Is it possible to make queso without Velveeta?
Texans have a special place in their hearts for Velveeta, a cheese food that can sit on a shelf for years unrefrigerated. Texans especially like Velveeta with a can of Ro-tel tomatoes. Chili con queso, or queso for short, is a party standard in this state.
Even most restaurants make their queso from processed cheeses. Researching for a more natural option brings us to queso fundido as a starting point. Popular in the northern part of Mexico, queso fundido is made with a béchamel sauce base, white Mexican cheese and roasted poblanos or Anaheim peppers. It’s served with warm tortillas instead of chips. If it can be done in Mexico with real cheese, why not in Texas?
The key to a creamy queso is the béchamel sauce and to fold in the cheeses a little at a time to allow complete incorporation. The second important secret to a great homemade queso is to shred your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheeses have a lot of fillers and stabilizers that hinder the desired smoothness. Yes, this queso tastes as good as the classic Velveeta and Ro-tel version and is almost as easy.
QUESO WITH REAL CHEESE
2 tablespoons butter
2 serrano chili peppers, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, diced
½ medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup canned diced tomatoes with juice
½ cup chopped cilantro
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack
½ cup sour cream
¼ teaspoon cumin
Melt butter in a saucepan on medium low heat, cook onion and peppers for about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Whisk flour into butter vegetable mixture, cooking for about a minute to get rid of raw flour taste.
Add milk, cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until sauce is thick, about 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro and tomatoes.
Turn heat down to low, begin adding cheese a little at a time, stirring until completely melted before adding more. Repeat until all cheese has been added.
Stir in sour cream and cumin. Add salt to taste. Serve with chips.
Phil Newton is a Galveston baker/cook. He’s the owner/operator of Stiglich Corner with partner Cindy Roberts.