Pepper Jack Queso combines a simple roux with Ro-tel, half and half, plenty of pepper jack cheese, and jalapeños. Perfect for parties and game day, and you can easily adapt the spice level to your personal preference!
Queso Recipe without Velveeta
When we go out for Mexican food, I never turn down the chips. Mike and I recently took a big bike ride, and planned our stop for a little Mexican joint, where we inhaled tacos, one giant craft beer, and some chips, queso, and guacamole. I figured we burned what we ate…ahead of time. 😀
In the old days, I’d use processed cheese to make queso at home. But now? I choose to skip the processed block and use cheese from the deli. In fact, I don’t ever buy Velveeta anymore and am happier for it!
Sure, using Velveeta ensures a creamy dip every time. But if you follow my recipe for this easy queso, you’ll get a creamy dip PLUS it’s (slightly) better for you. Win/Win!
- Butter – Two tablespoons of unsalted butter is needed.
- Veggies – Diced onions and jalapeno. I include the seeds but you can omit them.
- Flour – Just a tablespoon of flour is required.
- Seasoning – Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and ground cumin.
- Half and Half – The perfect dairy for this recipe.
- Ro-Tel – I used a medium heat version, but also like to use the HOT version to spice things up! Beware, because the HOT Ro-Tel is indeed hot!
- Cheese – A combo of Pepper Jack cheese and Monterey Jack cheese.
- Cream Cheese – Just a little bit helps to achieve a creamy consistency.
How to make Pepper Jack Queso
In a cast iron skillet, melt butter, and add diced onions and jalapeños. Cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes.
Add spices (salt, pepper, and ground cumin) and flour, and stir until fully absorbed.
Add half and half and Ro-tel, and simmer until slightly thickened.
Stir in the cream cheese, pepper jack cheese, Monterey Jack cheese – and stir until creamy.
What is a roux?
A roux is the magic sauce that holds everything together in many dishes. With a few extra ingredients, it becomes the base for Mac and cheese, queso, gravy, and so many other recipes.
The basic ratio for a classic béchamel is equal parts of fat to flour, and then milk, or other liquid (amount depends on desired consistency). For this recipe, I used 2 tablespoons of butter, one tablespoon of flour (which was plenty), plus 1.5 cups of half and half.
- Make the queso less spicy. You can leave out the seeds of the jalapeño and use a mild version of Ro-tel.
- Use other types of cheese. We love the pepper jack cheese, but any cheese is ok. (But I wouldn’t choose Velveeta!)
- Add other seasonings. Use some red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper for more heat.
- Use other dairy. Instead of half and half, you could use 2% milk or even heavy cream.
- Add a topping. Add some taco meat (using my homemade taco seasoning) to the top of the queso when serving. Or try some shredded brisket or shredded barbecue chicken.
How to enjoy Queso Dip
- Enjoy it with chips, as photographed!
- Add it to a baked potato.
- Drizzle it over your favorite chili.
- Eat it with any of your favorite Tex-Mex Dishes, including tacos, burritos, crunch wraps, and taco bowls!
Storing and Freezing
- STORE. Keep the queso in an airtight container. Just reheat in your microwave as needed (or when you get a craving)!
- FREEZE. You can also freeze the queso in an airtight container, for up to three months. Make it ahead and bring it out for game day or any last minute party.
Pepper Jack Queso
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup onion – diced
- 1 large jalapeno – diced with seeds
- 1 Tablespoon flour
- salt and pepper – to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 10 oz. Rotel – I use HOT, but you can use mild
- 1 1/2 cup half and half
- 6 oz. American cheese – shredded
- 8 oz. pepper jack cheese – shredded
- 2 oz. cream cheese
- top with cilantro and jalapeño slices – to serve
- Tostito scoops – to serve
- In a cast iron skillet (other other skillet), sauté the diced onion and jalapeño in butter, over medium high heat until softened, just a few minutes.
- Add the salt, pepper, cumin, and flour, and stir constantly for a minute or two, or until the flour is fully absorbed.
- Add the Rotel and milk, and reduce heat to medium. Let the mixture simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes or so.
- Reduce heat to low, and add the cheese and cream cheese, stirring constantly until everything is melted and creamy.
- Remove, and add extra jalapeño slices and chopped cilantro. Serve with Tostito scoops.
- If you don’t like spicy, you CAN 1) Omit the seeds of the jalapeño, or a portion of them. 2) Skip the Rotel and add regular diced tomatoes.
- Tostito Scoops work the best for this recipe, so you can SCOOP it all up.
- This queso is also great drizzled over chili, a baked potato, or any Mexican food (tacos, burritos, crunch wraps).
- You can also freeze the queso in an airtight container, for up to three months. Make it ahead and bring it out for game day or any last minute party.