use food scale that I have used for years. It's easy to store, easy to use, has a tare function, and easily switches between grams and ounces/pounds for accurate measurements.
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Spicy Queso Dip
This spicy queso dip makes about 3 cups, so it's plenty to share or to make for serious game day snacking. It will hold just fine in a small slow cooker set on low for up to 3 hours, especially if you stir it occasionally. Enjoy!
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups half and half
- 1 can Ro-Tel, (I used fire-roasted, but any tomato-green chile mixture will do)
- 12 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
- 6 oz American cheese, shredded or torn into pieces (if you have slices)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste (I probably used more than that)
- 2 teaspoons chipotle powder, (use more or less depending on your love of spicy)
- 1 teaspoon cumin, (use more or less depending on your love of cumin)
- In a medium saucepan, heat the butter until bubbly.
- Add the flour, onion powder and garlic powder and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
- Add the half and half a bit at a time, stirring well to incorporate.
- Bring to a boil and then let simmer 3-4 minutes.
- Add the can of Ro-Tel, juices and all, and bring just to a boil, stirring frequently.
- Turn off the heat and make sure the sauce is not boiling before adding the cheese a handful at a time. Stir each addition in well until melted before adding more. You may occasionally have to turn the heat back on, but to no more than medium-low and for only enough time to heat the sauce enough to melt the remaining cheese. You don't want this to boil once you've added cheese.
- Season to taste with the kosher salt, chipotle powder and cumin.
- Serve warm with tortilla chips or poured over your nachos.
If you don't want any tomato in your spicy queso dip, substitute a small can or two of diced green chiles for the Ro-Tel. If you like things really spicy, feel free to sub in (or add in addition to the chiles) chopped, pickled jalapenos.
You can easily cut this recipe in half--or double it.
Highly recommended: mix with cooked pasta for a Mexican-style mac and cheese.
Nutritionals are based on 24 servings of approximately an ounce each (2 Tablespoons)
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutrition InformationYield 24 Serving Size 2 Tablespoons
Amount Per Serving Calories 117Saturated Fat 6gCholesterol 29mgSodium 302mgCarbohydrates 1gProtein 5g
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What Others Are Saying...
Betsy @ Desserts Required says
Seriously, Jenni? You are EVIL! I thought I knew what I wanted for Super Bowl but now I have to rethink that one! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this dip.
Sharing on Desserts Required’s FB page next week. March Madness is around the corner, too!
Jennifer Field says
Oh, wow, thanks Betsy!! It is pretty excellent! I have a spicy chili cheese dip that needs to make an appearance here too–kinda just as good! =)
Betsy Cohen says
I have already printed this one and can’t wait to give it a try. Sharing, too!! <3
Jennifer Field says
Oh, thank you, Betsy! I hope you guys like it. It is pretty excellent!
Ambre P says
This looks interesting, but I live in a rural area in SW Arizona, and its impossible to find American style cheese. All I a finding is the plasticy stuff individually wrapped that may or may not have al least whey from cheese in it, but is mostly whipped oils, food grade plasticizers and colorants. I have made my own American cheese, which I think of as a cheddar and milk based jello. I have some allergies to artificial additives in Velveeta, so do you have any substitutes other than driving 180 miles to the nearest metro area to buy American cheese at costco?
Going to sign up for your newsletter after I post this.
Jennifer Field says
Hey, Ambre! You can 100% leave out the American cheese and just use all cheddar or a mixture of good melting cheese. I suggest American cheese because it melts particularly smoothly, but you can make this queso without. The roux helps to keep the queso smooth. Another idea is to make vegan queso. Stay with me! This one is based on cauliflower and soaked cashews, and it is incredibly creamy and delicious. It doesn’t have quite the same “stretch” as traditional queso, but it’s every bit as smooth, creamy, and flavorful. Give it a try and flavor it with as much spice as you like. I’m not vegan (obviously) but this stuff is really excellent! https://healthyslowcooking.com/vegan-queso-with-a-surprise-healthy-ingredient/
Oh heavens this looks good! Can’t wait to make it!
Jennifer Field says
Definitely easy to make it gluten-free, too, Jane! Yay! Hope you guys love it. 🙂