What is Chile Con Queso?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Cheese is melted to make chile con queso.
Cheese is melted to make chile con queso.

Chile con queso, which translates from Spanish to “chile with cheese,” is a spicy, cheese-based dish popular on Tex-Mex restaurant menus and in Tex-Mex-inspired home cooking. It is usually served as an appetizer or a party snack. High-quality chile con queso recipes generally call for fresh chiles and Mexican or Mexican-style cheeses, while other recipes utilize canned peppers and processed cheese products or even cheese-flavored soups.

In general, chile con queso consists of melted cheese which has been combined with spicy, finely chopped chiles. After combining these basic components, many cooks adapt the dip to suit their own tastes or to make use of available ingredients. They may, for instance, add cream to improve the texture of the mixture, or they may stir in other vegetables, such as minced tomatoes or onions, or meats, such as crumbled chorizo sausage or bacon pieces.

As melted cheese tends to congeal as it cools, chile con queso is usually best served hot. It is normally served with an edible object which is used scoop the dip and is then eaten along with it. The most popular dippers are warm tortillas and tortilla chips. Again, however, many cooks may improvise when choosing dippers. They might serve the dip with a healthy dipper like celery sticks, or may opt to use a crunchy snack food such as pretzels.

Some chile con queso recipes are intended to produce a dip that has an authentic Mexican taste. These recipes tend to call for freshly roasted chiles and cheeses that have been imported from Mexico, or that have been made in the style of Mexican cheeses. Typical cheese choices for this type of recipe include Chihuahua and Oaxaca. While these cheeses can create delicious dips, it is sometimes difficult to melt them evenly. As a result, they can sometimes result in a dip that is somewhat lumpy in consistency, especially when prepared by a cook who is inexperienced or who is working on a low-quality stovetop.

Other chile con queso recipes call for soft, highly processed cheese products or condensed cheese-flavored soups as well as canned chiles. Many Tex-Mex enthusiasts hold that recipes using these kinds of ingredients are inferior. In addition, the resulting dip tends to be high in sodium and preservatives, and thus fairly unhealthy. On the other hand, these cheeses and soups generally melt quite easily, thereby producing a dip that is very even in consistency.

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Discussion Comments


@Lostnfound -- Thanks for the tip! For some reason, it never occurred to me to hit the Mexican grocery store and actually ask about the best cheese for chile con queso! I've seen the Mexican cheeses in the grocery store, but didn't really know the best kind to use. Now I know!


If you want real queso for your chile con queso, hit a Mexican market and ask for the cheese that melts the best. Queso fresco and similar are great crumbling cheeses, but not such fantastic melting cheeses. Queso asadero is the best melting cheese, or you can just substitute a good quality Monterey jack, which is a real cheese, but much easier to find than asadero, if you don't have a Mexican grocery store in your community.

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    • Cheese is melted to make chile con queso.
      By: yellowj
      Cheese is melted to make chile con queso.