Queso is absolutely a quintessential Tex-Mex entrée; nothing quite says, “Let’s get this party started!” like a big bowl of ooey, gooey, savory cheese dip surrounded by baskets of tortilla chips. Whether you’re a fan of dipping individual chips into the community queso bowl or dumping a handful of chips onto your plate and then smothering them all with a generous coating of sauce, this dish can be enjoyed however you (and your dining companions) see fit.
That said, if plain queso is your go-to appetizer whenever you eat or prepare Tex-Mex food, it may get a little…well, dull after a while. They say that variety is the spice of life, so today, let’s talk about some fun twists on “regular” queso:
Queso with Guacamole
Just because you enjoy two different foods does not necessarily mean that you’d like them mixed together. For example, a person who loves eating spaghetti for dinner and vanilla ice cream for dessert would probably not appreciate a chef dropping a giant scoop of frozen dairy delight onto their savory pasta! Thus, the idea of eating queso mixed with guacamole may seem a bit unsettling. Both are good on chips, but should they really share a bowl?
Oddly enough, many folks say “Yes, they should!” Guacamole can add another level of flavor and an interesting texture to your queso. You don’t even have to mix the two very thoroughly; if you simply add a blob of guacamole to the center of the queso bowl, then people can scoop and dip to their heart’s content. Your queso will probably wind up being an unusual shade of green, but when it comes to food, looks aren’t nearly as important as taste.
Queso is a great starter for your evening meal, but it’s not very filling. If you want a richer, heartier queso that will really stick to your ribs (and, when paired with chips, can almost be a dinner on its own), you might try adding meat to the bowl. Seasoned ground beef is usually the standard, but adventurous chefs have also experienced great results with chicken, diced steak (especially fajita steak), or even bacon.
Now, for food safety reasons, meat intended for meaty queso should be cooked in a separate dish or pan and only added to the queso cheese (and all other ingredients) once it’s been heated to a safe temperature. Food poisoning is a culinary adventure that no one should have to experience!
Bob Armstrong Dip
Say you’ve tried both of the queso variations that we already discussed and found that you like both queso with guac and meaty queso. Is it necessary to pick one and leave the other? Absolutely not; in fact, there’s a special name for this kind of queso: Bob Armstrong Dip. This dip—named after the late Texas politician and environmental activist—is traditionally made by adding both seasoned taco meat and guacamole to a big bowl of queso, though different variations on the classic recipe exist. In general, though, the dip is something a little different, something unique, and something that many Tex-Mex aficionados find absolutely impossible to resist.
How popular is Bob Armstrong Dip? Well, it’s so popular that certain restaurants serve it even though they don’t have it on their menu. The next time you’re eating out, ask your server if they can hook you up with this “secret” item!
Hardcore, Spicy Queso
Commercially prepared queso (e.g., the kind that you’d get in a jar at the grocery store) generally includes diced chili peppers, and recipes for homemade queso will often call for peppers, too. In spite of this, though, queso is very rarely meant to be “spicy”—just savory.
However, there’s no reason that your queso can’t be spicy. Or even super spicy. If you’re the kind of person who loves fiery hot salsa or thinks that your food making you cry is a good thing, then there’s no reason that you can’t jazz up your regular queso by inviting extra-potent chili peppers to the party. Start with jalapeños or serrano peppers, and if that’s not hot enough for you, cayenne and/or habanero may be exactly what the doctor ordered!
Speaking of doctors: if you’re feeding guests or bringing fireball queso to a party, be sure to warn the other diners that it’s super-spicy before they eat it! Some folks really can’t tolerate spicy foods, so a large bite of queso-with-habanero-peppers could ruin their day—or send them to the hospital!
Queso may be a classic Tex-Mex appetizer, but that certainly doesn’t mean that it needs to be boring. These four twists on the dish are a few examples of how you can put a creative spin on an old favorite. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with plain queso; a lot people really do prefer their cheese sauce without any bells or whistles. No worries! At the end of the day, as long as your favorite kind of queso tastes good and doesn’t make you (or anyone else) sick, then it’s good queso!