Queso is a Tex-Mex dip made with melted cheese and chile peppers. Queso's full name is "chile con queso" which translates to "chiles with cheese."
The dip is usually eaten with tortilla chips. The creaminess of the cheese, combined with the heat of chiles pairs perfectly with crunchy, salty chips.
The roots of Queso trace back to Northern Mexico, and it was likely first served in the United States by San Antonio street vendors. The dish was popularized nationwide by former First Couple Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, who served queso during parties at their Texas ranch.
Smoked queso is queso that is flavored with natural smoke, usually by cooking in a smoker.
Typically, queso is melted on the stovetop or on a hot plate. These cooking methods add no additional flavor, but provide consistent temperatures to prevent the dip from burning.
That's why your Traeger is the best way to make smoked queso. You can regulate the temperature exactly so the dip won't burn, and still infuse the entire dip with delicious woodsmoke flavor.
Queso is a type of cheese dip. The chiles included in the dip make the difference between queso and a standard cheese dip.
Velveeta is the foundation of classic queso. Like other processed cheeses (sometimes called American cheese), Velveeta melts evenly and at a low temperature. Velveeta also doesn't have very much flavor of its own, allowing the flavor of the chiles to stand out.
You can make queso with other types of cheese that melt well like cheddar, monterey jack, mozzarella, brie, gruyère, and emmental. These cheeses have more flavor than processed cheese, so the flavor will be stronger. However, the dip won't be quite as creamy and even as you can achieve with Velveeta.
The classic queso recipe calls for Ro-Tel, a canned mixture of tomatoes and mild green chile peppers.
Queso is usually meant for a crowd, so mild chile peppers like anaheim or poblano chile peppers might be best. That way your queso won't be too spicy for any of your guests.
On the other hand, if you know your guests are all spice lovers, hotter varieties of chiles like Hatch Valley chiles, or jalapeño or serrano chiles, are better options.
Only the adventurous will want to attempt making queso with extremely hot peppers like Thai chiles, habanero, or ghost pepper chiles.
Cheese and chiles go with practically anything. Queso is like pizza that way -- it's pretty delicious no matter what you add.
So queso is a perfect home for leftover barbecued meats like shredded chicken, pulled pork, or sliced brisket. Or, cooked ground beef in taco-style spices. You could go vegetarian with black beans, sauteed onions, or zucchini.
To add more flavor to the dish, consider seasonings like ground cumin, cayenne pepper, or Traeger rubs.
The traditional queso recipe calls for 1 pound of Velveeta cheese, and a 10-ounce can of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chiles. This serves about four people and you can scale the recipe up or down as needed. To make smoked queso, use these same ingredients in a Traeger.
First, preheat your Traeger to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the Traeger preheats, cut the Velveeta into half inch cubes, and open the cans of Ro-Tel.
Place the cheese cubes in the bottom of a dutch oven or other oven-safe dish. Pour the Ro-Tel over the cheese. Add any additional ingredients or seasonings.
Place the dish in the Traeger and smoke for 45 minutes, stirring 3 to 4 times during the process.
To thin out smoked queso, stir in liquid at any point during the smoking process. One of the most commonly used liquids is milk, which has a creamy consistency that melds well with the cheese. You could also use cream or (for extra flavor) condensed cream of mushroom soup. Additional salsa can also be used to thin out the dip.
Tortilla chips are the most popular item to dip in queso. Warm tortillas and pitas are terrific too. Bread? We won't say no. There's no wrong answer here, queso is delicious on everything.
The best thing to do with leftover queso is to reheat it and have more queso! But you can also use queso as a condiment to put on tacos, burritos, pasta, hamburgers, sandwiches, and anything else that could use a little punch of cheesy goodness.
Queso is perfect for experimenting with to create your own signature dish. Here are a few recipes to get you started.
The classic Velveeta and Ro-Tel mixture gets a savory boost from pork sausage, cream of mushroom soup, and Traeger Coffee Rub.
Cook time: 45 minutes
1 pound of hot pork sausage
1 (2 pound) block Velveeta cheese
1 pound of smoked Gouda cheese
1 (10-ounce) Ro-Tel Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies
1 (10-ounce) Ro-Tel Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies
1 (10.5-ounce) cream of mushroom soup
4 tablespoons Traeger Coffee Rub
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
This version adds grated mozzarella cheese and omits canned tomatoes, making for a unique white queso. The spice comes from chili powder, cumin, and Traeger Chicken Rub.
Cook time: 10 minutes
12 ounces heavy cream
1 pound American cheese, chopped into small pieces
1/2 pound grated mozzarella cheese
2 cans green chiles
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Traeger Chicken Rub
Cilantro, finely chopped
Cherry tomatoes, sliced
Nacho sliced jalapeños, for garnish
A spicy, meaty, stronger-flavored queso featuring serrano peppers and chorizo sausage. A cheddar and Monterey Jack mix takes the place of American cheese.
Cook time: 1 hour
1 small chopped tomato
1 fresh serrano pepper
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
8 ounces cheddar cheese, mild grated
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 ounces chorizo
1/2 cup minced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup beer, light