The difference between store-bought queso dip and fresh cheese dip is a radical one. That’s not to discount the comforting predictability of the jarred stuff, but rather, to note that the latter is a far more refined relative of the former. Fortunately, and perhaps surprisingly, making queso from scratch is far from complicated.
From QUESO!, a new cookbook by writer Lisa Fain, comes a recipe for Austin diner-style queso — the type of dip best consumed late at night and surrounded by friends. An emulsion of brick (read: processed Velveeta or Kraft-esque) cheese and spices, it’s a riff on the pico- and guac-topped version served at celebrated 24-hour eatery Magnolia Cafe in Austin, Texas. Fain lists the addition of black beans (for the restaurant’s signature Mag Mud–style queso) as optional, but true aficionados know better than to omit it.
Austin Diner-Style Queso
Makes 6–8 servings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
4 jalapeños, seeded and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Anaheim chiles, charred, peeled, seeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
1 cup water
1 pound white or yellow American cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup cooked black beans (optional)
1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and jalapeños and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and Anaheim peppers and cook for 30 seconds longer.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, milk and water until well combined, then pour into the pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook for a couple of minutes until the mixture begins to thicken. Add the cheese, turn the heat to low, and cook, stirring, until the cheese has melted. Stir in the cilantro, cumin, cayenne and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings, if you like.
4. Optional: For Mag Mud–style queso, stir in 1 cup cooked black beans before adding the guacamole and pico de gallo.